Twenty travellers who have arrived in Victoria from Queensland in the last fortnight have been ordered to isolate and get tested, amid fears they may have been exposed to a highly-contagious virus strain in hotel quarantine.
Health authorities are on high alert about an outbreak of the UK mutant strain at a quarantine hotel in Brisbane which may have spread interstate.
Contract tracers have tracked down 20 travellers who were in hotel quarantine in Queensland and have arrived in Victoria since December 30, Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on Thursday.
Two have since crossed the South Australia border.
It comes Victoria has recorded no new coronavirus cases for an eighth consecutive day from 16,533 tests conducted on Wednesday.
Mr Andrews is taking the Brisbane hotel quarantine outbreak ‘very seriously’ and has exchanged a series with texts with Queensland counterpart Annastacia Palaszczuk regarding the matter since Wednesday.
‘To have 18 people who could be infected that with novel strain, that highly infectious strain out of the UK is of concern to us,’ he said.
Victoria recorded no coronavirus cases for a eighth consecutive day on Thursday. Pictured are healthcare workers at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne, which will welcome the arrival of Australian Open players and officials in the coming days
Some of the 18 returned travellers in Victoria need to isolate for another 14 days while others will only need to self-isolate until they return a negative test.
‘There’s not one blanket answer,’ Mr Andrews said on Thursday.
‘It depends on when they were in hotel quarantine.
‘There’s a specific window where we believe there is some chance that because of the infections that have already been recorded in hotel quarantine, between staff and residents, and it is that UK strain, without any other link, circumstances are very much based on each person’s travel movements and when they were in hotel quarantine.’
‘It will depend on their individual circumstances, but we’re well and truly in contact with them and we will provide them with tailored and specific advice about what they need to do.’
Anyone who completed mandatory hotel quarantine at Brisbane’s Grand Chancellor Hotel on or after December 30 and have since arrived Victoria is ordered to self-isolate and immediately contact the state’s coronavirus hotline.
They must get tested and quarantine at home until they receive a negative result.
‘The Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Greater Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Redlands, Logan, Ipswich will continue to remain in the in the red zone and travel to Victoria will not be permitted without an exemption, exception or permitted worker permit,’ Victoria’s Department of Health and Human services added in a statement.
‘Anyone who has arrived into Victoria from one of these LGA since 30 December must get tested and quarantine at home until they receive a negative result.’
Anyone who completed hotel quarantine at Brisbane’s Grand Chancellor hotel (pictured on Wednesday) on or after December 30 and have since arrived Victoria is ordered to self-isolate
New South Wales has issued a similar health alert, urging anyone who had been at the hotel since December 30, as a returned traveller or worker, to immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result.
The fresh outbreak in Brisbane may also delay the Victorian government’s back-to -work plans for Melbourne workers.
Plans to open up 50 per cent of private office buildings and 25 per cent of public servants were originally scheduled to start this week but were delayed another week following recent outbreaks in Victoria and NSW.
The Victorian government is expected to announce more details in the coming days, the Herald Sun reported.
Victorian health authorities remain on high alert about the virus, despite recording no new cases in the last eight days. Pictured are healthcare workers preparing personal protective equipment at a Melbourne hotel ahead of next month’s Australian Open
The cluster linked to the Brisbane hotel currently stands at six which includes four quarantining guests, a cleaner and her partner.
The Grand Chancellor Hotel is now closed for deep cleaning after 129 quarantined guests were moved to alternative accommodation on Wednesday night after two guests on the same floor mysteriously caught the virus.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk admitted on Wednesday the cluster is of national concern.
There are currently 29 active cases of coronavirus across Victoria.
Meanwhile, the first of 1200 tennis players, support crew and officials are expected to arrive in Melbourne on Thursday night for next month’s Australian Open.
They must quarantine at one of three Australian Open-dedicated hotels for two weeks ahead of the first tennis grand slam for 2021.
Healthcare workers are pictured preparing for the arrival of 1200 tennis players, support crew and officials who will check in at three Melbourne quarantine hotels in the coming days
UK’s mutant Covid strain explained
The highly infectious mutant strain of Covid now has 27 variations after it was first identified in Kent County, England, on September 21.
It now represents more than 50% of new cases diagnosed between October and Dec, making it the most common strain of Covid in England presently.
The deadly strain is believed to be more contagious and affects children worse than the original, prompting the government to plunge England back into its third nationwide lockdown.
The new variant is between 50 per cent and 74 per cent more contagious than the last, but is not necessarily any more deadly.