SA slams border shut as Victoria records no new COVID-19 cases overnight

A coronavirus cluster linked with the Holiday Inn hotel grew to eight on Wednesday as South Australia closed its border with Greater Melbourne, but no further cases were recorded overnight.

Health authorities expect more cases to emerge from a coronavirus cluster linked with the Holiday Inn hotel at Melbourne airport in the coming days.

The outbreak grew to eight people on Wednesday afternoon, hours after the hotel was emptied and 48 guests were transferred to the Pullman Hotel in Melbourne’s CBD. After 22,570 tests, no additional cases were added to Thursday’s tally.

Cleaners wearing full PPE at the Holiday Inn Hotel on Wednesday.Credit:Diego Fedele/Getty Images

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the hotel outbreak was now believed to have started after a man used a nebuliser for asthma in his room. That man is now fighting for life with COVID-19 in hospital.

Late on Wednesday night, the Department of Health upgraded advice for anyone who attended the Sunbury Square Shopping Centre last Friday between 3.40pm and 4.30pm to get tested “urgently”.

Prior to the update, only customers who attended a handful of specific shops inside the centre were being urged to get tested.

Meanwhile, South Australian police issued a direction late Wednesday night preventing anyone from Greater Melbourne and Sunbury from entering the state. Exemptions are available for essential travellers, SA residents, people escaping domestic violence, and those who are relocating.

Anyone in South Australia who had undertaken hotel quarantine at the Holiday Inn on or after January 27 – or is a close contact from someone who has – is being directed to undergo 14 days of quarantine immediately.

No other states have moved to prevent Victorians from travelling interstate.

Two additional cases discovered on Wednesday included another guest who had already completed their two-weeks of quarantine at the hotel and another worker. In total, there are now eight cases linked to the inn: three members of a family who tested positive for the UK strain of the virus, two former guests and three hotel quarantine workers.

Australian Medical Association President Dr Omar Khorshid said on Wednesday that “lives were at risk” with ongoing leaks in quarantine, and claimed the formal Infection Control Expert Group advising the federal government had “failed in its duties to date”.

“Last September, [Health] Minister [Greg] Hunt committed to reviewing guidelines for protecting healthcare workers from COVID-19, announcing a partnership between ICEG and the National COVID-19 Evidence Taskforce, specifically focussing on the question of airborne spread,” he said.

“It’s been almost six months and Infection Prevention and Control Panel is yet to produce the goods. We cannot wait any longer for ICEG to act.“

Dr Khorshid called on Ministers via the National Cabinet to push hard for better airflow in quarantine hotels as well as N95 masks and eye protection for all workers in hotel quarantine across the country.

The AMA has also claimed the outbreak is evidence of a national failure to provide hotel quarantine workers with protective equipment for aerosol transmission of the virus.

Meanwhile, residents of Roxburgh, Westmeadows, Glenroy, Reservoir and Coburg have all been put on alert after COVID-19 fragments were “unexpectedly” detected in wastewater this week.

Health Minister Martin Foley said close contacts of confirmed cases were known to reside in those areas and urged anyone with any symptoms at all to get tested.

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