Hundreds Isolate After Vic Covid-19 Case

Hundreds Isolate After Vic Covid-19 Case
A general view of the entrance and Signage of the Grand Hyatt hotel, one of the three hotels being used for quarantine of players and accompanying staff competing in the Australian Open on January 14, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.(Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Hundreds of Victorians have been forced to self-isolate after a hotel quarantine worker linked to the Australian Open tested positive to COVID-19.

The 26-year-old man from Noble Park in the city’s southeast returned a positive test on February 3, five days after he completed his last shift as a resident support officer at the Grand Hyatt hotel, as part of the Australian Open quarantine program.

Two of the man’s close household contacts have tested negative, while health authorities have been able to reach 19 of the 20 people identified as close contacts.

A further 600 casual contacts also have been told to isolate and get tested, as have 520 Australian Open players, officials and support staff.

Wastewater samples collected from the southeast on Tuesday have also come back negative for COVID-19.

“These are all good positive early signs. We have got to this in good time,” Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Thursday.

He said a review of CCTV at the Grand Hyatt showed the man was a “model employee” who correctly followed all safety procedures.

“We can find no problem, no breach of protocol, anything of that nature in terms of his employment,” Andrews said.

The case brought the state’s 28-day run of zero community transmission to an end and prompted a reintroduction of a number of restrictions.

Masks must now be worn indoors and the number of visitors allowed in private homes has been halved to 15, while a scheduled increase in the number of workers allowed to return to the office has been put on hold.

It is still unknown if the man is carrying a more-virulent international strain of the virus, with the results of genomic testing expected on Friday.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said it was likely the man contracted the virus from a positive case in the quarantine hotel.

“It’s not rocket science to say he’s probably caught it from one of the cases. We are aware there were six cases at that hotel,” he said, noting four were the more highly infectious UK variant.

Professor Cheng said it was “unlikely” the Australian Open would be cancelled but warned the situation was unfolding.

A number of hotel quarantine security guards last year contracted COVID-19, sparking Victoria’s second wave of coronavirus, which killed hundreds of people and led to months of lockdown.

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said the state could not afford to have a repeat of history.

“This is how it started last year. The government said that they learnt their lessons ... clearly, something went wrong,” he said.

Capacity is being boosted at testing sites across the state, as a list of exposure sites grows.

Anyone who has visited the sites, which are largely situated in Melbourne’s southeast, have been told to get tested and self-isolate for 14 days.

A number of states have also introduced restrictions for Victorian, including Tasmania, which has declared eight suburbs high-risk and told anyone who has recently been to the locations to immediately get tested and then isolate.

Anyone in Queensland who has been in Greater Melbourne since January 29 have also been told to get tested and isolate until they have those test results.

Those who have visited exposure sites will need to isolate for 14 days, regardless of the result. Similar rules apply in NSW.

Meanwhile, authorities on Wednesday confirmed the transmission of a coronavirus case between guests in separate hotel quarantine rooms.

Two separate groups of guests in opposite rooms at Melbourne’s Park Royal Hotel tested positive for the more infectious UK variant of the coronavirus.

Some 100 hotel quarantine staff members and 37 returned travellers who have completed their 14 days on the impacted floor are now self-isolating at home. None have yet tested positive.

Benita Kolovos in Melbourne