‘Significant concerns’ over airborne threat

Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed on Tuesday morning the woman, who was based at the Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn quarantine site, had been diagnosed with the B.1.1.7 mutant strain of COVID-19.The Premier also revealed a confirmed case in a returned traveller in hotel quarantine had been transferred to hospital and was in intensive care.He said it was “months” since a coronavirus patient had required hospital care in the state.Victoria recorded no new local coronavirus cases on Tuesday, after thousands of people turned out to get tested.The health department said 12,816 Victorians were swabbed at testing stations across the state on Monday, with no locally acquired cases reported in the past 24 hours.The health department also confirmed no new cases were recorded in hotel quarantine in the past 24 hours on Tuesday morning.There are 15 active cases in Victoria, down from 20 on Monday, with 13 active infections in hotel quarantine and two locally acquired cases.The rush to get tested came after the hotel quarantine worker – a woman based at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport – returned a positive result on Sunday.Mr Andrews said there was a “working theory” and “very significant concerns” regarding aerosol transmission of the highly infectious strains.

“They do present us with a very significant challenge,” the Premier said of the highly infectious variants.“Out of the Holiday Inn, the CCTV footage review, from all the other checking that we do, there’s no obvious infection prevention and control breach.“It’s not like someone’s obviously done the wrong thing, and that’s a significant concern to us.”Health authorities are also hoping genomic sequencing will help provide some insights into how the woman, who wore full personal protective equipment, including a surgical mask and face shield, became infected.At least 136 hotel quarantine workers at the Holiday Inn have been identified as primary close contacts and have been told to isolate and get tested.A number of potential public exposure sites have also been identified in Melbourne’s northwest suburbs with anyone who has visited the “tier 1” sites during the times listed is required to immediately isolate, get tested and remain isolated for 14 days from the time they were at the site.

Mr Andrews said eight people who had direct contact with the woman have been identified as social and household primary close contacts.He said all had been tested and were isolating, with no positive results recorded yet.Health authorities warned the number was likely to increase as investigations continued.Testing capacity near exposure sites in Melbourne’s northwest is also being enhanced.It comes after another hotel quarantine worker – a 26-year-old man from Noble Park based at the Australian Open quarantine program – also returned a positive COVID-19 test result last Wednesday.Genomic sequencing confirmed he had also been infected with the UK strain.The health department said more than 61,000 Victorians had been tested since Thursday morning.
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