Queensland Health fear 'super spreader' amid possible transmission within the quarantine facility
Health authorities in Queensland are sweating over a period of concern when a particularly infectious man may have spread the virus to people in nearby rooms.
This man travelled into Australia on February 17 on a Qatar flight, which has so far been linked to five cases in hotel quarantine and a possible connection with another case from the same flight who has since been transported to New Zealand.
All cases contained the same genomic sequencing, which means they are all infected with the Russian B1.1.317 variant.
Most were close contacts from the flight or shared a room with an already infected case, but one was simply in the room next to the man authorities fear as a “super spreader”.
The highly infectious man has since been taken to hospital, but the four days he was quarantining at the Mercure Brisbane Hotel has created a “period of concern”, according to chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young.
The flight arrived late on February 17 from Doha to Brisbane, leaving February 18 to 21 as the concerning window, with authorities “looking into if any transmission occurred within the hotel quarantine system”.
All guests on the same floor as this highly infectious case will now need to have their quarantine stay extended until March 8, and those who have already been discharged have been told to get tested and isolate immediately.
“We are being very cautious and thorough and are investigating all potential possibilities for infection,” Dr Young said.
“We’ve always said our quarantine policy is designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect Queenslanders, and this is why we’re implementing these additional measures.
“With multiple cases linked to flight QR898 and floor eight of the Mercure Brisbane Hotel, we need to ensure we protect the community.”
Dr Young said there was no risk to the community at this stage.
The association with the Russian variant led to fears in the community of another highly infectious strain of the deadly virus following the UK version, but Dr Young insists there is no evidence to suggest this.
“It's not a particularly contagious or problematic variant,” she told reporters on Thursday.
“The problem with it is not the variant, it’s the one individual. Through this pandemic we have had instances of super spread. I’m concerned that this individual is a super spreader. I’m not concerned about it being a Russian variant. It’s just another variant, no different.”
The five cases linked to the flight and “super spreader” are receiving treatment in Brisbane and Cairns.