Victoria hotel quarantine guests at risk of HIV after testing blunder

According to Safer Care Victoria, 243 people who had a blood glucose level test while in hotel quarantine between 29 March and 20 August could be at risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B and C after the same device was used for multiple people.

Victorian health minister Martin Foley said while the needles used in the test were changed for each use, the device was not changed despite the machine being intended for use by one person.

With microscopic traces of blood able to remain within the body of the device, there is a low clinical risk of cross-contamination.

Foley said there is not any evidence of anyone contracting a blood-borne virus as a result of the stuff-up.

“I need to stress that this is, according to all the clinical advice, a very, very low risk of cross contamination but, out of an abundance of caution, Safer Care Victoria and the Alfred Hospital are doing precisely the right thing in a very risk-averse way of seeking to contact all of the people involved,” he said.

Safer Care Victoria is conducting a full review into how and why the devices were shared between multiple people.

If people are concerned they had this test – and have not yet been contacted – they can call the dedicated patient line on 1800 356 061 (8am to 8pm, seven days a week).

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Authorities contact guests in Victorian hotel quarantine over blood test infection risk

Victoria’s botched hotel quarantine program may have inadvertently exposed returned travellers to blood-borne viruses such as HIV.

Safer Care Victoria announced on Monday that quarantine accommodation guests were being contacted to undergo precautionary screening for cross-contamination and infection.

Based on its health records, 243 guests had a blood glucose level test from 29 March to 20 August.

Testing devices not designed to be shared were used on multiple residents, presenting a risk of cross-contamination and blood-borne virus infections including Hepatitis B and C, and HIV.

Safer Care Victoria acting chief executive Associate Professor Ann Maree Keenan said the clinical risk of infection is low.

“The health of past quarantine residents is our immediate concern, so arranging screening for them is our absolute priority,” she said in a statement.

“The clinical risk is low. But if you are at all worried you had this test – and we have not contacted you yet – please call us.”

The Department of Health and Human Services said it was helping Safer Care Victoria and Alfred Health to identify and contact residents about the “newly identified risk”.

The devices were removed from hotel quarantine in August and it is believed they didn’t contribute to the spread of COVID-19 as the virus isn’t transmitted through blood.

Needles on the finger-prick tests were changed between uses, but the body of the device is capable of retaining microscopic amounts of blood.

Most diabetics in hotel quarantine would have had their own device and not required a test from a nurse or doctor during their 14-day stay.

“The test may also be used for pregnant women, people who fainted or people who are generally unwell,” the statement said.

Safer Care Victoria has promised a full review of how and why the devices came to be used.

“Right now, we won’t be able to answer the many questions people will have about how this happened,” Prof Keenan said.

“I hope that we will be able to bring peace of mind through getting people in for testing, and through the findings of our review.”

Any returned travellers concerned they had the test and who have not been contacted can call DHHS’s dedicated hotline on 1800 356 061 from 8am to 8pm.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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NY authorities stop wedding with up to 10,000 guests, citing coronavirus as reason

Authorities in New York quashed plans for a wedding that could have seen over 10,000 people gather in violation of COVID-19 measures, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

The Rockland County Sheriff”s Office made authorities aware of the huge wedding, which was scheduled for Monday in Williamsburg.

“We were told it was going to take place. We investigated and found that it might be true. There was a big wedding planned that would have violated the rules on gatherings,” Cuomo said at a press conference.

New York’s rules for stemming the spread of COVID-19 limit social gatherings to no more than 50 people. For religious events inside a church or temple, the limit is 33 per cent of its capacity.

Elizabeth Garvey, an adviser to Cuomo, told reporters that “more than 10,000 people planned to attend” the wedding.

“You can get married. You just can’t get a thousand people at your wedding. You get the same results at the end of the day. It’s also cheaper!” Cuomo said.

Local media reported the event was an Orthodox Jewish wedding.

New York was the epicentre of the US coronavirus outbreak back in spring, and the city has seen more than 23,800 related deaths.

