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Victorian health authorities are investigating suspected coronavirus transmission within the state’s hotel quarantine system, after three cases emerged from the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.
- Two workers and one returned traveller have been infected by the Holiday Inn outbreak
- Returned travellers who completed their quarantine fortnight at the hotel on Sunday must undergo another 14 days of quarantine
- An urgent review is being run into how the virus spread within the quarantine hotel
The first case was detected in a female worker who tested positive on Sunday, and a second worker’s positive result was revealed late this afternoon.
A case was also detected today in a returned traveller who had served her 14 days of quarantine at the Holiday Inn before she was released on Sunday.
After hearing about the first positive case in a worker, the returned traveller sought testing and tested positive.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said authorities believed the virus was spreading within the hotel quarantine system and the traveller had become infected “just before” the end of her stay.
“We think that’s what’s happened in this case,” he said.
“Therefore, the focus of our attention is on the transmission that might have occurred on the relevant floor where positive cases were known to be.”
Health Minister Martin Foley said close contacts of the recent cases, including others who completed their quarantine at the Holiday Inn on Sunday, would now have to undergo another 14 days of quarantine.
“We know that this will come as difficult news to those people who have just completed their 14 days’ mandatory hotel quarantine isolation, but it is a necessary public health move,” he said.
He said COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria was still considering what should be done to address the risk of infection among returned travellers still staying at the Holiday Inn.
Mr Foley said the cases appeared to be linked to one specific floor of the hotel, and that floor was no longer accepting new residents.
He said the planned increase to Victoria’s weekly hotel quarantine cap from 1,120 to 1,310 next week was “under review”.
‘End-to-end review’ of hotel quarantine to occur
Professor Sutton said in addition to a state-based review of the Holiday Inn outbreak, he expected there would be detailed discussions amongst chief health officers on bolstering hotel quarantine systems across Australia.
“It’ll be an end-to-end review of all of the mitigations that can be put into place, including the testing before someone leaves their country of origin to come to Australia,” he said.
“But also that Swiss cheese model — all of the systems, elements that you can put in place to reduce the risk of transmissions.”
Professor Sutton said one extra safeguard could be to ask returned travellers to take an additional test, or tests, after leaving hotel quarantine, to pick up any infections caught during their stay.
“That requires modelling, it requires us to reflect on everything that’s happened in these circumstances,” he said.
Earlier today, Premier Daniel Andrews said the working theory of health authorities was that the first Holiday Inn worker case was caused by aerosol transmission.
Victorian health authorities have already been investigating potential transmission between residents at a separate quarantine hotel, the Park Royal.
In that instance, two groups staying on the same floor of the hotel tested positive to the same UK variant of the virus, after reportedly opening their doors at the same time.