Family tests positive 11 days AFTER being released from quarantine


Victorian health authorities have revealed the three new COVID cases recorded on Friday morning had been out of quarantine for 11 days before they returned a positive test result.

The positive COVID-19 tests came from two parents and a child from the same family, bringing the total number of the Melbourne airport cluster to 22.

One of the parents and the child were international travellers who were staying on the third floor of the Holiday Inn at Tullamarine airport during the outbreak.

The other parent was considered a close secondary contact and had been isolating anyway.

They were released from quarantine as casual contacts on February 7, and have only now tested positive.

COVID testing chief Jeroen Weimar said the family’s long incubation period was the only thing unusual about the circumstances.

“Their incubation period appears to be a bit longer (than normal),” he said at the press conference.

The family took almost seven days to test positive according to authorities, after returning a negative test result this Wednesday – their 10th day out of the hotel.

However, after getting tested on Day 11 of their quarantine, they returned a positive result.

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Victoria records two new local cases linked to Holiday Inn cluster on second day of lockdown, tennis player Michail Pervolarakis tests positive after leaving Melbourne


Nineteen customers are interstate and in the care of interstate health teams, Mr Weimar said. Fifteen customers are in Victoria, 13 of whom have returned negative coronavirus test results. The two remaining test results should be processed today.

Mr Weimar said the 1600 people who passed through Terminal 4 on Tuesday had all been contacted.

“We spoke to hundreds of them yesterday, and we continue to speak to hundreds of them today to make sure that they are isolating effectively, that they get tested and, of course, to identify whether there has been any spread from that area,” he said.

“At this point in time we will continue, of course, to close out our investigation around terminal four but that fills in a steady space.”

Mr Weimar said all close contacts of an airport cleaner who had tested positive, and who coincidentally worked in Terminal 4 as well, had also returned a negative result.

“All of their workplace primary close contacts have tested negative, so we have excluded that from the ongoing outbreak investigation,” he said.

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US marine quarantining in Darwin ahead of military training exercise tests positive for coronavirus



A US marine has been taken to hospital after testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine in Darwin.

The 21-year-old recently arrived in Australia as part of the 2021 Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) — a training exercise that will see about 2,200 personnel rotate through Darwin by June.

Health authorities say the man was among the first group of about 200 marines to arrive, with soldiers touching down in Darwin on Thursday before entering quarantine at RAAF Base Darwin.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has previously said a comprehensive COVID-19 risk management plan for the cohort has been approved by the NT Chief Health Officer, and the personnel are required to return negative coronavirus tests before boarding their flights to Australia.

A spokeswoman from NT Health said the man had no close contacts.

He is asymptomatic but will remain at the Royal Darwin Hospital until he recovers.

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“Due to strict quarantine measures in place for all arriving marines, this case of COVID-19 was promptly detected and the marine had no direct contact with the general community,” NT Health authorities said in a statement.

In a statement about the MRF-D exercise released earlier this month, Ms Reynolds said infection-control measures in place also included COVID-19 testing on arrival in Australia and upon exit from quarantine, as well as general health monitoring.

While the first two groups of marines will undertake their fortnight of quarantine in accommodation on Defence bases, further groups will be taken to Bladin Village, a privately owned former detention centre outside of Darwin.

Ms Reynolds has said leasing that facility means the marines’ arrival will not impact Australians being repatriated to Darwin from overseas.

More groups of between 200 and 500 US military personnel are due to arrive in the coming months, with the next lot due in March.

One hundred and four cases of coronavirus have now been diagnosed in the Northern Territory, the majority of them related to international travel.

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Exposure sites named in Sunbury after second Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn quarantine worker tests positive


Several locations in Sunbury have been listed by Victorian health authorities as possible exposure sites after a quarantine worker at the Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn tested positive on Tuesday afternoon.

The quarantine worker was the third person associated with the Holiday Inn to test positive.

A returned traveller, who quarantined in the Holiday Inn, also tested positive on Tuesday, after completing her 14 days quarantine.

Authorities do not believe the returned traveller left her home since exiting quarantine.

Another worker from the same hotel tested positive on Sunday.

The Department of Health and Human Services released a list of seven locations in Sunbury, to the north-east of Melbourne, that are potential exposure sites.

