Air review, new rules for Vic virus hotels

Victoria will review airflow within quarantine hotels and change mask policies for staff as it seeks to avoid a repeat of two suspected COVID-19 leaks.

Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville, overseeing the revamped program, on Saturday announced a ventilation review of all hotels within the system was underway.

“We don’t think at this stage this is about ventilation, but again we’re not leaving any stone unturned,” she told reporters.


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From Thursday night, hotel quarantine staff were also required to wear a face shield and surgical mask.

Ms Neville said the move was based on updated advice from infection prevention control experts, with hotel quarantine workers previously wearing just N-95 masks.

Other already implemented changes include putting “buffers” between family groups and other guests – resulting in 140 rooms being taken out of the system – and staggering food delivery times.

It follows a hotel quarantine worker at Melbourne’s Grand Hyatt hotel testing positive for the highly infectious UK variant of COVID-19 and a potential case of guest-to-guest transmission at the Park Royal hotel.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton conceded he is “not sure we’ll find out” how a 26-year-old man from Noble Park came to be infected after working at the hotel, one of three used to quarantine Australian Open arrivals.

Authorities are more confident on the transmission origin of the Park Royal case, in which a woman staying next door to an infected family of five tested positive despite having no direct contact.

“It does look like it’s a case of doors being opened at the same time,” Professor Sutton said.

Ms Neville said she would listen to health authorities’ advice on installing CCTV on every floor of all quarantine hotels, with the technology not present on all levels at some sites.

Victoria recorded no new local COVID-19 cases on Saturday as all 17 household and social primary close contacts of the infected hotel quarantine worker returned negative tests.

Health Minister Martin Foley was reassured by a strong testing figure of 23,000, but warned the state isn’t out of the woods yet.

“I want to reinforce the message that this is not over,” he said.

“This wildly infectious strain continues to be highly infectious and a real risk to all Victorians.”

Prof Sutton said it was “early days” and officials wouldn’t feel comfortable the state was in “safe territory” until the end of the 14-day incubation period.

“There is a bit of luck, a bit of randomness involved in the fact that no cases have been identified,” he said.

A further 1129 primary close contacts have been identified from the man’s workplace and exposure sites, with Mr Foley confirming 60 per cent of that group have returned negative tests so far.

Another 506 Open players, staff and officials deemed casual contacts were also given the all-clear on Friday, paving the way for the grand slam to start on Monday.

In line with community-wide restriction changes on Wednesday, the Victorian government has clarified its mask policy for tennis spectators.

When the roof is closed on the main courts of Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and John Cain Arena, fans must wear a face mask.

“These venues are deemed to be indoor spaces under the restrictions and masks use is required by all spectators and officials,” a government spokesman said.

Spectators can doff masks when the roof is open, while players are exempt from the rule.

Meanwhile, Victoria has downgraded Perth and the WA’s South West and Peel regions from a “red” to “orange” risk zone to coincide with the end of its five-day lockdown.

© AAP 2021