Hunt for returned travellers amid fears about ‘super spreader’

Queensland Health officials are trying to track down eight returned travellers amid concerns about a potential ‘super spreader’ in hotel quarantine.

It comes as Queensland recorded a spike in new cases in hotel quarantine, with seven infections recorded overnight.

Five of those are linked to a mine in Papua New Guinea.

The remaining two are from a Qatar Airways flight that landed in Brisbane on February 17 which has officials on edge.

It’s also been confirmed that three cases from the same hotel have now tested positive for the Russian strain of the virus.

But Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young insists that variant is no more contagious and says she is more worried about one man who appears to be very contagious.

“We’ve had plenty of people throughout the pandemic who’ve been super spreaders. We had one individual who managed to spread it in a few hours to 40 other people, for instance, so we’ve had super spreaders all along from day one,” Dr Young said.

“So it’s the fact that there’s been spread on that plane, there’s no doubt about that. That is the concern, it’s not that it’s the Russian variant.”

Dr Young says she believes the transmission occurred on the Qatar Airways flight but can’t completely rule out the infections have happened at the Mercure Hotel in Brisbane.

“All of these positive cases were on flight QR898 and two of them were serving their quarantine period in adjacent rooms on the same floor of the Mercure Brisbane Hotel at North Quay,” Dr Young said.

“We are being very cautious and thorough and are investigating all potential possibilities for infection.

“What we do know is that one of the cases confirmed with this variant was infectious on the plane, and we believe that individual was more infectious than most cases.

Officials are now urgently trying to find eight people who were staying on the same level of the hotel between February 17 and 21 before completing their quarantine and being allowed to leave.

“I need to find exactly where those eight people have been. Some of them might have gone overseas, some of them interstate. They could have gone anywhere.”

Dr Young says they don’t believe there is a risk to the community at this stage.

New Russian COVID variant sparks Qld hotel quarantine extension

More than 70 returned travellers in Brisbane have been forced to extend their stay in hotel quarantine, following fears they may have been exposed to a new Russian variant of COVID-19.

It comes after two people, who travelled on Qatar Airways flight QR898 from Doha to Brisbane on February 17, tested positive for the strain while in hotel quarantine.

The passengers on board the flight were due to be released from hotel quarantine today, but have been informed by Queensland Health that they will need to remain in their rooms for another five days.

“This new variant has meant we’ve had to extend the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for another five days and organise additional testing for 74 travellers who may have been exposed to this new variant,” A Queensland Health spokesperson said.

“As of 2 March 2021, the B.1.1.317 (Russian variant) has been confirmed in two overseas arrivals on flight QR898.

“Genomic testing is underway for a third traveller who tested positive to COVID-19 and was linked to this flight and remains in quarantine.

The spokesperson apologised for the “inconvenience” caused by the extended quarantine, but said it was neccessary to protect Queenslanders.

“We acknowledge that this news will be disappointing and understand that you would have been looking forward to leaving quarantine,” Qld Health said.

Racist images stop six Dr Seuss books

Six children’s books written by Dr Seuss decades ago have been pulled from publication because they contain racist and insensitive imagery, the company formed to preserve the author’s legacy says.

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra! Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer are among more than 60 books written by Dr Seuss, the pen name of American writer and illustrator Theodor Geisel, who died in 1991.

Several of the titles have jumped onto Amazon’s best-selling books ranking since Monday’s announcement they would be discontinued.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 13 of the top 20 best-selling books listed on Amazon in the US were by Dr Seuss.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises said in a statement explaining its decision.

The books, originally published between 1937 and 1976, contain numerous caricatures of Asian and black people that incorporate stereotypes criticised as racist.

Dr Seuss Enterprises chose to make the announcement on March 2, the anniversary of Geisel’s birth in 1904.

In 1998, the National Education Association designated his birthday as Read Across America Day, an annual event aimed at encouraging children and teens to read.

The most famous Dr Seuss titles – The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham – were not on the list of books that will be yanked.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! often tops the New York Times bestseller list during graduation season and also was not on the list of scrapped books.

The controversy over Dr Seuss imagery has simmered for years.

