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More cases in south-east, Palaszczuk ready to shut down hotel quarantine

Investigations have found Queensland’s latest big outbreak came out of quarantine and then spread through two community centres and a Chermside café.

Jul 05, 2021, updated Jul 05, 2021
COVID-19 has previously leaked out of quarantine at the Four Points Sheraton in Brisbane and now a guest has been caught in the stairwell. (Supplied)

COVID-19 has previously leaked out of quarantine at the Four Points Sheraton in Brisbane and now a guest has been caught in the stairwell. (Supplied)

Four new community-acquired cases of COVID-19 were reported this morning. A woman who was yesterday suspected of contracting the virus at the Greek Orthodox community centre in South Brisbane has been confirmed positive, along with her child, while a man who travelled to Eumundi with COVID-19 has now been found to have infected his partner and a colleague.

The so-called Portuguese restaurant cluster of Alpha variant cases, linked to the Greek centre, now stands at 23. The worst affected patient, a 69-year-old man, is on a ventilator in intensive care. It was sparked by a flight attendant testing positive after leaving mandatory hotel quarantine when her time was up.

Despite the risks, a man quarantined in the Four Points Sheraton in Brisbane – where the virus has previously leaked out – was fined yesterday after escaping to the stairwell despite previous warnings to stay in his room.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today called on the Morrison Government to shut down hotel quarantine and use Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport for international arrivals on commercial flights. She wants potentially-infectious travellers kept away from populated areas.

Palaszczuk said her government was working on a Commonwealth proposal for a new quarantine facility at Damascus Barracks at Meeandah, near Brisbane Airport, but it would only be for repatriation flights and not open until 2022.

While planning investigations are required for Meeandah – a major consultancy firm has been hired and talks continue today – Palaszczuk reiterated Toowoomba facility could be open within two months and allow hotel quarantine to cease.

“My position still remains that we need both,” Palaszczuk said, noting that a home quarantine trial would also take place in Adelaide for fully-vaccinated Australian travellers.

“If we had both quarantine facilities … we would not need to use the hotels.”

It is not clear whether workers would be required to stay on-site at Meeandah to limit the risk of quarantine breach, however it would likely transfer any infected travellers to a Brisbane hospital.

In the meantime, the government plans to charge travellers upfront for the cost of hotel quarantine, to not only ensure they pay but allow Queensland Health greater insight into the risk profile. A parliamentary committee today heard the proposal would allow the government to negotiate with employers and industry groups, who would have the option of accepting liability for their employees, and adapt the quarantine arrangements to suit.

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Investigations continue into the Delta variant leak at Prince Charles Hospital that prompted the lockdowns in south-east Queensland and Townsville, however it is no longer thought to be a threat. A second case in a hospital worker, of the Alpha variant, is now thought to have come from the community.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said that by acting early in response to cases Queensland Health had been able to isolate many of the people since confirmed to be infected. The lockdown has lifted but restrictions, including mandatory masks, remain in place as a precaution.

Young also revealed the latest Prince Charles Hospital worker to be infected had attended a “venue of concern” – the Zeus Street Greek Kitchen at Westfield Chermside – also attended by the man who travelled to Eumundi, and a man from Aroona on the Sunshine Coast.

As Queensland Health connects the missing links with the Alpha variant cluster, Young said she was confident there was no undetected spread of the Delta variant linked to the infected Prince Charles Hospital receptionist, miners, airport workers and flight attendants.

“We know that Delta virus tends to transmit fairly quickly,” Young said.

“The vast majority would transmit fairly early on in their incubation period and we’ve done all that testing and not found any cases.”

Young reiterated that people aged over 70 who have not yet been vaccinated should limit their public activities if possible.

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