Fears super spreader caused Grand Chancellor cluster
A cluster of three COVID-19 virus cases linked to the Hotel Grand Chancellor is mystifying Queensland health authorities, with speculation that a super spreader may be responsible.
Genomic sequencing has linked all three infections - two of them staying on floor one of the Grand Chancellor and a doctor, who assessed one of the hotel cases at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.
The inner-city Brisbane hotel was also involved in Queensland's only other case of the pandemic virus breaching hotel quarantine, resulting in a six-person cluster and a three-day lockdown of Greater Brisbane in January.
As in the January outbreak, the trio involved in the latest Grand Chancellor outbreak has the highly contagious UK variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Sonya Bennett said how the virus spread between two people staying in separate, but non-adjoining rooms on the same floor of the hotel was under investigation.
Dr Bennett said CCTV footage at the hotel was being reviewed to try to understand how the transmission occurred.
"We know that some people are highly infectious and that is likely the case in this instance and can transmit the virus through very little exposure," she said.
The Princess Alexandra Hospital registrar became infected after assessing the suspected patient zero of the outbreak despite wearing personal protective equipment.
Hotel quarantine guests who stayed on level one of the Grand Chancellor and staff working on that floor from March 5-9 have been asked to go into quarantine.
As Queensland Health awaits the test results for hundreds of potential contacts of the three cases, Dr Bennett would not pre-empt the possibility of another Greater Brisbane lockdown.
"At the moment, we don't perceive there's a risk out in the community," she said.
"We're doing the public health response now to confirm that. Depending on what we see, that will inform what our advice will be.
"If we get positive tests in, we'll review the circumstances of that person who was positive so that we understand if there is any risk to the community.
"With the healthcare worker in the hospital, we haven't seen any positives yet. That's a good sign."
Dr Bennett said engineering reports of the Grand Chancellor after the January cluster had found no concern around the hotel's ventilation and recommendations of a review into that outbreak had been implemented.
Queensland recorded six new cases of SARS-CoV-2 yesterday, all acquired overseas. Two of them had travelled from Papua New Guinea.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she hoped to speak with Prime Minister Scott Morrison about the "very serious" threat emerging on Queensland's doorstep.
"We have been assisting with some tests in Papua New Guinea and out of the 500 tests that our health authorities have done for PNG, 250 have come back positive," she said.
"This is a real concern. I think there's an issue there for the Federal Government. I understand that they are providing some assistance to PNG. But maybe we need to look at a vaccine rollout program as well."
Queensland Health started vaccinating Torres Strait Islanders last week.
Saibai Island, where vaccinations began yesterday, lies just 4km south of the PNG mainland.
Originally published as Fears super spreader caused Grand Chancellor cluster