Victorian authorities blame new Covid case on South Australian hotel quarantine

·4-min read
Photograph: James Ross/AAP
Photograph: James Ross/AAP

A Victorian man has tested positive to Covid-19 after staying in hotel quarantine in South Australia, prompting the state’s health minister Martin Foley to renew calls for the federal government to fund purpose-built quarantine facilities.

The man, aged in his 30s who recently returned to Australia from overseas, travelled to his home in Wollert in Melbourne’s north on 4 May after completing compulsory hotel quarantine in South Australia.

Victoria’s department of health said he developed symptoms on 8 May, and took a Covid test on 10 May. He returned a positive result on Tuesday morning, and a second test confirmed the diagnosis.

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Contact tracing has begun in the meantime, the department has published a list of potential exposure sites.

The man and others in his household are isolating at home. His close contacts have so far tested negative. The department is working with interstate health authorities to determine the likely source of the infection.

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Victorian health authorities believe the man acquired the virus in hotel quarantine with Foley saying he understood the person staying in the next room of the medi-hotel was a positive case.

“There is no such thing as a fool-proof hotel quarantine facility, which is why this evening’s national budget is a golden opportunity for the Commonwealth to step up and do its constitutional duty and fund, with the states, a quarantine facility such as that proposed by Victoria,” Foley said on Tuesday afternoon.

Victoria is asking the federal government to help fund a cabin-style quarantine site in Melbourne’s north and has put forward a proposal for the purpose-built facility.

“There is example after example of the leakage out of hotel quarantine that continues and this would appear to be another example,” Foley said.

“And there is every indication that we are going to be in a position of some form of closed borders for many, many months, if not years. Yes, we need a high level of vaccination, but with variants of concern and likely problems with the vaccination program we will need strong border control and quarantine control, likely, for years.

“We have a situation where the states are disproportionately bearing the load in this quarantine process.”

Foley said meetings with interstate health authorities were continuing to get to the bottom of the new case in Victoria.

The chief health officer Prof Brett Sutton said if acquired in South Australia, the man would be treated as an interstate-acquired case but in the meantime, “there will be challenges for Victoria” in ensuring the virus had not spread.

“I think it’s absolutely the case he’s picked it up in quarantine in South Australia,” Sutton said. “We think the onset of symptoms were on the eighth [of May] so he would have been infectious for 48 hours prior to that.”

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The new Victorian case comes as health authorities in New South Wales continue their efforts to track down the “missing link” between a case of community transmission and a returned traveller from the US in hotel quarantine. Sequencing revealed their cases of the virus match, but contact tracing has failed to reveal any opportunities for transmission between the two, leading them to believe there is an unknown case linking them.

While no new community cases were identified in NSW in the 24 hours to 8pm Monday, authorities remain concerned. Restrictions are in place until 17 May for greater Sydney, including Wollongong, the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains.

People in NSW aged 40 to 49 are able to register to get the Pfizer vaccine at a new Covid-19 mass vaccination hub that opened at Sydney Olympic Park on Monday. A further 351,000 Pfizer doses arrived in Australia on Monday and will be tested by medical regulators for quality and safety.

Data published on Monday night shows 2,663,221 doses of vaccine have been administered in Australia.

This week the Vaccine Operations Centre is expected to triple the allocated doses from 50 to 150 per week for 3,000 lower volume general practices, double the allocated doses from 100 to 200 per week for 1,000 medium-volume general practices, and double the Pfizer doses to states and territories to support vaccination for those under 50.

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