The DHHS is updating its website with the latest information about potential exposure sites, which include:

  • Bakers Delight in Sunbury Square Shopping Centre, Sunbury from 3:40pm — 4:15pm on February 5
  • Aldente Deli in Sunbury Square Shopping Centre, Sunbury from 3:45pm — 4:23pm on February 5
  • Sushi Sushi in Sunbury Square Shopping Centre, Sunbury from 3:53pm — 4:28pm on February 5
  • PJ’s Pet Warehouse in Sunbury from 3:37pm — 4:10pm on February 5
  • Asian Star in Sunbury Square Shopping Centre, Sunbury from 3:57pm — 4:30pm on February 5
  • Cellarbrations in Sunbury from 6:17pm — 7:02pm on February 6
  • Sunny Life Massage in Sunbury Square Shopping Centre, Sunbury from 4:30pm — 6:30pm on February 6
  • Cellarbrations in Sunbury from 6:17pm — 7:02pm on February 7

The DHHS said anyone who has been to any of the exposure sites during those times are required to immediately isolate, get tested, and remain in quarantine for 14 days.

Sunbury is 39km north west of Melbourne’s CBD.(ABC News)

The DHHS added that more exposure sites could be added as investigations continue.

In addition, a previous exposure notification for Off Ya Tree in Watergardens, Taylors Lakes on February 6 has moved from 1:17pm — 1:52pm to 1:00pm — 1:52pm.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said authorities believed the virus was spreading within the hotel quarantine system and the traveller had become infected “just before” the end of her stay.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the cases appeared to be linked to a specific floor of the hotel, which was no longer accepting travellers.

Mr Foley said COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria was still considering what should be done to address the risk of infection among returned travellers still staying at the Holiday Inn.

Professor Sutton said in addition to a state-based review of the Holiday Inn outbreak, he expected there would be detailed discussions amongst chief health officers on bolstering hotel quarantine systems across Australia.

“It’ll be an end-to-end review of all of the mitigations that can be put into place, including the testing before someone leaves their country of origin to come to Australia,” he said.

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Two new COVID-19 cases linked to Holiday Inn, as worker, former resident test positive


Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said it is likely that the cases were a result of transmission inside the hotel quarantine system.

“Someone who has already done their 14 days and has left quarantine had been exposed maybe just before leaving quarantine then develops illness, we think that’s what’s happened in this case,” Professor Sutton said.

“The focus of our attention is on the transmission that might have occurred on the relevant floor where positive cases were known to be.”

The Victorian Health Department said on Tuesday that it was initiating a “strong public health response” to the new case by “building on measures already in place”.

“The individual tested negative a number of times during her quarantine period and departed the facility on February 7. She sought testing in response to the current outbreak at the Holiday Inn, returning a positive result today, 9 February,” the department said in a statement.

The Health Department said early interviews with the woman indicated that she had not left her home since being released from hotel quarantine on February 7, except to go and be tested.

The Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport where the female hotel quarantine worker contracted the virus.Credit:Penny Stephens

The department said she was tested in a “COVID-safe” setting.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley and Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton will hold a press conference at 4.30pm.

The statement from health authorities said “updates to exposure site locations (if any), primary close contacts and other information will be provided as soon as possible”.

“Primary close contacts will include past residents of the Holiday Inn who completed their quarantine period on February 7.

“They will be required to isolate for 14 days. We are in contact with this group. This will come as difficult news to them, but we are being as cautious as possible in our response to this outbreak.”

NSW Health issued an alert on Monday and is conducting an extensive investigation after a Wollongong resident tested positive for the coronavirus two days after leaving hotel quarantine.

The returned overseas traveller, who did not have any symptoms, tested positive on day 16 after spending the mandatory 14 days in quarantine at the Sofitel Wentworth in Sydney.

On Sunday, Mr Foley said the government was investigating whether to follow NSW’s lead to bring in a “day 16” test for returned travellers.

Mr Foley said a “further layer of protection” could be implemented in light of a New Zealand woman testing positive to coronavirus after leaving hotel quarantine in Auckland last month.

“We worked closely with particularly NSW to make sure a 16-day test arrangement will be rolled out consistently. All the states have to co-operate very closely in this matter.”

More to come

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Neil Basu clashes with Priti Patel as he calls for positive discrimination to make police diverse


Anti-terror chief Neil Basu clashes with Priti Patel as he calls for positive discrimination to make police more diverse

  • UK head of counter-terrorism policing Neil Basu calls for positive discrimination
  • He asked Home Office to legalise move to ensure ethnic minority police recruits
  • Mr Basu raised issue at National Policing Board meeting chaired by Priti Patel

The UK’s head of counter-terrorism policing has urged the Home Office to consider legalising positive discrimination to ensure more ethnic minority police recruits.

Neil Basu raised the issue at the last National Policing Board meeting chaired by the home secretary Priti Patel, who reportedly stood firmly against the idea.

Minutes from the meeting seen by The Times revealed that Basu told the board it ‘may be worth looking at the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 around positive discrimination if recruitment is to increase diversity at pace’.

Police Commissioner and Head of Counter Terrorism Policing Neil Basu

Recent figures reported that police forces all across the UK had failed to hire a representative number of black, Asian and minority ethnic police recruits despite a high number of BAME applicants.

