The family and most social close contacts of the Australian Open hotel quarantine worker who tested positive to coronavirus have returned negative results.
Victoria Health said tonight that 15 out of the 17 close contacts linked to yesterday’s case have tested negative, with the final two results expected tomorrow.
It comes after Premier Daniel Andrews in a press conference this morning said two of the man’s close family contacts had also tested negative to the virus.
Thousands of Victorians swamped testing sites today after news broke the infected 26-year-old Noble Park man had been working as a resident support officer as part of the tennis tournament’s quarantine program.
The infected man last worked at the Grand Hyatt on January 29 and undertook a PCR nasal test at the end of his shift, returning a negative test result at the time.
He later developed symptoms and got tested, returning a positive result yesterday.
He is now carrying out his isolation in a health hotel.
There are 20 close primary contacts self-isolating, with hundreds of other secondary contacts also in isolation.
The worker is also a Country Fire Authority volunteer and has attended at least one CFA function.
“We’ve been through FRV (Fire Rescue Victoria) and CFA, contacting brigades,” Mr Andrews said.
“They’re doing deep-cleaning. They, in turn, are contacting their members, their staff as well as their volunteers, and we’re confident that people will get the information that they need as quickly as possible.”
Mr Andrews said health authorities have not yet figured out exactly how the hotel quarantine worker contracted the mutant UK strain of coronavirus.
He said officials were doing “step-by-step painstaking detective work” to figure out how he caught the virus.
“There is no obvious breach. There’s no problem where you can say, ‘Right. That’s probably where it happened’,” Mr Andrews said.
“The working theory and the assumption – I think it’s a well founded one – is that he’s got it in hotel quarantine, despite not having done anything to breach infection control protocols.”
Genomic testing is now being conducted.
There were six coronavirus cases at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, but all had been moved into a harder quarantine location once diagnosed.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Professor Allen Cheng said Victorian authorities were not ruling out that the hotel quarantine worker caught coronavirus via airborne transmission.
“We have always recognised, particularly in Victoria, that airborne transmission is possible and I think with these new variants of concern, our concern has increased,” he said.
“This and the incident at The Park Royal does suggest that very transient contact or airborne spread is possible.”
While other guests at the Grand Hyatt are being told to be tested and isolate, Professor Cheng said he did not believe they were at great risk.
“The last case to leave the hotel for the health hotels left on (January) 22nd, so that is now getting close to 14 days since that time,” he said.
“So, if there was any exposure, they would be coming up to that period, so we think that risk is relatively low.”
The Grand Hyatt has now been deep-cleaned.
Mr Andrews defended the state’s quarantine program, insisting a local infection stemming from hotel quarantine was not “a matter of if, but when”.
“This is a wildly infectious virus,” he said.
“Every person who travels here poses a risk, any hotel quarantine program has risk.
“I think Victorians can take confidence in the fact that every other state and territory is essentially in the process of copying the model that we put in place.”
He called the infected worker a “model employee”.
“Whether it is doffing and donning PPE, all the protocols, all the other rules that are followed up of course has provided us with very detailed accounts of where he has been as well as any other information that we have needed,” Mr Andrews said.
“We are very grateful to him and further to some questions last note, we can find no problem, no breach of protocol or anything of that nature in terms of his employment.”
He urged for anybody with any coronavirus symptoms to get tested immediately.
“I am asking all Victorians who have any symptoms, however mild, getting tested and not delay, not waiting an hour, not waiting until tomorrow, but getting tested today is critically important,” he said.
“We cannot have people stampeding through those bases, it must be done slowly, meticulously.
“I don’t want a testing site to become a super-spreading site.”
At a testing site in the suburb of Keysborough, cars lined up around the block, prompting officials to begin testing early.
The testing site at Chadstone Golfers Drive has been “temporarily suspended” due to high demand and a two-hour wait, with cars being turned around.
The Wantirna Trash and Treasure Market testing site has also closed.
Hundreds linked to Australian Open isolating
As many as 600 people associated with the Australian Open have been told to isolate after being identified as casual contacts of the hotel quarantine worker.
Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley today said 507 players and their teams who underwent quarantine in the Grand Hyatt between January 16 and 29 were immediately notified of the worker’s positive result last night.
