Quarantine risk: Frightening figures show infections now 15 times more likely

As another state orders a lockdown after COVID-19 escaped hotel quarantine, new figures reveal why Queensland is so worried.

Feb 01, 2021, updated Feb 01, 2021
Hotel Grand Chancellor at Spring Hill has been used for quarantine during the pandemic. Photo: ABC

Hotel Grand Chancellor at Spring Hill has been used for quarantine during the pandemic. Photo: ABC

Greater Brisbane was forced into a three-day lockdown after the UK strain of COVID-19 spread on the seventh floor of Hotel Grand Chancellor and into the community.

The more contagious UK strain had already prompted Australia to reduce its intake of people returning from overseas, and led Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to call for remote quarantine for travellers and, particularly, the workers needed to isolate them.

A mining camp near Gladstone and a purpose-built facility in Toowoomba have been floated as possible alternatives, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has so far backed the continuation of hotel quarantine. It remains to be seen whether the WA quarantine breach prompts a rethink of the strategy: it, too, involved a worker taking the virus into the community.

As Queensland today lifted the last remaining travel restriction on NSW, it also joined other states in imposing travel restrictions on WA where authorities are on high alert. A Perth hotel security guard who tested positive to COVID-19 at the weekend is believed to have also worked as a rideshare driver, prompting a five-day city lockdown.

New figures obtained by InQueensland show the threat level within hotel quarantine has escalated in the past four months.

As of Friday, 127 of the 146 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Queensland since October 5 tested positive while in hotel quarantine. Travellers are now more likely to be carrying the disease with them.

“The rate of infection among overseas arrivals in government quarantine is estimated to be 15 times higher than it was in October,” a Queensland Health spokesman said.

“This can be partly attributed to the emergence of new variants of COVID-19, including the UK variant, which is reported to be 70 per cent more contagious than the virus in its more common form.”

More than 75 per cent of Queensland’s COVID-19 cases have been overseas-acquired, which demonstrates not only the success in preventing community transmission but also the ongoing importance of managing air arrivals. There are 19 hotels currently used for quarantine.

Police are finalising their investigation into the Hotel Grand Chancellor outbreak, with a report expected to be released as early as this week. National Cabinet meets again on Friday, with Palaszczuk expected to again push for alternatives to hotel quarantine.

Queensland recorded no new cases of COVID-19 overnight, for the third consecutive day, with six active cases.

While the Queensland government declared Perth a hotspot, with travel restrictions and new precautions for anyone who recently arrived from the WA capital, the NSW government has not been so cautious.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today described the WA scare as “a manageable situation” and said “we will not be closing our borders”.

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