It managed to bring the crisis under control through lockdowns, but in recent weeks the number of reported COVID-19 cases has risen.

Last week Cuomo ordered the closure of non-essential businesses in the worst-hit areas and limited the number of people who can be in places of worship to 10. Schools were also closed.

The governor said Saturday that these measures were already yielding results.

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Victorian hotel quarantine system told guests with coronavirus were allowed to leave quarantine, inquiry told

The Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer has admitted some quarantined hotel guests were allowed out into the community while awaiting their coronavirus test results.

Annaliese van Diemen made the revelation while giving evidence at the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry on Wednesday, where she admitted there were a number of potential weaknesses in the bungled scheme.

Dr van Diemen said people who did not show symptoms were allowed to leave the hotel even if they were awaiting a coronavirus test result.

“I’m aware that there were perhaps a small number of instances where people may have been released whilst they were waiting for a test result,” she said.

“That was a risk assessment that was undertaken to determine that there was still quite a low likelihood that they would come back positive.”

Dr van Diemen also said that even guests who were COVID-positive at the end of their stay could leave if they said they would self-isolate.

“If they were not able to proceed directly to a place in which they could safely isolate, that meant that they required to continue safely isolating in their hotel room,” she said.

Dr van Diemen said the focus of hotel quarantine need to be on health rather than logistics.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

Dr van Diemen was asked if there was a “potential” for the COVID-positive patients to then breach their isolation at home.

“I believe that people’s behaviour shifts significantly when they know that they have an infectious disease that is causing a worldwide pandemic,” she said.

Testing at the hotels was never made mandatory, but in late June, when the program was on the brink of ending, the Victorian Government threatened to slap returned travellers with an extra 10 days of quarantine if they refused a test.

Hotel quarantine more ‘logistics than public health’

Dr van Diemen and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton had no direct oversight on the hotel quarantine program but endorsed concerns expressed by another senior health official in April.

The program was run by an array of senior public servants.

In a statement tendered to the inquiry, Dr van Diemen noted that the focus on health was not strong enough.

“I think we all could have treated the hotel quarantine program more as a health program than a logistics or compliance exercise and viewed the overarching principles more from a health lens,” she said.

She also said that she would have liked to have seen Professor Sutton installed as the state controller, a senior position in the hotel quarantine scheme, which would have given him oversight of the program.

Dr van Diemen said this may have led to a focus that was more strongly on logistics.

‘No one individual is responsible’

Dr van Diemen also wrote in the statement that she “advocated with the state control centre to have a clinical lead or liaison appointed” to oversee the standards in the program, but she was unsure if the position was ever created.

She said the massive size of the operation meant the blame for the overall failure of hotel quarantine should not fall on one individual or department.

“I don’t believe that any one individual is responsible for what occurred,” she said.

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Hotel guests about to check out had coronavirus, Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry hears

Two Melbourne hotel quarantine guests were escorted to the lobby by security guards and almost released before hotel staff members realised the guests had coronavirus.

Guards also went on a shopping trip to buy toys for children who were staying in hotel quarantine, the inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine program has heard.

The coronavirus-positive guests were almost released from the Rydges on Swanston hotel after their names were included on a list of people who should be checked-out that day.

The spreadsheet was distributed to security guards by staff members from the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR), the inquiry heard.

When the couple made it to the lobby, the authorised officer — a departmental staffer in charge of the hotel — realised they shouldn’t be allowed to go as they were coronavirus-positive.

“That placed a big risk because at that point in the hotel, the ground floor was dedicated as a green [non-COVID-19] zone,” Mo Nagi, Victorian Operations Manager with Unified Security told the hearing.

The two guards then went into isolation.

Unified Security provided guards to Rydges on Swanston, which was known as a “red” hotel where confirmed coronavirus-positive cases would be sent.

Six guards from the hotel, who were direct employees of sub-contractor SSG (Sterling Services Group), tested positive to coronavirus in May and the quarantine breach went on to cause 90 per cent of Victoria’s second wave of cases.

