Australian quarantine hotel COVID-19 cluster grows to ten cases

Fire Services Victoria personnel meet outside a public housing tower, locked down in response to an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Melbourne, Australia

Two more people linked to a quarantine hotel outbreak in the Australian state of Melbourne have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of the cluster to ten.

Victoria’s Department of Health said Thursday the two new cases were both household primary close contacts of currently confirmed staff from the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.

The department revealed late Wednesday a worker and a former resident also tested positive for COVID-19.

The Holiday Inn cluster now stands at ten, including a family of three who is believed to contract the virus overseas, three quarantine hotel workers, two household members of the hotel workers and two former guests who exited the facility on February 7.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said a working theory was that at least three of the cases were exposed to mist from a nebuliser used by one member of the family of three, who is currently being treated for COVID-19 in intensive care.

As investigations into the outbreak continued, the hotel was closed on Wednesday for terminal cleaning.

Fourty-eight residents were transferred to Pullman Melbourne to quarantine for an extended number of days and more than 135 hotel staff were stood down and told to quarantine at home for 14 days.

A planned increase to Victoria’s cap on international arrivals was also put on hold.

Other states and territories in the country were also on high alert as the Holiday Inn cluster in Melbourne expanded.

South Australia (SA) has acted swiftly to close its border to residents from Greater Melbourne.

“People wishing to enter SA on or after 12.01 am Thursday having been in Greater Melbourne (including Sunbury) at any time on or after 12.01 am February 4 are not permitted to enter,” the state’s latest COVID-19 direction said.

“Exemptions do apply for Essential Travellers, SA residents, genuine relocations and people escaping Domestic Violence with approval prior to entry.”

Meanwhile, the state of Queensland will reinstate a border pass system for people travelling from Victoria from 1:00 am Sunday.

Queensland’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said Thursday the border would not be closed at this stage, and Victoria had handled the Holiday Inn outbreak well.

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