A single case of community-transmitted Covid-19 has been recorded in Australia on Saturday, but concern remains about a woman released from hotel quarantine in Victoria despite testing positive to the highly infectious UK variant of the virus.
New South Wales recorded one new case of Covid-19, with Victoria and Queensland both recording zero new cases. Other states were yet to report their numbers, but have not had cases of community transmission for several weeks, if not months.
Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said a woman with the UK variant of the virus arrived in Victoria from the UK on 26 December. She was tested the next day and found to have Covid-19.
The woman remained in quarantine for 10 days and then flew on a domestic Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Brisbane on 5 January.
She then travelled to Maleny, on the Sunshine Coast, to her parents’ home. Yesterday, it was found she was still testing positive.
Queensland Health was checking on her close contacts, following up on her flight details, and encouraging anyone around Maleny with symptoms to be tested. The woman’s parents had been tested and were isolating.
The woman’s case highlighted an aspect of the hotel quarantine system which had since been changed: that, in some instances, people who tested positive for Covid-19 could be released earlier than those who never contracted the virus.
People who tested positive to Covid-19 in hotel quarantine had previously been allowed to leave after 10 days, or three days after their latest symptom, whichever was later.
That had since been changed to 14 days since symptom onset, and testing before exiting hotel quarantine. Those who tested negative and had no symptoms were also released from quarantine after 14 days.
“The risk is extremely low … because she is right at the end of her potential infectious period, and with a normal variant, we would not be at all concerned,” Young said.
“Ten days is more than sufficient and she is now up to day 15. So it would not be a concern, but because of this new variant, we are just being ultra-cautious, which is why we retested her when Victoria let us know that she had the new variant.
“As I stress, this is … low risk, but it is not zero risk, so we are just taking all of those precautions.”
The Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, said the change had been made nationally after “advocacy” from the state.
“As the chief officer of Queensland has pointed out, now the person is up to day 15 and has shown no signs of infectivity,” he said.
“We are cooperating with them to make sure they have all the data they need and the manifest from the Jetstar flight is provided and followed up.
“I commend Queensland for the extraordinarily thorough approach to this, to make sure every avenue is being run down, to make sure Queenslanders and all Australians are safe. Because an issue in any state is an issue for all Australians.”
Victoria would not list any new exposure sites as a result of the woman’s case.
Saturday marked Brisbane’s first full day of lockdown, after panic-buying and heavy traffic flowing from the capital occurred yesterday afternoon.
“We are not going to run out of food. There is no need to panic buy … please, everyone, just be patient and calm,” the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said.
“This weekend is a good weekend to stay at home with your family and to do some odd jobs around the house or indulge in some watching of Netflix or whatever you desire to watch.”
There were 14,784 tests recorded in Queensland yesterday.
In New South Wales, the one new community case was linked to the Berala cluster. Five cases were detected in hotel quarantine.