An urgent incident response is underway in Queensland after genomic testing discovered six previously identified COVID-19 cases were linked and are all the highly contagious UK strain of the virus.
- 129 guests locked in the Hotel Grand Chancellor are undergoing a COVID-19 quarantine “reset”
- Six cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the contagious UK strain of the virus
- A cleaner at the Grand Chancellor tested positive to the UK strain on January 7
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed more precautions would be put in place as she announced two new cases of COVID-19 were recorded overnight, both in hotel quarantine.
Ms Palaszczuk said all six cases stayed on the same floor of the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane city, where 129 guests would undergo a “quarantine reset” and be moved to different hotels.
“Both groups of these overseas arrivals stayed on the same floor of the hotel at different times but not in neighbouring rooms,” she said.
“There is no need for the public to be concerned, but we are going to take some immediate actions as a precaution.
“We have some genomic testing that came back late last night and … linked six cases of the highly infectious UK variant of COVID.
“These are the UK traveller and his partner, the hotel cleaner and her partner, and the man and his daughter from Lebanon who we told you about yesterday — so all six have a connection to the Grand Chancellor Hotel.”
People who have already spent two weeks in quarantine at the hotel — where a cleaner tested positive to the UK variant of the virus — have been told they will have their quarantine extended.
The decision comes just over a day after a three-day lockdown of Greater Brisbane.
Geoff Crooks is in quarantine with his wife at the hotel and said he was told overnight his stay would be extended.
“We were due for release one minute after midnight last night, we’ve done our 14 days,” Mr Crooks said.
Officers gave Mr Crooks a new quarantine direction, which has been seen by the ABC, extending his isolation period until January 26.
“My brother’s funeral is tomorrow in Wollongong, he died while I’ve been in here,” Mr Crooks said.
“We understand the quarantine process, we agree you have to have it, but to be told in the eleventh hour that you’re stuck here.”
Guests moving to new hotels
Ms Palaszczuk said the 129 guests who would be moved to other hotels would also be tested again.
“They will not be charged for their time at the Grand Chancellor or in the hotels that they are going to be moved tomorrow.
“Two hundred and twenty six people who worked in the hotel since December 30 are going to be contacted and they will go into quarantine and get tested.
“Two hundred and fifty quarantined guests who have left the hotel since December 30 are now currently being contacted.
“They will be quarantined and tested. Once again, precautionary. No more guests have gone into the hotel since the variant was discovered on January 7.”
Mr Crook said despite the hotel cleaner testing positive, guests had been provided little information from authorities.
“I felt actually safer in the US than I do right here, right now,” Mr Crooks said.
“We hope sanity prevails and they come and say, ‘yep, you can go home’ … but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Mr Crooks said he had tested negative to COVID-19 three times while he was in quarantine.
CHO urges all visitors be tested
Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said all guests had stayed on floor 7 and she urged anyone who stayed in the hotel since December 30 to get tested and to quarantine.
“Anyone who has been in that hotel since that time, 30 December onwards, whether they be staff, ADF, police, or health or any of the guests, services workers, maritime workers, we’re asking that all of those people immediately
get tested and go into quarantine for 14 days from when they left the hotel,” Dr Young said.
Dr Young said there was no evidence at this stage that the hotel or its staff had done anything wrong.
“I want to compliment hotel management for their level of cooperation,” she said.
“It’s important we understand the link. It’s a mystery we need to solve.”
A joint investigation with police and Queensland Health continues into how the cleaner initially contracted the virus from a returned traveller.
Ms Palasazuk said Dr Young would be briefing the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and she would be speaking with her state and national counterparts this morning about the situation.
“I think we need to immediately look at the way in which we are handling people coming into the country, international arrivals, and also looking at the quarantine hotels that they are going into,” she said.
“We have to put in additional precautions and we are doing that immediately, but what we are dealing with here is something that we’ve never had to deal with before.”