NSW Health officials are scrambling to contact a number of returned travellers they fear could have been exposed to the South African variant of COVID-19 in a quarantine hotel in Sydney.
Contact tracers are trying to determine whether there was a transmission of the South African strain of COVID-19 inside the Mercure Hotel in Sydney after three returned travellers who stayed in adjacent rooms tested positive.
An individual traveller and a family of two, all staying on the 10th floor of the Mercure Hotel on George St in Sydney’s CBD, tested positive during quarantine.
Genomic testing showed they had the same viral sequence for the B1351 variant, first identified in South Africa.
Authorities are hunting down any other returned travellers who stayed there between April 7-12.
NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said contact tracers had spoken to 36 of 40 people who had stayed on the 10th floor during that time.
“A number have gone into other states and territories and (those states) have been contacted,” Dr Chant said on Thursday.
“We are urgently escalating contact with the remaining four. We will be happy to update you on the investigation but at this time nothing obvious has come of that.”
It is the second instance of potential hotel quarantine transmission in Sydney within days, after authorities confirmed on Sunday that a family of three appeared to have caught Covid while quarantining at the Adina Apartment hotel.
Dr Chant said health officials would look at spacing out hotel quarantine to only allow every second room to be occupied.
That could affect the number of overseas travellers allowed to return to NSW, which currently sits at 430 a day or a little more than 3000 a week.
“Certainly, all of those measures are can open for consideration; particularly where we may have multiple family members,” Dr Chant said.
“What we do know is some of the transmissions have occurred when we’ve had multiple people in a room that have come down with the illness.
“As you can imagine, if you’ve got more people in an area, then the viral load in that environment can be much higher.
“So clearly some of those considerations, particularly where you’ve got multiple people quarantining in a family like setting, that may be totally appropriate we do look at that additional spacing as a control.
“No measure is discarded – we’re looking through all measures and we look closely at all of these incidents.”