Australian state to tighten hotel quarantine program

People walk past a cafe after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions were eased for the state of Victoria, in Melbourne, Australia

The Australian state of Victoria will begin testing all hotel quarantine workers daily starting from Monday after another positive Covid-19 cases was detected in less than a week.

Victorian health authorities announced that the female patient in her early 50s had worked as an authorised officer at the Holiday Inn in Melbourne Airport, reports Xinhua news agency.

The woman was the second hotel quarantine worker who tested positive for the virus in the past week.

With a negative result at the end of her shift on February 4, she returned to work on Sunday when she developed symptoms and later tested positive.

Genomic testing is underway to determine which strain of the virus she contracted.

The state’s Minister for Police and Emergency Services Lisa Neville told reporters on Monday that three positive cases from the same family were identified at the hotel recently and they had since been transferred to a health hotel.

She said it appeared the woman did not breach any infection control protocols and authorities were looking at possible airborne or aerosol transmission of the virus.

About 80 hotel quarantine staff, including nine police officers and 12 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel working at the Holiday Inn were considered close contacts of the infected worker and have been placed in quarantine for 14 days.

A total of 15 personal close contacts have also been identified and the number is expected to rise as contact tracing continues.

Neville said the state government would further tighten hotel quarantine rules in light of the new case.

“We’ve implemented the staggering meal deliveries and other deliveries to individual doors, and we have also put in place the face shields with the surgical masks for all staff.

“We’ll also start today the testing of staff on their days off,” he added.

Fifty ADF personnel arrived in Melbourne overnight Sunday to help the quarantine system.

Meanwhile, an overseas traveller in the neighbouring state of New South Wales (NSW) tested positive two days after being released from hotel quarantine on day 14.

NSW health authorities said the person from the Wollongong area returned two negative tests during their quarantine period and showed no symptoms.

However, a recently enhanced day-16 follow-up test indicates the person has a low level of infection.

Investigations to date suggest the infection was likely acquired overseas and there is no indication at this stage of transmission in hotel quarantine.

As the source of the new case is still under investigation, NSW recorded 22 days in a row with no locally acquired Covid-19 cases.

However, the NSW Health issued a health alert for several venues in Wollongong and Sydney’s south on Sunday night and urged anyone who attended the venues on specific dates and times to get tested and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.

Australia’s overall Covid-19 cases has increased to 28,850, while the deaths stood at 909.

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