Toy-buying trip to give ‘respite’ to government staffers

The inquiry also heard Unified Security guards went on a shopping trip to buy toys for children who were being held in the hotels at the request of staff from DJPR, spending $5,000 of taxpayer money.

The guards also delivered Easter eggs and Mother’s Day gifts to hotel guests.

Nigel Coppick, an executive at Unified Security, said although it was outside the company’s remit, he felt DJPR staff needed support.

“… their numbers were locked in to certain locations and I guess they may have not had the numbers they required,” Mr Coppick said.

“We thought it prudent to support them with some initiatives.”

Nigel Coppick said guards from his firm went toy shopping at the request of DJPR.(Supplied: COVID-19 Hotel Inquiry)

Cargo of PPE from Sydney provided by security firm

Evidence was given that DPJR pressured security companies to provide their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on-site and one company ended up providing PPE to departmental staff and police.

Mr Coppick told the inquiry the company’s CEO drove from Sydney with a cargo of PPE the night before the hotel program was starting.

He said because there was a lack of PPE at the hotel they were staffing, they offered some of the equipment to Victoria Police, departmental staff and hotel guests.

“That lasted for quite some time,” he said.

“Until everyone caught up with PPE requirements, we were supporting multiple departments.”

The DPJR paid the companies for the PPE.

Unified Security provided guards to 13 hotels in the government program and used both employees and subcontractors to provide more than 1,700 security guards.

The firm was responsible for several more hotels than the other two security providers involved in the program, Wilson Security and MSS Security.

“… it must have been by the time of the third or fourth hotel on, [you were] relying almost entirely on subcontracting arrangements,” Counsel Assisting the Inquiry Rachael Ellyard said.

“Was there ever any discussion about the risk of the company overextending itself and taking on hotels that it wasn’t going to be able to appropriately manage?” she asked.

Mr Coppick said there was not.

“We were comfortable with our abilities and we delivered,” Mr Coppick said.

Mr Coppick denied suggestions from Ms Ellyard that the Unified Security chose to award work to SSG because it was cheaper than other sub-contractors.

Meanwhile, the security company that provided guards at the Stamford Plaza hotel said it wasn’t aware there were coronavirus-positive guests staying there until one of its guards contracted the virus.

General manager of MSS Security Jamie Adams told the inquiry that staff from the DJPR had told him no coronavirus-positive cases would be staying at the hotel.

Coronavirus originating at the Stamford Plaza Hotel is responsible for about 10 per cent of Victoria’s second wave.

Mr Adams said if the company had known there were positive cases at the hotel, it may have done things differently.

“I think we certainly would have wanted to engage with DJPR about exactly how those risks would have been mitigated.”

“We would have taken measures to limit the amount of contact, even indirect contact [guards were having]. By that I mean staff on COVID-positive floors,” he said.

Jamie Adams.
MSS Security’s general manager Jamie Adams said he was told no coronavirus-positive cases would be staying at the Stamford Plaza hotel.(Supplied: COVID-19 Hotel Inquiry)

The inquiry also heard details about another incident at Crown Metropol, where police were called after a female guest started throwing fruit and a chair at guards and threatened to injure a nurse.

She later escaped from her room but was detained by a Unified Security guard.

“In a nutshell, the guest came out and started attacking the nurse … I heard screams, and then heard my name ‘Mo’ yelling and I came out and saw the guest chasing the nurse down the hall,” Mo Nagi from Unified Security recounted.

“I then grabbed the guest, restrained her… then police jumped on top of me.”

The inquiry heard the guest was admitted to the Alfred Hospital but was released and back into her room six hours later.

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Coronavirus: Wedding guests cancel over quarantine rules

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Oliver and his fiancee Andrea have already cancelled their wedding twice, having become engaged four years ago

A British man who is getting married in the Czech Republic on Saturday says 30 guests have had to leave before the wedding in order to beat the UK’s quarantine changes.

Oliver, who did not give his surname, says many of his friends and family – including his sister – have had to fly home before the nuptials take place in the capital, Prague, as they cannot self-isolate due to work constraints.

