Positive airport driver a ‘serious breach’ of infection control

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New South Wales is grappling with another potential coronavirus outbreak after two new cases were detected in the state yesterday.

The first case found was a man from Sydney’s east, who was responsible for transporting international aircrew from the airport to hotel quarantine.

The man, aged in his 60s, had a saliva test on Tuesday and the positive result of his test was confirmed yesterday.

His household contact has also tested positive, with both positive cases triggering the addition of more than a dozen exposure sites on NSW Health’s website.

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University of NSW epidemiologist Mary Louise McLaws told The Australian it was clear the driver testing positive was a “serious breach” of infection control.

“I think we should consider this infection as a serious breach … because he likely contracted the virus from someone who was infectious on the plane, and this is something that would not be happening if we had a proper system of rapid testing,” she said.

Prof McLaws questioned why the aircrew driver wasn’t under the same type of infection control as hotel quarantine workers.

“This man should have been constantly tested with a rapid Antigen test at the airport because he was driving and transporting crews,” she said.

“I find it perplexing that this hasn’t been happening to people who are transporting others in vehicles from airports.”

The aircrew driver and his household contact visited a number of places in Sydney’s east over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

“Urgent investigations into the source of the infection and contact tracing are underway, as is genome sequencing,” NSW Health said.

“Close contacts are being urgently contacted, and asked to get tested and isolate. The man visited a number of venues while potentially infectious.”

The new cases broke NSW’s 43-day streak of no locally acquired cases.

The entire list of exposure sites are listed on NSW Health’s website however the worst-affected suburbs include Bondi, Bondi Junction, Vaucluse, Zetland and Redfern.

The new cases followed a late night alert from NSW Health on Tuesday after it was discovered the virus had spread between three returned travellers.

Authorities are investigating the source of a Covid-19 case diagnosed in hotel quarantine which has an identical viral sequence to two cases who were staying in an adjacent room.

“It is currently unclear how and where transmission occurred from a couple to another returned traveller who were all staying on the fourth floor of the Radisson Blu quarantine hotel,” NSW Health said.

All three cases have identical viral sequences of the Alpha Covid-19 strain, formerly referred to as the “UK variant”.

The couple were asymptomatic and tested positive to the virus on June 3 during the second day of their hotel quarantine stay.

The other traveller returned a negative Day 2 test on June 3 before subsequently developing symptoms and testing positive for Covid-19 following on June 5.

All three cases arrived into Sydney on the same flight from Doha on June 1 and stayed in adjacent rooms in the quarantine hotel.

They were all transferred to the Special Health Accommodation following their positive test results, where they remain.

Health authorities are now scrambling to figure out exactly how transmission between these two parties occurred.

“Early possibilities as to where transmission may have occurred from the couple to the secondary case include on the flight, on transport from the airport to the hotel, in the lobby of the hotel, or while in quarantine,” NSW Health said.

“Currently, there is no evidence of further transmission.”

With Ally Foster

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