About 50 staff are being considered as close contacts and must isolate for 14 days.
All of the Australian Open cohort regarded as casual contacts will be tested by tonight and will remain in isolation until health authorities give them permission to leave.
All of the players are expected to test negative, Mr Tiley said.
The tennis boss said he is “absolutely confident” the Australian Open will go ahead as planned on Monday, despite the worker’s positive case.
“The probability is very low that there’ll be an issue,” he said.
“The plan is to continue to play tomorrow as planned. If we have to go through this again, we’ll go through this again.
“We have three-and-a-half weeks of tennis to play and we’ll go on as scheduled.”
Victoria’s testing commander Jeroen Weimar said the state was taking a “very risk-averse approach”, with a dedicated testing site set up for the tennis cohort.
“They have all been asked to – and instructed – to test and isolate today,” he said.
“There will be dedicated test facilities for them to ensure we get their testing results done and that we can then rule them out from the inquiry.”
Mr Weimar said health authorities were “not as concerned” about the tennis players being casual contacts.
“But, again, out of an abundance of caution we want to ensure we leave no stone unturned in how we follow-up and deal with anybody who may have had contact with this individual,” he said.
There will be no matches played at Melbourne Park today and Mr Tiley said he expected the Melbourne Summer Series and ATP Cup tournaments to be completed by Sunday.
Mr Andrews reiterated that Australian Open tennis players will not get special treatment.
“I was presented with a list of demands from various tennis players and the answer was no, I think I have well and truly demonstrated they do not get special treatment,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent a message of hope to Victorians this morning, posting on Twitter he was “confident” the state could quash the outbreak.
“Victorians know what to do,” he said.
“If you have symptoms, get tested and isolate until you get the results.”
Restrictions reintroduced in Victoria
Restrictions have now been reintroduced across Victoria and a massive contact tracing operation is underway.
Victoria’s New Year’s Eve or Black Rock cluster restrictions have been reimposed from midnight, Mr Andrews said.
The restrictions mean private gatherings must now be restricted to 15 people in a home, masks must be worn indoors, and the expanded office capacity limits which were due to come into effect on Monday have been paused.
Mr Andrews urged for people to remain calm.
“This is one case. There’s no need for people to panic,” he said.
“There’s no need for people to be alarmed. We Victorians know what to do, and we have proven, as a state, very successful at managing these sorts of outbreaks, these sorts of issues.”
READ MORE: Melbourne COVID-19 exposure sites revealed
The state-wide restrictions include:
– The limit on the number of people gathering in a household will be reduced from 30 to 15, meaning the household members plus 15 visitors (excluding children under 12 months of age).
– Masks mandatory in public indoor spaces. If you have visitors in your home, it is strongly recommended that masks are worn during the visit. Masks must be worn in indoor public spaces apart from when eating or drinking. If you are planning to leave your home – take a mask.
– The 75 per cent ‘return to work’ cap in both public and private sectors scheduled for Monday 8 February will be paused and the current cap of 50 per cent will remain in place.
Exposure sites linked to new case
Friday 29 January
- Exford Hotel, Melbourne, between 11pm and 11.35pm.
- Kebab Kingz, West Melbourne, between 11.24pm and 12.15am.
Saturday 30 January
- Club Noble in Noble Park, between 2.36pm and 3.30pm.
- Aces Sporting Club (Driving Range), Keysborough, between 10.00pm and 11.15pm.
Sunday 31 January
- Northpoint Café Brighton, between 8.10am and 9.30 am
- Kmart Keysborough, Parkmore Keysborough Shopping Centre, between 4pm and 5pm.
- Kmart Brandon Park, Brandon Park Shopping Centre, between 4.35pm and 5.10pm.
- Coles Springvale, 825 Dandenong Rd, Springvale, between 5pm and 6pm.
Monday 1 February
- Bunnings Springvale, between 11.28am and 12:15pm.
- Melbourne Gold Academy, Heatherton, between 5.19pm and 6.36pm.
- Lululemon, DFO Moorabbin Airport, between 5pm and 5.45pm.
- Woolworths Springvale, between 6.30pm and 7.30pm.
- Nakama Workshop, Clayton South, between 11.15am and 12pm.
- Sharetea, Springvale, between 6.50pm and 7.30pm.