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The quarantine issue an epidemiologist says we’re ‘not giving enough attention’

Neil Mitchell
Article image for The quarantine issue an epidemiologist says we’re ‘not giving enough attention’

The events in Victoria in the past 24 hours reveal flaws in the state’s hotel quarantine system that need to be urgently addressed, an epidemiologist says.

A highly infectious strain of COVID-19 was transmitted between quarantine guests staying in rooms across the hall from each other.

The virus is believed to have jumped from a room containing a family of five who all had COVID-19, to a woman in the room opposite.

Meanwhile, a “model employee” quarantine worker in a tennis hotel has contracted coronavirus, despite following all precautions.

Burnet Institute epidemiologist, Professor Michael Toole, says both cases come back to an issue that “we’re not giving enough attention”.

“We now know that many of these issues arise from transmission via very small participles called aerosols, that was the case in Adelaide, Brisbane, probably Perth,” he told Neil Mitchell.

“Ventilation … I think we’ve just really got to address that issue very carefully.”

Professor Toole recommended two changes to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading within quarantine hotels and out into the community.

“Clearly we should not be delivering food at the same time to two rooms that are across the corridor from each other,” he said.

“You need a roster, so you just do every fifth room on one side of the corridor, then every fifth room on the other side, then you start again.”

Professor Toole says there’s a “high risk” the positive quarantine worker has spread the virus in the community, because he visited so many locations in the days prior to his diagnosis.

He suggested quarantine workers should receive COVID-19 tests on their days off, to prevent a repeat of the situation.

“I think one possible solution is that when someone takes a day off they use one of these rapid tests that are now available, so they get tested even when they’re off shift, so we know immediately when someone’s infected,” he said.

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Hotel quarantine minister admits ‘something has gone wrong’

Neil Mitchell
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