Vic quarantine head denies nebuliser claim

Victoria’s hotel quarantine authority denies it knew a man took a nebuliser into the venue at the heart of the state’s current coronavirus outbreak.

The man’s use of the air compression device for his asthma has been blamed for spreading the UK strain of coronavirus through the Holiday Inn hotel, leading to a lockdown of the entire state for five days.

He is in intensive care with the virus and has claimed to The Age he declared the nebuliser to quarantine staff.


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COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria commissioner Emma Cassar faced repeated questions from reporters on Saturday afternoon, denying multiple times the man declared the item.

“I can categorically say that there is no evidence from our audit that he has raised this with our health team,” she said.

Ms Cassar said there was no point arguing the matter and that the man had been badly treated by the media and she was sorry about his experience.

“We have never accused him of doing the wrong thing,” she said.

The outbreak currently numbering 14 cases can be traced back to the asthmatic and his partner who quarantined at the Holiday Inn and are believed to have been infected overseas.

Mr Andrews brushed off reporters’ questions about the matter on Saturday, saying he’d leave the issue to Ms Cassar, after having said earlier nebulisers were clearly not allowed.

There was one new COVID-19 case linked to the Holiday Inn outbreak on Saturday – a man in his 30s from Point Cook in Melbourne’s west who is a friend of a hotel quarantine worker.

That man’s primary close contacts – 38 of them – are isolating and being tested.

He attended a private dinner with family and friends at 426 Sydney Road, Coburg, now listed as an exposure site.

Premier Daniel Andrews said on Saturday there were 996 known primary close contacts associated with the known Holiday Inn cases but the number was expected to grow.

Of 12 co-workers of an infected worker who did a shift at Brunetti’s cafe at Melbourne airport on Tuesday between 4.45am and 1.15pm, 11 have returned negative test results.

One remaining test result is yet to come through.

More than 2000 passengers who went through Melbourne airport on Tuesday have been asked to isolate and get tested.

Mr Andrews has defended the “circuit-breaker” lockdown.

“I’ve got advice to do it. I’ve done it. It’s based on science,” he said.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton addressed concerns about legal provisions for the lockdown to go until February 26.

“Nothing should be read into it as having any intention to extend a day beyond when we think they need to be in place. For now, that’s five days,” he said.

Until 11.59pm Wednesday, Victorians are only able to leave home to shop for food and essential items, provide or receive care, exercise and to work or study if they can’t from home.

There’s a five-kilometre travel limit, compulsory face mask usage and no visitors.

The latest exposure sites listed on the Victorian department of health website include Alberton Cafe, Albert Park, The Coffeeologist cafe, Point Cook, Coates Hire Werribee, Caltex Woolworths in Hoppers Crossing as well as the Craigieburn train line, the 513 Eltham to Glenroy bus route and the 901 Frankston to Melbourne Airport bus route.

Five international flights in transit when the Victorian government announced a pause on all passenger arrivals were due to arrive in Melbourne on Saturday.

© AAP 2021