Superspreader alert as hotel cluster grows


Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young fears a COVID-19 "superspreader" may have infected other people in quarantine on the same floor of Brisbane's Mercure Hotel.

The race is on to track eight people who stayed on the eighth floor of the hotel but have since left after finishing their mandatory quarantine period, in the biggest test for authorities since the Hotel Grand Chancellor cluster.

The suspected superspreader is one of six passengers on a Qatar Airways flight, which arrived in Brisbane about 9.45pm on February 17, who have tested positive to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Five were in hotel quarantine at the Mercure Brisbane Hotel on North Quay. The sixth travelled on to New Zealand.

"One of the cases … was infectious on the plane and we believe that individual was more infectious than most cases," Dr Young said.

"Through this pandemic, we have instances of superspreaders. I'm concerned that this individual is a superspreader.

"Another of the cases was not seated near this person on the plane but was in the hotel room next to them at the Mercure Brisbane Hotel, so that's why we are looking into if any transmission occurred within the hotel quarantine system."


The Mercure quarantine hotel in Brisbane. Picture: Liam Kidston
The Mercure quarantine hotel in Brisbane. Picture: Liam Kidston


Dr Young is so concerned about the potential for viral spread, she is asking eight people who served their mandatory hotel quarantine on floor eight of the Mercure between February 18-21 to "immediately" get a COVID-19 test and to go back into isolation.

She said they should isolate for 14 days since they left the hotel, or until Sunday March 7, whichever is sooner.

The eight people are yet to be tracked down.

"I think it's unlikely that it's a risk, but it is a risk no matter how small so I just want to work that through," Dr Young said.

The suspected superspreader, who has the Russian variant of the virus, known scientifically as B.1.1.137, was taken to hospital from the Mercure Hotel on February 21.

"We still don't fully understand why one person spreads the virus to someone else or indeed to many other people and another person doesn't spread it to anyone else," Dr Young said.

More than 70 passengers who arrived into Brisbane on the QR898 flight have had their hotel quarantine extended by five days to Monday.

The passengers have been staying at the Mercure and another Brisbane hotel.

But all five who have tested positive to SARS-CoV-2 have been detected while at the Mercure on North Quay.


Cleaning gear in the foyer of the hotel yesterday. Picture: Liam Kidston
Cleaning gear in the foyer of the hotel yesterday. Picture: Liam Kidston


"We've always said our quarantine policy is designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect Queenslanders and this is why we're implementing these additional measures," Dr Young said.

"Throughout this pandemic, we've had to be agile in our approach and this has meant enhancing and adapting our quarantine requirements as necessary.

"I know this will cause an inconvenience to many people, but it's necessary to protect Queenslanders."

Queensland's only confirmed case of COVID-19 breaching hotel quarantine was in January at the Hotel Grand Chancellor when a cleaner tested positive.

Her partner was also infected with SARS-CoV-2, part of a six-person cluster at the hotel, which triggered a three-day lockdown of Greater Brisbane.

Queensland recorded seven new cases of SARS-CoV-2 yesterday, including two from the QR898 flight. The five others had recently arrived from Papua New Guinea, all linked to the Ok Tedi mine.

A Gold Coast health worker suffered anaphylactic shock after an adverse reaction to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine yesterday.

A Queensland Health spokesperson said the worker had "a history of anaphylaxis" and was recovering quickly.








Originally published as Superspreader poses grave new threat to Fortress Qld

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