Across England and Wales only 7.5 per cent of UK police are BAME, showing an underrepresentation of the 14.5 per cent of the population from BAME backgrounds.

Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, quickly shot down Mr Basu’s suggestion during the meeting, with Priti Patel also among those who rejected the idea of changing the Equality Act 2010 in favour of ethnic minority candidates, The Times reports.

Home Secretary Priti Patel during a foot patrol with new police recruits around Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire. January 28, 2021

Home Secretary Priti Patel during a foot patrol with new police recruits around Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire. January 28, 2021

However the idea does have precedent; when the Police Service of Northern Ireland formed in 2001 a positive discrimination model saw a temporary change in the law to allow one Catholic officer recruited for every Protestant officer. 

Under the Equality Act 2010 positive discrimination, recruiting or promoting a person solely because they have a relevant protected characteristic, is illegal in the UK.

This is also true of setting quotas to recruit a particular proportion of people with protected characteristics, meaning the police is unable to set targets for diversity. 

A government source told The Times that they have aims to diversify policing but said ‘the whole problem about positive discrimination is it’s not the best candidates for the job. That’s why it’s illegal.’  

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Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn worker tests positive for UK COVID strain; Victoria records zero cases


For the first time in months, a COVID-positive case has been hospitalised in Victoria after a person staying in hotel quarantine was taken to intensive care.

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“That’s a returned traveller, not a community case but, of course, we send our best wishes to that person and their family,” Mr Andrews said.

More than 150 close contacts of the Holiday Inn worker in her 50s, who tested positive on Sunday, have been identified and are now isolating.

At least 136 hotel quarantine workers at the Holiday Inn have been identified as close contacts of their colleague. A further 17 non-work close contacts were also identified on Monday.

Health authorities are particularly awaiting test results from eight “very close” contacts of the woman.

“So family and others that are very, very close to this particular worker. They’re all isolating, they’ve all been tested,” Mr Andrews said.

“We have no results back yet. We are working through those. It is fairly recent.”

No new potential COVID-19 exposure sites have been listed by the Health Department after venues the woman visited in Maidstone, Taylors Lakes and Sunshine were identified in the early hours of Monday morning.

It is hoped the genomic sequencing will also give authorities clues as to how the woman, who wore a surgical mask and face shield and spoke to hotel residents through a perspex screen, contracted the virus in the “cold” hotel, which is not a dedicated health hotel for confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The woman’s case is the third reported leak within the state’s hotel quarantine system this month, and epidemiologists have raised concerns they may be the result of airborne transmission of the virus.

A 26-year-old hotel residential support officer, who had been working at the Grand Hyatt Hotel for the Australian Open, tested positive last Wednesday night. And a returned traveller who was staying at the Park Royal quarantine hotel at Melbourne Airport was infected last week by a family of five after viral particles spread from their room.

Victorian authorities have a “working theory” that the cases are the result of aerosol transmission, Mr Andrews said.

He said there was still “no definitive advice” confirming airborne transmission, but he acknowledged that Victoria’s public health team was concerned about it.

“[There’s] no definitive advice, but there’s a working theory and very significant concerns about aerosol transmission, particularly of these… [more] infectious strains. They do present us with a very significant challenge,” he said.

The Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport where the female hotel quarantine worker contracted the virus.Credit:Penny Stephens

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt hosed down suggestions that a major overhaul to the current quarantine hotel model was needed, saying that some case leakages were inevitable and accounted for by other measures.

“We have said since the earliest days a year ago, that there would be cases,” he said on Monday.

“We have always said hotel quarantine is the inner ring of containment, followed by testing, tracing, and distancing. Where anybody indicates that there is only one line of defence, that would be inaccurate.”

Mr Andrews said the 15-person limit on household visitors each day was likely to be in place for some time while health authorities deal with the implications of the highly virulent UK strain.

He was more circumspect about how long Victorians will be required to wear masks in indoor public places and workplaces, saying they had played “an important role” in recent outbreaks.

“I apologise to the community that there is a degree of discomfort, but it’s nothing compared to what this getting away from us would look like and feel like,” Mr Andrews said.

He reiterated that CCTV reviews of the recent hotel quarantine cases had shown no obvious breaches of protocols in the quarantine hotels, and left the door open for more changes to guidelines for hotel workers.

“I couldn’t rule out that there wouldn’t be further changes, whether it’s in the next few hours or a day or a month.”

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Victorian hotel worker’s close contacts have negative results, Department of Health confirmed

Earlier this week, a Victorian hotel quarantine worker who tested positive to COVID-19 recorded 17 close contacts that were tested upon tracing. Fortunately, all have come back with negative results, the Department of Health has confirmed.

