NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says infections slipping through the cracks of hotel quarantine are “inevitable”, after a case linked to the scheme was confirmed today.
- Investigations continue into whether a hotel quarantine infection may have been the source of the northern beaches cluster
- That would make it the fourth case that has been linked to the hotel quarantine scheme
- Ms Berejiklian has said that minimisation of these incidences was all they could do
Eight new cases were confirmed in NSW, including a nurse from Western Sydney who transported a symptomatic family from the airport to their quarantine.
Whether the healthcare worker’s COVID-19 infection is an overseas strain or a local strain is still under investigation.
One new coronavirus case has already been linked to the healthcare worker’s infection and will be included in Wednesday’s update.
“I don’t think any system can ever guarantee that we won’t have transmission events,” Ms Berejiklian said.
She said what was important was the surveillance of the system, and picking up the cases and responding to them.
“I think it’s inevitable that these issues will arise. We try as best we can to minimise them but it is about the response and the actions of individuals coming through,” she said.
Three hotel quarantine cases this month
The nurse was the third positive case traced back to the hotel quarantine scheme this month.
On December 2, a cleaner working at a Sydney quarantine hotel tested positive to the virus.
Two weeks later, a bus driver who transported flight crews from the airport to their hotel tested positive on December 16.
Investigations also continue into the source of the northern beaches outbreak, which is thought to be connected to a traveller from the US who could become the fourth case traced back to the hotel quarantine system.
Using genomic analysis, NSW Health found a close match between the cluster and a woman who arrived from the United States on December 1 and went into hotel quarantine.
Investigations are continuing into how the virus was transmitted from her to the cases that kicked off the current cluster.
From today, quarantine rules for international air crew flying into Sydney tighten.
Air crews transiting through Sydney will be restricted to quarantining in just two hotels near the airport, down from 25.
They will be monitored by police and health authorities.
Crews had previously been able to apply for a hotel quarantine exemption which would allow them to self-isolate at accommodation of their choice.
‘Clearly there are flaws’
ABC senior health reporter and Coronacast host Norman Swan agreed the escape from the hotel quarantine system was inevitable.
“The reality is that clearly there are flaws in our system,” Dr Swam said.
“You need to do a root-cause analysis of why it spread and shore up why it happened, and try and prevent it next time.”
He said anecdotally it appeared that transporting returning overseas travellers was high risk.
“That needs to be tightened up. Now we have two situations where that has been an issue,” he said.
“The problem with the [hotel quarantine] system is we are focused on droplet spread of 1.5 metres, when there is spread at greater distance.”
He said studies in Victoria had shown that poor ventilation could exacerbate viral spread.
Dr Swan said there had almost certainly been more cases directly linked to hotel quarantine, but it had not spread through the population.
Both the hotel cleaner and the bus driver did not pass the virus on to any of their close contacts.