No new cases, UK strain evacuates Grand Chancellor hotel


Six cases of the highly infectious UK strain of COVID-19 have now been linked to a Brisbane hotel quarantine facility, prompting authorities to take extraordinary measures to keep any further outbreak under control.

While Queensland recorded no new cases of locally acquired COVID-19 on Wednesday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed the Hotel Grand Chancellor was now considered a cluster.

It comes after a hotel quarantine worker contracted the virus and infected her partner, as confirmed on Tuesday.

The strain had already been detected in a traveller who had returned from the UK on December 30, and then in his partner. The cases have since been genomically linked to two people who tested positive in the hotel on Tuesday after returning from Lebanon.

Ms Palaszczuk said as a precaution, the remaining 129 guests were being moved to other hotels.

“ … 226 people who worked in the hotel since December 30 are going to be contacted and they will go into quarantine and get tested,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“Once again, (as a) precaution … 250 quarantined guests who have left the hotel since December 30 are now currently being contacted. They will be quarantined and tested.”

She said no new guests have gone into the Grand Chancellor since January 7.

Those currently in quarantine who are being moved will not be asked to pay for their time at the Grand Chancellor or at their new hotel.

Ms Palaszczuk said a “phenomenal” 20,615 tests were conducted in the last testing period, which picked up two cases in hotel quarantine, both of which are overseas acquired and not said to be linked to the cluster.

Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said the unprecedented measures were the “safest thing to do”.

“We need to just find all these people and test them,” she said.

“But please anyone in Queensland with any symptoms at all, please immediately come forward and get tested.”

Greater Brisbane was plunged into a three-day lockdown after the hotel quarantine worker tested positive last week. While movement restrictions eased on Monday night, a number of tight restrictions, especially surrounding the wearing of face masks, will continue until next Friday.

A joint Queensland Health/ police investigation is ongoing to determine how the virus escaped quarantine.

Authorities will examine four days worth of CCTV in the hopes they can pinpoint the moment the infection occurred, but have previously said they may never be able to do so.

Authorities believe the transmissions occured on floor seven, however Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski told reporters on Wednesday there was no CCTV on that particular floor.

“That means we have to be even more meticulous in going about our investigation and that will be ongoing,” he said.

Ms Palaszczuk said investigators would look at whether the virus had been transmitted through the air conditioning.

“How did it get transmitted? Was it movement? Was it in the air conditioning? Was it picking up something? We just don’t know those answers yet,” she said.

“We don’t know enough about this particular strain of the virus either. We are dealing with something that is incredibly complex, but there is no need for community concern.”

A number of venues have been put on alert, with anyone who visited locations including Bunnings Acacia Ridge and Sunnybank Cellars at designated times to get tested and quarantine for 14 days.

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