Infectious disease experts believe that the highly infectious variants of the CCP virus could be the cause of quarantine leaks across Australia after Victoria reported three new cases connected to their quarantine program in the past week.
The latest case, a woman in her 50s tested positive for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, on Sunday after she worked at the Holiday Inn near the Melbourne airport.
“If these breaches are these more highly contagious strains, then there is a question about whether the sort of prevention should be ramped up even more,” Prof. Malcolm Sim, a government adviser, and president of the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, said on Monday.
In response, Victorian authorities will be examining the hotel ventilation systems. They will also require all quarantine workers be tested daily, including on their days off.
However, La Trobe University epidemiologist Prof. Hassan Vally says that the more infectious variants may challenge any preventative measure currently in place. Vally also suggested that the increase in quarantine leaks could be due to more rigorous testing.
“We are getting better at detecting these spillover events better, and that’s really important,” Vally said.
But the federal minister for health, Greg Hunt, does not believe that a complete review of the hotel quarantine systems is necessary despite the suggestions. Hunt said that quarantine leaks were inevitable, and measures have been put in place to handle these situations.
“We have said since the earliest days a year ago, that there would be cases,” Hunt said. “We have always said hotel quarantine is the inner ring of containment, followed by testing, tracing, and distancing. Where anybody indicates that there is only one line of defence, that would be inaccurate.”
However, Assoc. Prof. Paul Griffin, from the University of Queensland, believes that there is insufficient evidence to draw conclusive decisions. He says that other factors also contributed to these transmissions events.
“Even though it seems like we are seeing more cases arising from hotel quarantine, we’re not seeing the transmission in the community that we would really expect to see if these strains were truly as infectious as some people would make us believe,” Griffen said. “It’s not down solely to the strain of the virus; there must have been other factors at play that led to those transmission events occurring in hotel quarantine.”