Genomic sequencing has revealed that the part-time cleaner in her 20s at one of Brisbane’s quarantine hotels that tested positive for the highly infections mutant UK strain of COVID-19.
The person lives in Algester in Brisbane’s South and visited a number of public places since 2 January while infectious, including a Woolworths, a Coles, and a news agent. This raises concerns that cleaner may have seeded a major new COVID-19 cluster in Brisbane.
Authorities have acted accordingly, sending Greater Brisbane into a 3 day lockdown:
The Premier says her advice from Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young is that a three-day lockdown could prevent a 30-day lockdown.
Residents in the affected council areas can leave their homes for essential work, to provide healthcare for an essential person, for essential shopping, or for exercise in their local neighbourhoods.
The next action, on recommendation of Dr Young, is mandating masks for those council areas when people leave home.
Between 6pm Friday and 6pm Monday, anyone leaving must wear a mask.
“These are tough, strong measures, like I said this is incredibly infectious,” the Premier said.
The Brisbane event means quarantine breaches have seeded four separate outbreaks across the nation – in Victoria, NSW, SA and QLD.
It also highlights once again why Australia’s governments need to take quarantine more seriously by:
- Housing international arrivals away from population centres (e.g. regional army bases);
- Utilising only highly trained and well paid staff;
- Ensuring these staff work in dedicated teams (to avoid cross-contamination) and remain on base throughout their deployment (similar to mining FIFO workers) so they don’t mix with the community; and
- Regular testing of quarantine staff and guests.
The federal government is best placed to coordinate and fund Australia’s quarantine effort. It also has constitutional responsibility for quarantine arrangements.
Effectively quarantine is Australia’s number one defence against the virus. It must be done properly or more outbreaks and costly shutdowns are inevitable.