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The Australian Medical Association has slammed the management of Western Australia’s hotel quarantine system after genomic sequencing suggested a security guard acquired the virus from a returned United States traveller.
WA health authorities detected the “Pan Pacific cluster” on Saturday after routine testing of a security guard working at the Pan Pacific hotel quarantine site. The guard and two of his housemates, who work as food delivery drivers, tested positive.
Speaking just after receiving his vaccination on Monday, the premier, Mark McGowan, said the security guard did not contract the virus due to ventilation issues at the hotel – a common cause of other quarantine outbreaks.
Instead, genomic sequencing suggested the guard – referred to as “case 1001” – acquired the virus from a traveller returning from the US.
“He has proven positive to the US variant, which is identical to the person who visited from the United States and was transferred to the hotel on the same day as case 1001 was working,” McGowan said. “So we suspect that he acquired the virus from that person, we don’t know how. The advice we have at this point in time is that it was not related to ventilation issues in the hotel.”
The Pan Pacific outbreak is the second quarantine outbreak in as many weeks in Western Australia. The earlier incident at Perth’s Mercure hotel triggered a three-day lockdown over the Anzac Day long weekend.
The Australian Medical Association’s WA president, Andrew Miller, criticised the management of hotel quarantine, saying private security guards should not be left to look after positive cases in stuffy conditions and with inadequate personal protective equipment.
He said positive cases should be moved out of hotel quarantine and into dedicated facilities where they were cared for by professional quarantine and medical teams.
“I think the people who own the hotels are trying to do the right thing. But it’s the management from the health department specifically – the guidelines and the enforcement around these private security guard companies, it’s all a bit too much at arm’s length,” Miller said.
“We need quarantine professionals at least for the people who are proven positive. Once you’ve proven positive, get them out of there, get them into air-gapped quarantine, professional people, nurses, doctors, full PPE.”
Unlike Australia’s ban on all flights from India, there have been no moves to ban returning travellers from the US, even when the country’s Covid-19 crisis peaked.
Western Australia recorded no local transmission in the past 24 hours and the premier has opted to hold off on another three-day lockdown.
But the two food delivery drivers, who contracted the virus from the security guard, are causing some concern. The state added 100 locations where they picked up and dropped off food to its potential exposure site list.
McGowan described the 100 sites as “very low risk” because of the limited interaction and mask-wearing involved.
The guard himself had 58 close contacts, 26 of whom have returned negative test results. He had another 217 casual contacts and about 43 have returned negative results.
The latest outbreak led the premier to enforce outdoor mask-wearing and suspend nightclubbing and AFL crowds on Sunday.
Western Australian authorities did not have a complete understanding of how the guard acquired the virus. The state’s health minister, Roger Cook, said the cause would be formally investigated.
“There is always a formalised report, a report into any incidents or outbreak to make sure that we understand to the best extent that we can the nature of that outbreak and that we learn from it,” Cook said.
Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales all again recorded no local transmission on Monday. Victoria had one case in hotel quarantine, Queensland had three and NSW had five.
The NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, on Monday said the state was deliberately staggering its vaccination rollout to stop the system from being overwhelmed. Those aged 50 and above are now eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccination.
Hazzard said about 3 million people fell into that cohort in NSW.
“If they all got on the phone at the same time, frustration would be supreme,” he told Channel Nine. “What I would want to stress, though, is that in the first instance people with a GP should go to their GP…
“Obviously most of us over 50 … have some sort of health issue and it is far better that you be able to talk to your GP.”
The Victorian government has thrown open the doors to its mass vaccination hubs to all Victorians aged 50 and above. The ABC reported on Monday that there was poor attendance at some hubs.
The NSW mass vaccination hub at Homebush, however, is not opening to those over the age of 50, as NSW is taking a different approach to the commonwealth and other states.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Doctors blast WA’s management of hotel quarantine after new Covid outbreak | Western Australia