A major investigation is underway into how six people at a quarantine hotel in Brisbane became infected with the highly contagious UK strain of coronavirus.
Genomic testing has linked all six cases to the Grand Chancellor Quarantine Hotel in Brisbane, which has now been evacuated.
The cases include a man in his 30s who returned to Brisbane from the UK on December 30 and his partner, who were staying on the seventh floor of the hotel before being moved to hospital.
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Just days later, a father in his 40s and his adult daughter contracted the virus at the hotel after returning to Brisbane from Lebanon on January 1.
One of the hotel’s cleaners and her partner have also been diagnosed, with that case sparking Brisbane’s snap three-day lockdown.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said inquiries into possible breaches of hotel quarantine protocols or environmental factors such as the air conditioning at the hotel are being probed.
“We know all six have the same virus but we aren’t able to identify, at this stage, what action, or breach, or environmental circumstances, have led to that transmission,” Ms D’Ath said.
Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young said they know the outbreak started with the returned UK traveller, but mystery remains as to how it spread throughout the hotel.
“He has infected his partner who of course was in the same room as him, but he also infected a cleaner, and we’re still trying to work out how that happened,” Dr Young said.
“There is nothing we have been able to find out so far that has linked that man with the cleaner”.
A police and Queensland Health investigation into the cause of the outbreak is underway, with claims it may have spread through air con.
But infectious diseases expert Paul Griffin has told TODAY that is unlikely, as the spread would have been far worse if that was the case.
“Personally I think air conditioning is less likely, otherwise we would have seen far broader transmission and likely transmission earlier,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be something more finer that might have arisen to cause that event, but we really need to invest a lot of time to find out what that is”.