Hotel Grand Chancellor report to be handed down

Queensland authorities have ruled out airconditioning and deliberate breaches as the reason why COVID-19 spread through a Brisbane hotel quarantine facility.

The highly infectious B117 variant of COVID-19, which originated in the United Kingdom, spread through the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane’s Spring Hill in late December and early January.

The outbreak sparked a three-day lockdown of Greater Brisbane, and all returned travellers at the facility and those who had recently been discharged, alongside staff, were forced to undergo extra quarantine.

However, the cluster remained limited to just six cases, a feat the chief health officer said was remarkable.

The first patient was a returned overseas traveller from the UK who passed it onto his partner.

At the time, authorities were stumped as to how a hotel cleaner contracted the virus from the travellers, and went on to unknowingly spend days in the wider Brisbane community while infectious.

While her partner also caught the virus, no further community transmission was recorded, and on Thursday the state marked 29 days since the last case was detected outside quarantine.

How a father and daughter, who returned from Lebanon, contracted the same strain of virus in the hotel remains a mystery to authorities.

The pair were staying on the same floor as the original cases, but were not in neighbouring rooms.

Queensland Police and Health launched an extensive investigation into the outbreak, handing down the report to Health Minister Yvette D’Ath on Wednesday.

She told reporters she would be reading through it “in detail” on Thursday before she made any public comment, but revealed authorities had ruled two causes that had earlier been deemed possibilities.

Earlier in the investigation, authorities thought the virus might have spread through the hotel’s airconditioning vents, however it was later deemed impossible as the two rooms in question were serviced by different systems.

The report also ruled out deliberate breaches, Ms D’Ath said.

“There is no obvious deliberate breach of the staff … There is no breach of a hotel worker going into rooms against protocol, and there is no evidence of quarantining guests breaching protocol and coming out against those practices,” she said.

Ms D’Ath said the report seemed to suggest corridors and air circulation systems were issues that “needed to be looked at.”

Investigators spent days taking swabs from guests rooms and hallways, and reviewed hours of CCTV footage to reach the cause of the cluster.

Their investigation was made more difficult by the revelation there was no security camera servicing floor seven, where the COVID-positive guests were staying, which prompted a major audit of all state-run facilities.

More than 66,000 people have been through hotel quarantine in Queensland since March last year.

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