A hotel worker has tested positive for coronavirus just hours after a resident, bringing Melbourne’s quarantine outbreak to three.
The Victorian Department of Health announced the third case at Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport on Tuesday night, saying ‘interviews are underway’ to trace the worker’s movements.
Just hours earlier, a woman tested positive for coronavirus two days after completing 14-days of isolation in hotel quarantine.
The Victorian Department of Health tweeted on Tuesday afternoon it was notified of the new case who was cleared to leave the Holiday Inn on Sunday.
A ‘strong public health response’ in now underway with authorities scrambling to discern if the woman visited any public venues while infectious.
The Victorian Department of Health announced a third case at Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport on Tuesday night, saying ‘interviews are underway’ to trace the worker’s movements
The woman was cleared to leave the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport (pictured) but has since tested positive to COVID-19
Melbourne’s quarantine cases:
February 3 – A 26-year old man tested positive for Covid-19 after working at Melbourne’s Grand Hyatt Hotel as a resident security support officer for the Australian Open tennis quarantine program.
February 7 – A woman in her 50s working in hotel quarantine at the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport recorded a positive test for the highly contagious UK Covid variant.
It is not known how she contracted the virus with authorities claiming no protocol breaches were found on CCTV.
February 9 – A food and beverage worker at the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport tested positive for coronavirus
– A second infection was also recorded on Tuesday with a woman who had left hotel quarantine on Sunday returning a positive test.
– A third infection was recorded on Tuesday night from another hotel worker
There are now three cases linked to the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport outbreak, with another quarantine worker also testing positive on Tuesday.
‘Interviews with the individual are underway. Early indications are that the individual has not left her home since exiting Hotel Quarantine on February 7, other than to obtain a test in a CovidSafe setting,’ the Department of Health said.
The department said the woman tested negative on multiple instances during her quarantine at the hotel and left the facility on Sunday.
She then sought to be tested again in response to the current outbreak at the Holiday Inn and received a positive test on Tuesday.
An updated list of exposure site locations and members of the public deemed to be close contacts is expected to be released in the next day.
‘Primary close contacts will include past residents of the Holiday Inn who completed their quarantine period on 7 February,’ the department said.
Those from the hotel who had just completed their quarantine on Sunday will be required to isolate again for another 14 days.
Twelve Australian Defence Force workers and nine police officers who worked at the hotel were among those who have been ordered into self-quarantine after the positive result.
Victoria Police Minister Lisa Neville addresses the media during a press conference in Melbourne, February 6, 2021
Health workers test for Covid-19 at Royal Melbourne Showgrounds on Monday. The hotel quarantine worker tested positive after her shift on Sunday
A food and beverage worker at the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport also recorded a positive test on Tuesday.
It comes after a woman in her 50s working at the same hotel returned a positive test on Sunday.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters it appears the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport cluster has originated from one floor.
‘[The investigation is] absolutely focused on that floor, and all the individuals who’ve been on that floor, staff or residents, are going to be in quarantine and go through the testing process,’ Professor Sutton said.
‘If there’s any indication that the risk extends beyond that floor, then it’s an option for us to close the hotel if need be.
‘The focus of our attention is on the transmission that might have occurred on the relevant floor where positive cases were known to be.’
A law enforcement officer stands guard outside the Grand Hyatt hotel on February 4, 2021, as tennis players and officials arrive for a two-week quarantine period ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton (pictured) said it appears the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport outbreak originated from one floor
Less than a week ago on February 3, a worker at Melbourne’s Grand Hyatt Hotel also became infected with the UK Covid variant – believed to be about 70 more contagious than the initial strain.
But the issue of recent hotel quarantine infection breaches has not limited to Melbourne.
Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth have all seen outbreaks spread within hotel quarantine facilities.
Hotel quarantine workers are continuing to catch the disease from infected returned travellers despite the strict measures in place.
Some public health experts are now calling for Australia’s mandatory hotel quarantine program to be overhauled.
Professor Adrian Esterman of the University of South Australia said hotels were not safe places to quarantine returned travellers.
‘They were not designed for this, and were only chosen because of the need to act fast,’ he told the Herald Sun.
‘Location in the middle of a city is not a good idea. Traditionally, quarantine stations have been located in remote areas for a very good reason. With a virus that can be transmitted by aerosol, the ventilation systems are a major problem,’ he added.
Melbourne University professor Tony Blakely said there were three main changes that could make the quarantine program safer.
He is urging officials to expand purpose built facilities such as Howard Springs in the Northern Territory, appoint an independent agency to inspect quarantine facilities around the country, and vaccinate quarantine workers as soon as possible.