A traveller blamed for spreading coronavirus through the Holiday Inn after using a nebuliser in his room says he feels “like a criminal”.
The 38-year-old man said he was given permission by twice Victorian health authorities to use his nebuliser while in hotel quarantine in an interview with the The Age.
The returned overseas traveller, who has severe asthma and is now in intensive care, said he’d declared the nebuliser, and claimed staff also offered to supply him with extra Ventolin.
The man and his partner have since tested positive for COVID-19, and a working theory is that his nebuliser, which creates fine aerosol particles, spread the virus to a food and beverage worker, and another resident in hotel quarantine.
His comments came as Victoria was plunged back into lockdown after the cluster caused by “ hyper-infectious” UK strain grew to 13.
The man said he, his partner and his baby were left feeling like they’d “borne the brunt of the backlash” over the outbreak.
“If I was told that I couldn’t use it, I never would have used it,” the man said. “The way it has all come out in the news and through the government has made it sound like I was using it illegally or that I have snuck it in or something like that. It’s been very distressing.
“You are left feeling like a criminal or that you’ve done the wrong thing. That has been the hardest thing in all this.”
VICTORIA WALKS TO LOCKDOWN
Premier Daniel Andrews plunged Victoria into a “short, sharp blast” of lockdown to try to keep a third coronavirus wave at bay after the Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn outbreak of COVID-19 cases grew to 13.
As of 11.59pm on Friday and for the next five days, anyone across the state can only leave home for four reasons – essential shopping, care and caregiving, exercise, and essential work.
Hundreds of people protested in the city’s CBD before the lockdown kicked in, with anti-lockdown protesters and mounted police gathering outside Melbourne Park.
Chaos gripped the Australian Open as fans were evicted midway through Novak Djokovic’s match against American Taylor Fritz, with a chorus of boos heard as they were told to leave Rod Laver Arena at 11.30pm.
Overnight, Victoria added seven venues to an exposure site list that now includes two bus routes, a train and Melbourne’s Terminal 4 as the cluster linked to the quarantine hotel grows.
The lockdown has an end date of 11.59pm on Wednesday, February 17 but boxed-in residents, who have had their hopes of an end to restrictions dashed in the past, will be watching and waiting to see what transpires between now and then.
TRAVELLERS, HOTEL WORKERS AND SPOUSES INFECTED
Chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly said on Friday that two cases have been identified as “having worked in Tullamarine Airport whilst infectious”.
The second airport worker was a cleaner who also worked at a school, and had already been identified as a primary close contact of a Holiday Inn case, the Herald Sun reported.
Prof Kelly has now declared the Greater Melbourne area a COVID-19 hotspot for the purposes of Commonwealth support, for an initial period of three days. He said this was because of “the increased risk posed by the B117 (UK) variant of concern, the occurrence of cases in the community whilst infectious, and the risk of spread to other jurisdictions in Australia”.
Five people tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, all linked to the Holiday Inn, which has been closed for a deep clean. The state’s health department said four of the five new cases are household primary close contacts of confirmed cases and were already in isolation. The other case is a hotel staff member who was tested as a primary close contact.
“All staff are in isolation and all residents have been moved,” the department states.
“Anyone who has been in this facility for more than 15 minutes between 27 January and 9 February is considered a primary close contact. They must immediately isolate, get a test, and stay isolated for 14 days.”
Genomic sequencing has already confirmed eight of the 13 are the highly contagious B117 variant however authorities are working with the theory that all of the cases are that strain.
On Friday night, Victoria’s health department clarified case and testing numbers will be provided every morning of the five-day lockdown.
“Throughout the day, we will continue to provide updates about testing locations, any exposure sites and other public health updates,” it said.
“Given the airport is a hub for travel to all jurisdictions within Australia, there is substantial risk of national spread of the virus,” he said.
‘CIRCUIT BREAKER’ RESTRICTIONS
Under the new rules, exercise and shopping in Victoria is limited to five kilometres from home. Exercise is allowed for two hours a day with household members, your partner, or one other person who is not from your household.
Masks must be worn everywhere except at home. No visitors or public gatherings are allowed.
Weddings are off the cards unless on compassionate grounds and funerals can involve no more than 10 people for both indoor or outdoor settings.
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Mr Andrews said he was “confident” the imposed restrictions “will be effective”.
“We will be able to smother this. We will be able to prevent it getting away from us,” he told reporters on Friday afternoon.
“I want to be here on Wednesday next week announcing that these restrictions are coming off, but I can’t do it on my own. I need every single Victorian to work with me, and with our team, so that we can run this to ground and we can see this strategy work.”
He told the state to assume “there are further cases in the community than we have positive results for, and that it (the virus) is moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country over the course of these last 12 months”.