Quarantine breach prompts demand for answers
'Vulnerabilities' in Queensland's hotel quarantine system have prompted the Opposition to demand an overhaul as police investigators prepare to sift through four days of CCTV to understand how a hotel cleaner was infected.
A joint Queensland Health and police investigation has been launched into the incident, which resulted in 2.5 million Greater Brisbane residents being plunged into a three-day lockdown.
The cleaner, in her 20s, is the first case of a hotel quarantine employee being infected at work in Queensland.
Genomic sequencing has linked her case to a man, in his 30s, who returned to Queensland on December 30 after travelling from Ghana - the state's first known case of the UK variant. The man's partner has also tested positive to the variant, dubbed B117.
The Opposition has written to Health Minister Yvette D'Ath demanding answers on how the Hotel Grand Chancellor worker contracted the virus.
Opposition Health spokeswoman Ros Bates wrote to Ms D'Ath, calling for her to temporarily leave vacant any room inhabited by a person infected by the mutant UK strain.
Ms Bates said the lack of information about how the cleaner contracted the strain and a lack of clarity about what protective equipment she was wearing needs to be answered.
"If this incident has shown us anything, it is that there are vulnerabilities in the system," she wrote.
"While no system will be infallible, it is our responsibility to examine the circumstances and identify any systemic failures and vulnerabilities to reduce the likelihood of further lockdowns."
Queensland Police Service Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said investigators would view four days' worth of CCTV and assess whether system changes were required.
"It will be an investigation that as we and if we identify things that need to be improved in the system that we will implement them immediately," he pledged.
Police will develop a detailed timeline from when Queensland's first confirmed case of the UK variant entered the quarantine system on December 30 to January 2, the cleaner's last shift at the Grand Chancellor.
"We're trying to work out the nexus between those two people and how it may have been transmitted," Mr Gollschewski said.
"It will be a complete reconstruction of everything that's happened so that we can understand the whole process.
"We will absolutely look at everything in the hotel setting. That's a detailed piece of work."
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the nature of the mutant UK strain meant authorities may never know how the cleaner caught it.
"This is a very contagious virus so I'm not sure that we'll necessarily find what led to this particular breach," she said.
Dr Young said that under hotel quarantine protocols, all staff working on the same floors as returned travellers were required to wear personal protective equipment, such as masks.
LATEST RESTRICTIONS AND HEALTH ALERTS
Until 1am, Friday January 22:
Must be worn in indoor places, including shopping centres and supermarkets, gyms, workplaces where people cannot socially distance and where it is safe to do so, places of worship, libraries, public transport, taxis and ride share vehicles.
Must be carried at all times.
Are not required to be worn when outdoors at a safe distance from other people (for example, walking a dog), in private vehicles or doing
BUSINESSES AND VENUES
Indoors: 1 person
per 4sq m
1 person per 2sq m
Seated eating and drinking only
Smaller venues up to 200sq m: 1 person per 2sq m up to a maximum of 50
No dancing except
Up to 20 in homes and public spaces
Weddings: Up to 100. No restrictions on dancing
Funerals: Up to 100
Indoor concert venues or theatres: 50% capacity, or 1 person per 4sq m - whichever is greater
Outdoor stadiums: 50% capacity with COVIDSafe plans
Restrictions on visits to hospitals, aged care, disability accommodation and prisons remain.
QUEENSLAND HEALTH ALERTS FOR TESTING:
SOUTHSIDE BRISBANE (RELATED TO CLEANER AND PARTNER)
Two sites were added to the contact tracing list after the quarantine hotel cleaner's partner tested positive on Monday.
Anyone who visited Bunnings Warehouse in Acacia Ridge from 2pm to 2:40pm on Tuesday, January 5, and Sunnybank Cellars in Sunnybank Hills from 2:05pm to 2:15pm on Wednesday, January 6, has been urged to get tested and quarantine at home for 14 days regardless of the outcome.
An urgent public health alert was issued late on Saturday evening, ordering anyone who had visited Coles at Sunnybank Hills Shoppingtown on January 5, 7.30am-8am, or Woolworths Calamvale North on January 3, 11am-noon to get tested and quarantine for 14 days, regardless of the test result.
The Public Health Unit confirmed anyone who attended these venues at these times was now considered to be a close contact with a Brisbane quarantine hotel cleaner who tested positive to the UK variant.
The Nextra newsagency at Sunnybank Hills was also added to this list of "critical importance".
Authorities have also asked anybody on the Altandi to Roma St Station train at 7am on January 2 and Central to Altandi train at 4pm on January 2 to get tested.
MALENY (RELATED TO PASSENGER FROM MELBOURNE)
Health alerts have been issued for three venues in Maleny after a woman flew from Melbourne to Brisbane and then drove to the Sunshine Coast hinterland town on January 5. The woman also had the UK mutant strain of COVID-19 and had been in quarantine in Melbourne for 10 days before being allowed to fly but has since tested positive for the virus. At the time 10 days was the required quarantine period and no exit test was required.
Dr Young said the risk was "extremely low" but said Queensland Health wanted to be cautious.
Queensland Health has urged anyone who visited the Cappriccios Italian Pizza Restaurant on January 6, between 6.30pm and 7pm, to get tested.
They have also issued the same advice for those who visited Purple Palate Cellars between 4.15pm and 4.25pm on January 7 as well as the Maleny Woolworths supermarket on the same day between 4.30pm and 4.50pm.
Anyone in the Maleny area with any symptoms has also been urged to come forward for testing.
Dr Young said health authorities wanted to test passengers on Jetstar flight JQ570 but she said Queensland Health had already contacted all passengers.
Originally published as Quarantine breach prompts demand for answers