Travellers arriving in the UK from the Czech Republic – as well as Switzerland and Jamaica – after Saturday’s 04:00 BST deadline must quarantine for 14 days, under coronavirus travel rules announced on Thursday evening.

“I’m down about 30 guests and my little sister, who is a bridesmaid, is distraught at having to fly home tonight before the wedding (she is a teacher),” the 38-year-old, who is originally from Kent, told the Press Association news agency.

After saying a “tearful goodbye” to family who had to fly home early, he says he and fiancée Andrea, 33, have hardly slept and been left “exhausted emotionally” ahead of their wedding.

Oliver and Andrea, who is from the Czech city of Pardubice, have already cancelled their wedding twice due to pregnancy after first becoming engaged four years ago.

The couple had booked their third attempt down the aisle for August before lockdown, and told guests the ceremony would go ahead after the Czech Republic was put on the UK’s safe travel corridors list in July.

Several of Oliver’s family members had pulled out of the newly-planned wedding recently due to age and ill-health, which he says “was a shame but understandable”.

Oliver, who has lived in the Czech Republic for 11 years, says the UK government’s “arbitrary” decision-making has left the couple and their family “in tears before what is supposed to be the best day of their lives”.

He says he and Andrea went ahead with their wedding as they believed the Czech government had “done very well” controlling the virus and relaxing restrictions, so the rule change came as a shock.

After an “incredibly stressful” week, Oliver believes the government “should do more to communicate to people in advance”.

But for now, he’s thankful that some friends and his immediate family – minus his sister – are accepting quarantine to attend his wedding.

The Czech Republic was removed from the UK’s safe travel corridors list after the government cited data saying the country had seen weekly cases per 100,000 rise from 16.2 on 20 August to 20.2 on Thursday.

The country sees more than 300,000 British tourists every year, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The capital Prague is a popular destination for city breaks and stag parties.

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Fire alarm at Adelaide coronavirus quarantine hotel sends guests into confusion

A couple in quarantine at an Adelaide medi-hotel found themselves not knowing whether to stay in their room or flee when a fire alarm sounded last night.

Catherine and Zed Smith told ABC Radio Adelaide they had to scramble when a fire alarm sounded just before dinner time yesterday.

The couple is halfway through mandatory quarantine at the Pullman Hotel in Adelaide’s CBD after arriving in Adelaide from London.

Ms Smith said they were not sure whether to stay or leave — but decided to evacuate, throwing on dressing gowns and shoes, grabbing keys and racing out the door.

“I put a bra on … we grabbed the two room keys and we went off and we headed down the hallway toward the fire exit,” said Ms Smith, who is originally from Sydney.

While they were part way down, she said, an announcement came over the loudspeakers telling guests to “stay in your rooms”.

“We headed back to our room and the keys didn’t work,” Ms Smith said.

“So we stood outside in out dressing gowns, and there were no police around, and we’re wondering if … security cameras can see us.”

International arrivals are in mandatory quarantine at the Pullman Hotel in Adelaide.(ABC News: Dean Faulkner)

Mr Smith said one police officer, then another, eventually arrived and let them back into the room, and it was later revealed to be a false alarm.

“Quite frankly it was obvious they didn’t know how to handle the situation,” he said.

“Normally it’s as simple as you’ve come out of your hotel room, you’ve breached quarantine rules. But in this instance the officers didn’t know what to do, because we’d done the right thing.”

Emergency instructions ‘in every hotel room’

Ms Smith said there were no emergency instructions in a booklet they received upon arrival at the hotel, and a few other guests “mentioned that they didn’t know where the exit was”.

“It [was] quite scary,” she said.

However, the Pullman Hotel said each of its rooms contain instructions for emergency evacuation.

A police officer wearing a medical mask stands in front of two police cars with people and a bus in the background.
SA Police officers supervise the mandatory isolation of international arrivals at the Pullman Hotel in Adelaide.(ABC News: Mahalia Carter)

“The hotel rigorously followed health and safety protocol [and] guests were informed over a PA [Public Address system] three times to stay in their rooms.”