That being said, the 26-year-old resident support office from Noble Park contracted the mutant UK strain of the virus is yet to be determined. In line with the measure, a stringent “detective work” is still underway.

On a brighter note, there has been no apparent breach in infection prevention and controls or PPE with the airborne transmission as the working theory thus far.
As per Professor Sutton, health authorities were “confident” the man’s case had not been contracted in the community. “We’re confident at the moment it’s not been picked up in the community – but from one of the residents in the hotel. It is a more transmissible variant of concern. We’ve always worked on the assumption that it was going to be this variant. That’s because four of the six residents who’d tested positive at the hotel had that variant identified in them. Where exactly it’s come from is still to be determined.” He explained.

Still, given the risks, officials are combing through CCTV footage and piloting interviews in a bid to determine how the infection leaked through the quarantine system.

Meanwhile, Premier Daniel Andrews raised the negative test results of the close contacts were good signs. In a statement earlier today he said, “Those he has spent the most time with during his most infectious period have all, to this point, come back negative. It doesn’t mean that they might not test positive at a later point and that’s why them completing the isolation and doing as we’ve asked them to do is so important. But these are good signs.”

Another silver lining saw no new locally acquired cases of coronavirus in Victoria, with three isolated in hotel quarantine, whilst a surge of 14,600 people came forwards for testing overnight. However, a further 8000 tests have been processed since midnight.

These figures mean that about 22,500 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, while 6000 tests are yet to be processed and so far, all test results have so far come back negative.

One factor cited helpful with the volume of testing is that five additional testing sites were set up yesterday and another site at the Dendy Public Golf Course in Brighton is due to open today to meet demand.

This is of utter necessity, provided that a total of 14 exposure sites where the infected man attended have been listed on the Department of Health website. Thus, authorities have urged anyone who visited the sites during the specified dates and times must get tested and isolate for 14 days. As of now, almost 300 people have also been recognized from the exposure sites and now remain in self-isolation.

Jeroen Weimar, Victoria’s testing commander also noted 743 workplace contacts of the infected man would also be tested to ensure the virus has not spread throughout the quarantine system. This is amid the threats of a possible “third ring” of outbreak.

Amid the situation, the Australian Open is due to proceed as planned as Mr. Tiley insisted the tournament would go ahead.

Melbourne on high alert as another hotel quarantine worker tests positive for coronavirus


A hotel quarantine worker at Melbourne Airport has tested positive for coronavirus, Victorian health officials say.

The woman worked at the airport’s Holiday Inn on Sunday morning before developing symptoms.

She was tested and returned a positive result.

She had earlier returned a negative test at the end of her shift on Thursday.

Authorities are contacting Holiday Inn Airport workers and other primary close contacts, who are being told to immediately isolate, get tested and remain isolated for 14 days.

Public health teams early on Monday morning identified Marciano’s Cakes in Maidstone, Dan Murphy’s in Sunshine and Off Ya Tree Watergardens in Taylors Lakes as exposure sites.

Thousands of tennis fans had been expected to swarm Melbourne Park for the opening day of the Australian Open on Monday.

Rafael Nadal of Spain is seen during a practice session at Melbourne Park

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No new cases have been detected among a Grand Hyatt hotel quarantine worker’s close contacts since he tested positive on Wednesday.

The Grand Hyatt was one of three hotels used as part of the Open’s quarantine program and the breach forced more than 500 tennis players and their entourage to isolate as casual contacts of the infected worker.

All eventually tested negative and were released.

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Victorian hotel worker tests positive to coronavirus



Victoria’s Department of Health says a full public health response is underway after a quarantine hotel worker in Melbourne tested positive to COVID-19.

The department said the man worked at the Holiday Inn hotel at Melbourne Airport, and it was contacting the hotel along with the case’s close contacts.

The worker returned a negative test result on February 4 and returned to work on February 7, where they developed symptoms and tested positive.

“We are contacting Holiday Inn Airport workers and others who are considered primary close contacts,” the department said.

“They are required to immediately isolate, get tested and remain isolated for 14 days.”

The department has identified three “Tier 1 exposure sites” visited by the case.

Anyone who has visited the following locations at the listed times must isolate, get a COVID-19 test remain isolated for 14 days:

  • Marciano’s Cakes, Maidstone, from 9:45am to 10:25am on Friday, February 5
  • Dan Murphy’s, Sunshine from 5:50pm to 6:30pm on Friday, February 5 and 6:50pm to 7:30pm on Saturday February 6
  • Off Ya Tree Watergardens, Taylors Lakes from 1:17pm to 1:52pm on Saturday February 6

The department said testing capacity would increase in areas near these exposure sites on Monday.

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