Victorian health authorities say the next 48 hours are critical as they continue testing contacts of an infected hotel quarantine worker.
Victorian health authorities say the next 48 hours are critical as they continue testing contacts of an infected hotel quarantine worker.

‘Early days’: Why virus experts aren’t celebrating

Victoria has recorded zero new COVID-19 cases on Saturday but health authorities remain wary as they continue to test close contacts of a hotel quarantine worker who is infected with the UK mutant strain of the virus.

Health Minister Martin Foley said on Saturday morning that the zero cases had come from 23,277 tests, however it has come with a warning that the state has not escaped another outbreak.

The 26-year-old hotel worker tested positive to the highly infectious UK strain, sparking fears of a cluster could form.

But on Saturday morning it was confirmed that all 17 of the man's household and primary social contacts had tested negative.

Contact tracing is underway for 1129 primary contracts who have been identified, including 362 close contacts from primary exposure sites, which includes his 17 household and primary social contacts.

From those primary contacts, 60 per cent of tests having undergone testing and all recorded negative results.

"There will be more results needed over the next few days," Mr Foley said.

"The next 48 hours will be critical in making sure that we're in a position to get on top of this.

"Anyone who has been at those exposure sites, anyone in and around those suburbs - indeed, any Victorian anywhere who has even the slightest symptoms should come forward to the testing sites and get tested and isolate until you get those results."

Chief health officer Brett Sutton described it as still being "early days", noting that some of the exposures only occurred as late as Wednesday.

"We do need to see that full 14 days of the incubation period play out before we can be absolutely happy that we're in safe territory," Professor Sutton said.

Professor Sutton said it was possible that authorities would never find out how the worker became infected.

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton says it is still early days. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton says it is still early days. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty

"Certainly for the Park Royal transmission, it does look like it's a case of doors being opened at the same time," he said.

"So that's being addressed now.

"That's an issue that was present for food deliveries, but it was also an issue for when individuals get tested on their routine testing times. I think that's the primary mechanism for the Park Royal."

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said that changes had been made to the state's quarantine program with workers now required to wear face shields as well as masks.

"This was the advice from the infection prevention control experts that this was a better option than the N-95s in terms of actual, long-term security and how they're operated by our resident support officers," she said.

"Of course, we continue to use the N-95s and the face shields in the case of when they're dealing with infected people and also when they enter rooms, which is rare but occasionally occurs in a medical emergency."

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said all of the hotel worker’s household and primary social contacts had tested negative. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Ascui
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said all of the hotel worker’s household and primary social contacts had tested negative. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Ascui

 

Rooms housing large families in quarantine will also now be buffered and a review of ventilation systems was underway.

"We rejected a number of hotels at the time, and the ones that we have used throughout this program are hotels that do not share air between rooms or into common areas," Ms Neville said.

"But we're looking at is there anything else we can do to strengthen our ventilation systems across our hotels?

"We have put in place a buffer around large families in all our hotels. We have taken about 140 rooms out of the hotel quarantine system as a result of that.

"We're also now ensuring that any deliveries or meals are staggered so that you minimise any risk of a door opening at the same time."

 

Originally published as 'Early days': Why experts aren't celebrating


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