Genomic sequencing has confirmed that the outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 in west Melbourne has been traced to a returned traveller who arrived from Sri Lanka on 8 May and tested positive for the virus on the same day.
The man in his 40s was released from the Novotel Ibis quarantine hotel on 23 May, and health authorities are trying to determine how the virus was passed onto the west Melbourne family of four who subsequently holidayed in New South Wales.
The outbreak, known as the West Melbourne cluster, now has at least 14 confirmed cases linked to it.
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There have now been eight hotel quarantine leaks in Victoria since the pandemic began, according to the Herald-Sun.
The latest leak highlights, yet again, why quarantine must be moved out of densely packed city hotels into sparse open-air mining-style camps located away from the cities. Hotels are ideal for spreading the virus due to the close proximity of guests/staff, shared ventilation and shared corridors.
Victoria’s latest (fourth) hard lockdown has been caused by two separate hotel quarantine breaches: one in Adelaide (whereby a returned traveller then carrying the virus into Victoria) and the above Novotel Ibis breach.
The costs to the economy and livelihoods are massive – totalling in the billions of dollars – and would have been avoided altogether by safe national quarantine facilities modelled on Howard Springs near Darwin.
While the Morrison Government has belatedly agreed to build a national quarantine facility at Avalon Airport near Melbourne, this won’t be finished until the end of the year and has come far too late. It has also rejected Queensland’s proposal for a national quarantine facility in Toowoomba.
After Victoria’s 14 week lockdown last year, the Morrison Government should have followed expert advice and moved to establish national quarantine facilities in every jurisdiction across Australia.
Its negligence on this matter, and propensity to pass the buck to the states, should not go unpunished.
The Morrison Government’s negligence is now Australia’s key COVID risk.