The spokesperson said both the Metropolitan Fire Service and SA Police attended when the alarm went off “and were satisfied that we followed procedure”.

Hundreds of international arrivals are staying in mandatory 14-day quarantine at hotels in Adelaide, at their own expense, to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Failures to maintain proper distancing among quarantine hotel security guards in Melbourne have been linked to major outbreaks there.

ABC News has contacted SA Police for comment.

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President Kovind will host some really special guests ‘At Home’ today | India News

NEW DELHI: A man who ferries wood for funeral pyres, sanitation workers who have worked back-to-back shifts at Delhi’s government hospitals, police personnel, security guards, and about 20 medical professionals from doctors to nursing staff and ASHA workers involved in India’s fight against Covid will be among the special guests at President Ram Nath Kovind’s Independence Day ‘At Home’ function this August 15.
The annual guest list of over 1,500 people, a gathering of who’s who from across the country, has been pruned in light of the Covid pandemic this year. And with President Kovind deciding to recognise them for their efforts, the spotlight this year will be on India’s corona warriors.
The 26 handpicked guests, among the 90 who will be hosted by the President this year, will be part of a guest list that includes PM Narendra Modi, diplomats, top ministers in the government and captains of the media industry among others.

Sources told TOI the corona warriors were identified for their exceptional efforts and commitment to fight the pandemic. With the coronavirus mandating physical distancing, the President’s ‘At Home’ will be different in that guests will not be able to mingle freely like they used to in the years before. In the convention centre, four guests will be seated at each table, where they will be seated and served.
Sources said Kovind is likely to deliver a welcome address since he will not be able to meet guests individually.
The mandate to trim the guest list will also see diplomats from representative blocs, instead of individual countries, being invited. Apart from the Dean of Diplomatic Corps, diplomats representing the European Union, ASEAN, and BRICS, are some of the guests who will grace the Independence Day gathering at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

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Crown Melbourne and Seppelt Wines Welcome Back Guests to Bistro Guillaume


To celebrate the easing of restrictions on Victoria’s restaurant industry that came into effect last night at midnight, Crown Melbourne (Crown) and Seppelt Wines treated Victorian couples to one of the very first in-restaurant dining experiences since the state’s restaurants closed down in March, hosted after the laws were relaxed at midnight.

Having announced their engagement on March 31, Johnny Graham and Emma Hosking were unable to have a traditional romantic meal at their favourite restaurant to celebrate. As such, Crown and leading Victorian winery Seppelt partnered together to give the couple their dream engagement dinner – at famed Melbourne restaurant, Bistro Guillaume complete with Seppelt’s award winning wines.

Johnny and Emma were treated to a 3 course decadent meal with matched wines including Seppelt Drumborg Riesling and award winning Seppelt St Peters Shiraz.

George Samios, Seppelt Fine Wine Director is encouraging Victorians to get behind venues and Australian wineries as they begin to reopen.

“Lots of people have missed out on celebrating treasured moments during the last couple of months, so it’s great that now people can go out to a restaurant and enjoy a nice glass of wine to toast the moment – and finally celebrate”

“Seppelt are lucky to supply wines to hundreds of venues across Victoria and we look forward to supporting them as they reopen after tough times” he adds.

Crown Melbourne Executive General Manager, Enda Cunningham, says his staff are looking forward to bringing to life more special experiences and celebrations for Melburnians as restrictions ease.

BistroGuillaume 4

“COVID-19 has been challenging for the hospitality industry right across Melbourne. The team at Bistro Guillaume and all our restaurants here at Crown Melbourne are looking forward to being able to welcome our customers back to enjoy great dining experiences. We’ve spent a lot of time behind the scenes implementing new physical distancing and hygiene measures – so we’re thrilled to be able to welcome Melbourne back.”

Crown will commence a staged re-opening of its restaurants and hotels in line with the Victorian government’s easing of restrictions.

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