Lockdowns in place for 72 hours as quarantine hotel mystery remains

Hospitals, aged care and disability services in greater Brisbane will remain restricted while Queensland Health looks for any lost COVID-19 cases.

Mar 16, 2021, updated Mar 16, 2021
Acting Chief Health Officer Sonya Bennett says authorities are feeling comfortable about contact tracing results. Photo: ABC

Acting Chief Health Officer Sonya Bennett says authorities are feeling comfortable about contact tracing results. Photo: ABC

While no more community-acquired cases came to light overnight, when there were only two new cases in hotel quarantine, the spread of COVID-19 between two guests at Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor remains a concern.

It comes as Queensland Health tries to ensure any and all doses of COVID-19 vaccines are administered as soon as possible, in an effort to have all frontline workers partially vaccinated within a fortnight. The arrival of the more contagious UK strain has added a sense of urgency, as has the worsening situation in Papua New Guinea, and hundreds of targeted tests are being done in Brisbane as a precaution.

A returned traveller on the first floor of the hotel is suspected of being a ‘super spreader’ who infected another returned traveller on that floor, as well as a doctor at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. The UK strain somehow made it past hotel doors and the doctor’s PPE.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Sonya Bennett said there was no evidence the doctor had passed the virus on to any patients, staff, or contacts in the community, however contact tracing and testing continued.

Of the 58 per cent of potential contacts so far tested, none came back positive.

“We’re feeling very reassured by those circumstances and how they’re unfolding,” Bennett said.

The hotel remains the biggest concern: all staff who worked between March 5 and 9 have been tested, all guests who have been and gone since March 1 have been asked to isolate and get tested, and some guests in the hotel have been kept longer.

Bennett conceded that although the investigation had yet to identify any breaches of infection control policies at the hotel – the centre of a previous mini-outbreak that led to a greater Brisbane lockdown – sometimes “the smallest things” can see the virus spread.

A decision will be made tomorrow on the release of hotel quarantine guests, and, barring the discovery of any new cases, visitor restrictions should be lifted by the end of the week.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said Queensland’s vaccination effort was on track to have all people in Phase 1A, the frontline workers, given their initial injection within a fortnight.

At the Gold Coast University Hospital, the first to start vaccinations, that has already occurred. Director of Infectious Diseases and Immunology John Gerrard revealed the supply of the Pfizer vaccine had been “tight” until another 6,000 doses arrived today.

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“We were a little anxious yesterday we might run out of vaccine but thankfully we received additional supply about an hour ago,” Gerrard said, during a media conference with Bennett, D’Ath and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on the Gold Coast.

While there has been some criticism of non-clinical hospital workers receiving the vaccine before doctors, D’Ath said on occasion Phase 1B workers would be brought forward to fill any unexpected appointments so the time-sensitive doses were not wasted.

D’Ath and Palaszczuk reiterated that receiving vaccine supplies from the Commonwealth remained the biggest challenge.

Gerrard said some COVID-19 patients had other mental health and clinical issues, requiring treatment from other clinicians, so it was important all hospital staff be vaccinated to create a safer “bubble”.

Meanwhile, Palaszczuk has held urgent talks with Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the worsening COVID-19 situation in Papua New Guinea. Queensland has already diverted vaccines to the Torres Strait, where communities are being protected, and Palaszczuk suggested PNG health workers might also need some of Australia’s supply of vaccines.

Australian clinicians are expected to be dispatched to help as Queensland deals with an increasing number of travellers returning from PNG with COVID-19.

“We are concerned that over 50 per cent of our active cases in Queensland at the moment are from Papua New Guinea,” Palaszczuk said.

“That’s our concern.”

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