‘National concern’: Highly infectious cluster grows to six

 

Concerned health authorities are scrambling to test hundreds of people after the Hotel Grand Chancellor cluster grew to six, with two people catching the highly-infectious UK strain mysteriously just by staying on the same floor of the hotel.

Returned overseas travellers, who have already completed 14 days in quarantine at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, will be relocated to other hotels for another 14 days.

Queensland has recorded no new cases of community transmission overnight, but two new cases of the UK strain were detected at the Hotel Grand Chancellor having been caught simply by the patients staying on the same floor as other cases.


The Premier said the latest genomic testing had uncovered six cases of the highly infectious UK variant of COVID, including a man and his daughter who travelled back from Lebanon and were detected in hotel quarantine.

All six are linked to the Grand Chancellor hotel.

"We now are concerned about this cluster," the Premier said.

"Both groups stayed on the same floor at the same time.

"Authorities do not yet know how the virus was transmitted between the initial case and his partner and the father and daughter who arrived from Lebanon, except that they were staying in the same hotel.

"We don't know how both groups caught it - was it via air conditioning, movement, picking up something ... we just don't know those answers yet."

Ms Palaszczuk said keeping Queenslanders safe "keeps me up at night".

She said the six cases were linked to the Grand Chancellor Hotel, which she said had cooperated fully with health officials.

She said as a precaution, the remaining 129 guests at the hotel are going to be moved to other hotels.

Authorities are now rapidly contacting anyone who may have been at the Hotel Grand Chancellor since the first case of the UK strain of COVID-19 arrived on December 30.

That includes:

- 129 current hotel guests have been moved out of the hotel to another location. They will not be charged for either stay

- 226 workers from the Hotel Grand Chancellor who did a shift since December 30 will be quarantined and tested

- 250 guests who have since left the hotel from December 30 will be quarantined and tested

"What we are seeing is that this UK variant is unknown," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"I think we need to immediately look at the way in which we are handling people coming into the country ... and also too looking at the quarantine hotels that they are going into," she said.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said all six cases were part of the same cluster.

Dr Young said genomic sequencing would be done on the virus found in the two latest cases of pandemic virus detected in hotel quarantine.

Dr Young said she had advised the Premier that the safest thing to do was the move all of the guests out of the Grand Chancellor Hotel immediately.

All 129 remaining people will be tested and stay in quarantine for at least another 14 days - unless they find the link.

Dr Young said the cases were detected on floor 7 of the hotel.

She said anyone who had been in the Grand Chancellor since December 30, the day the first case arrived in Brisbane from Ghana, would get tested and be placed into 14 days of quarantine.

"We need to just find all those people and test them," Dr Young said.

There have been 406 close contacts of both the COVID-positive hotel quarantine worker and her partner who have been tracked down.

There have been 406 close contacts of both the COVID-positive hotel quarantine worker and her partner who have been tracked down.

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said during the past six days since the cleaner tested positive for the UK variant of the virus, more than 100,000 tests for the pandemic virus had been performed.


The cleaner, in her 20s, is the first case of a hotel quarantine employee being infected at work in Queensland.

Queensland on Tuesday recorded three new cases, one of which was the cleaner's partner who authorities fear was infectious in the community for two days.

The further two cases were a father and a daughter who travelled from Lebanon and tested positive on Day 10 of hotel quarantine.

She said health authorities had not found anything that linked the cleaner with the man who initially contracted the UK strand overseas.

A quarantined guest waves from his balcony at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Spring Hill, Brisbane. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled
A quarantined guest waves from his balcony at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Spring Hill, Brisbane. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

 

Dr Young said she had advised the Premier that the safest thing to do was the move all of the guests out of the Grand Chancellor Hotel immediately.

It comes as "vulnerabilities" in Queensland's hotel quarantine system have prompted the Opposition to demand an overhaul as police investigators prepare to sift through four days of CCTV to understand how a hotel cleaner was infected.

A joint Queensland Health and police investigation has been launched into the incident, which resulted in 2.5 million Greater Brisbane residents being plunged into a three-day lockdown.

LATEST RESTRICTIONS AND HEALTH ALERTS

Until 1am, Friday January 22:

MASKS

Must be worn in indoor places, including shopping centres and supermarkets, gyms, workplaces where people cannot socially distance and where it is safe to do so, places of worship, libraries, public transport, taxis and ride share vehicles.

Must be carried at all times.

Are not required to be worn when outdoors at a safe distance from other people (for example, walking a dog), in private vehicles or doing

strenuous exercise.

 

BUSINESSES AND VENUES

Indoors: 1 person
per 4sq m

Outdoors:
1 person per 2sq m

Seated eating and drinking only

Smaller venues up to 200sq m: 1 person per 2sq m up to a maximum of 50

No dancing except

for weddings

 

GATHERINGS

Up to 20 in homes and public spaces

Weddings: Up to 100. No restrictions on dancing

Funerals: Up to 100

Indoor concert venues or theatres: 50% capacity, or 1 person per 4sq m - whichever is greater

Outdoor stadiums: 50% capacity with COVIDSafe plans

Restrictions on visits to hospitals, aged care, disability accommodation and prisons remain.

QUEENSLAND HEALTH ALERTS FOR TESTING:

SOUTHSIDE BRISBANE (RELATED TO CLEANER AND PARTNER)

Two sites were added to the contact tracing list after the quarantine hotel cleaner's partner tested positive on Monday.

Anyone who visited Bunnings Warehouse in Acacia Ridge from 2pm to 2:40pm on Tuesday, January 5, and Sunnybank Cellars in Sunnybank Hills from 2:05pm to 2:15pm on Wednesday, January 6, has been urged to get tested and quarantine at home for 14 days regardless of the outcome.

An urgent public health alert was issued late on Saturday evening, ordering anyone who had visited Coles at Sunnybank Hills Shoppingtown on January 5, 7.30am-8am, or Woolworths Calamvale North on January 3, 11am-noon to get tested and quarantine for 14 days, regardless of the test result.

The Public Health Unit confirmed anyone who attended these venues at these times was now considered to be a close contact with a Brisbane quarantine hotel cleaner who tested positive to the UK variant.

The Nextra newsagency at Sunnybank Hills was also added to this list of "critical importance".

Authorities have also asked anybody on the Altandi to Roma St Station train at 7am on January 2 and Central to Altandi train at 4pm on January 2 to get tested.

 

MALENY (RELATED TO PASSENGER FROM MELBOURNE)

Health alerts have been issued for three venues in Maleny after a woman flew from Melbourne to Brisbane and then drove to the Sunshine Coast hinterland town on January 5. The woman also had the UK mutant strain of COVID-19 and had been in quarantine in Melbourne for 10 days before being allowed to fly but has since tested positive for the virus. At the time 10 days was the required quarantine period and no exit test was required.

Dr Young said the risk was "extremely low" but said Queensland Health wanted to be cautious.

Queensland Health has urged anyone who visited the Cappriccios Italian Pizza Restaurant on January 6, between 6.30pm and 7pm, to get tested.

They have also issued the same advice for those who visited Purple Palate Cellars between 4.15pm and 4.25pm on January 7 as well as the Maleny Woolworths supermarket on the same day between 4.30pm and 4.50pm.

Anyone in the Maleny area with any symptoms has also been urged to come forward for testing.

Dr Young said health authorities wanted to test passengers on Jetstar flight JQ570 but she said Queensland Health had already contacted all passengers.


Originally published as 'It is of national concern': Highly infectious cluster grows to six



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