In 2017, then-first lady Melania Trump offered a donation of 10 Dr Seuss books to a Cambridge, Massachusetts school.

Its librarian turned down the gift, saying images criticised as “racist propaganda and harmful stereotypes” filled their pages.

Publishers of the books included Random House and Vanguard Press.

Dr Seuss Enterprises said it worked with a panel of experts, including educators, to review its catalog and made the decision last year to end publication and licensing.

The company said the move was a first step in efforts to promote inclusion for all children.

“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” the company said.

At a White House briefing on Tuesday, reporters asked why President Joe Biden’s proclamation about this year’s National Read Across America Day made no mention of Dr Seuss.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said it was important to ensure all children saw themselves represented and celebrated in the books they read.

Philip Nel, a children’s literature scholar, likened the publication halt to the recall of an outdated, dangerous product.

“In the 1950s, cars did not have seat belts. Now, we recognise that as dangerous – so, cars have seat belts. In the 1950s, lots of books recycled racist caricature,” Nel said.

He said the author, who also wrote The Sneetches, a parable about discrimination and racial intolerance, wasn’t conscious of how racism influenced his visual imagination.

© RAW 2021

Harry says split from royal life ‘tough’

Prince Harry says the process of separating from royal life has been very difficult for him and his wife, Meghan.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Harry invoked the memory of his late mother, Princess Diana, who had to find her way alone after she and Prince Charles divorced.

“I’m just really relieved and happy to be sitting here talking to you with my wife by my side, because I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago,” Harry said, adding, “because it’s been unbelievably tough for the two of us.”

“But at least we have each other,” Harry said, in a clip from the interview special, which is scheduled to air on March 7 on CBS and the following day in Britain. Diana was shown in a photo holding toddler Harry as he made the comments. His mother died in 1997 of injuries suffered in a car crash.

Harry and Meghan sat opposite Winfrey and side-by-side, holding hands during the interview that was conducted in a lush garden setting.

The couple lives in Montecito, California, where they are neighbours of Winfrey.

As Meghan Markle, the actor starred in the TV legal drama Suits. She married Queen Elizabeth II’s grandson at Windsor Castle in May 2018, and their son, Archie, was born a year later.

The brief promotional clip was one of two of that aired Sunday during CBS’ news magazine “60 Minutes.” Winfrey’s questions and comment were predominant in the other clip, including her statement that, “You said some pretty shocking things here,” without an indication of what she was referring to. Meghan was not heard from in the clips.

Harry and Meghan stepped away from full-time royal life in March 2020, unhappy at media scrutiny and the strictures of their roles. They cited what they described as the intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media toward the duchess, who is African American.

It was agreed the situation would be reviewed after a year. On Friday, Buckingham Palace confirmed that the couple will not be returning to royal duties and Harry will give up his honorary military titles – a decision that makes formal, and final, the couple’s split from the royal family.

The pair, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, verified “they will not be returning as working members of the Royal Family. ”

A spokesperson for the couple hit back at suggestions that Meghan and Harry were not devoted to duty.

“As evidenced by their work over the past year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex remain committed to their duty and service to the UK and around the world, and have offered their continued support to the organisations they have represented regardless of official role,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

© AP 2021

Motorbike Speed

Hit and run driver still at large after seriously injuring Gold Coast motorcyclist

Police have renewed their calls for witnesses and dashcam footage, as they continue trying to track down a hit and run driver.

A motorcyclist was seriously injured two and a half weeks ago when he was knocked off his bike in Nerang by a small black sedan that then fled the scene.

The bike was travelling north along the Nerang Connection Road, headed for the exit 69 ramp of the M1.

The car was travelling south along Banyula Drive, entering the Nerang Connection Road intersection and hitting the bike.

The collision happened around 5.50 am on February 11, with the car understood to have slowed down before driving away from the scene.

Investigators believe the car may have been a Mazda 2 or Toyota Yaris and would have sustained some damage to the driver’s side.

Anyone with information who hasn’t yet spoken to police is being asked to come forward immediately.

The 49-year-old motorcyclist remains in hospital with multiple fractures.

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