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Air conditioning not to blame in Brisbane cluster but changes still likely

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After Victoria reported another hotel quarantine worker with COVID-19, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer was quick to insist the system usually worked

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Dr Jeannette Young’s comments came after Queensland went 29 days without community transmission of COVID-19, officially bringing an end to the Hotel Grand Chancellor cluster in Brisbane.

Six people were infected in the outbreak, which alarmed health authorities across Australia and led Young to place Brisbane under lockdown.

However, despite some speculation that the virus had spread via the hotel’s air conditioning system, the Government ruled this out.

The virus is believed to have spread on the seventh floor of the Brisbane hotel, and via a cleaner to her partner at home, prompting Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to call for dedicated quarantine facilities to be established outside of populated areas.

Palaszczuk will return from leave tomorrow to brief National Cabinet on her proposal and the outcome of a police and health investigation into the Hotel Grand Chancellor cluster.

But with several recent cases reported in hotel quarantine workers across Australia, Young was today at pains to say the system needed refinement, not replacement. She suggested the remote quarantine proposal from Palaszczuk was complex and required a lot of work.

“In Queensland, we’ve had 66,000 people come through our hotel quarantine and we put it in place very, very rapidly, virtually overnight,” Young said.

Only one incident – involving the more contagious UK strain at the Hotel Grand Chancellor – caused problems in the community, and a city-wide lockdown now being replicated in WA in response to a smaller breach.

“I don’t think we should say it’s not worked – it has worked, it’s worked extremely well,” Young said.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath received the report arising from the investigation into the Hotel Grand Chancellor cluster yesterday amid briefings on the situation in Victoria, where hundreds of people have been forced to self-isolate after a hotel quarantine worker linked to the Australian Open tested positive to COVID-19.

While D’Ath has yet to fully consider the report, she said there was no evidence of hotel workers or guests having spread COVID-19 by breaching protocols.

She said the health controls in corridors and shared areas needed further consideration but, in the Hotel Grand Chancellor, the virus had not been spread via the air conditioning.

“We have ruled out the air conditioning because the two rooms were on different air conditioning systems,” D’Ath said.

Mining camps had been suggested as remote quarantine facilities partly because individual accommodation units often have their own air conditioning.

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