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Gold Coast mystery man adds to air of concern over south-east Queensland

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The list of exposure sites is growing after a flight attendant brought an infected man into Queensland, and an international traveller tested positive after completing hotel quarantine.

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The Qantas flight attendant tested positive more than a week after she claimed she first had symptoms, sparking a frantic contact tracing effort for scores of travellers on regional flights who had to be isolated and tested. She had somehow caught the same strain circulating in Sydney, but Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young last week expressed concern that so much time had passed the connection might never be determined.

Yesterday, however, it emerged the Brisbane-based woman had separately driven to Ballina Airport to collect a man who had flown from locked-down Sydney. The man had the Delta variant of COVID-19, and seemingly infected her, although their movements are still being investigated and authorities are frustrated by the lack of cooperation.

While the timing has effectively cleared the regional flights of any concern, Young said the pair were “out and about” on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane for a week while he was infectious.

The man should have remained in isolation due to the Sydney lockdown and a growing number of cases that has the nation concerned. Today, NSW Health reported another 145 cases, and the outbreak has so far caused eight deaths, with scores of people still in ventilators in intensive care. One of the victims, Brazilian national Adriana Midori Takara, was only 38 and had no underlying conditions, but her condition deteriorated rapidly in hospital.

The Sydney outbreak has spread to other southern states, including Victoria, still reeling from outbreaks last year, and where another 11 cases have been reported today. Over the weekend, thousands attended rallies in major cities to protest the public health restrictions, some still claiming COVID-19 is fake and part of a geo-political media conspiracy.

NSW has 2,225 active cases, Victoria 181, Queensland 47 and South Australia 17. Queensland has so far managed to contain the known cases arriving from Sydney but the flight attendant and her associate demonstrate how the virus could still evade authorities, and allow infected people to be in the community for a week or more without anyone knowing.

The level of concern has only been heightened by a mystery case today on the Gold Coast: A man in his 40s who returned from China and tested negative at the end of his 14-day stay in hotel quarantine, and, since July 12, had been living a normal family life.

Only now testing positive, the man recalled how he and family members felt ill on July 13, so authorities are tentatively listing that as the start of his infection. His family members have also been isolated but so far tested negative

Young said she was awaiting genome sequencing results to hopefully ascertain where, between China and Australia, the man had caught the virus, and, if recent, how concerned she should be. He could potentially have been infected on the Gold Coast, perhaps linked to other cases.

Overnight, Queensland Health listed another 37 exposure sites in the south-east, including shopping centres, supermarkets, cafes, and a childcare centre where the man did pickups and drop-offs.

“He’s definitely at the acute stage of a new infection so we will just work through what that means,” Young said.

The man was fully vaccinated in China and therefore has a reduced risk of serious illness and death, even if he can still catch the virus and potentially pass it on to others.

Young said people continuing to wear masks had helped protect them from “many, many incursions of the virus” and it was too early to know if the mandate would be lifted as planned.

“Today’s Monday, and we have masks in place until 6am Friday at this point so let’s see how we go the next few days,” she said.

Young also highlighted that while she was disappointed the flight attendant had not cooperated with authorities, she remained grateful the vast majority of Queenslanders continued to do the right thing.

Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said the flight attendant had allegedly given incorrect information and was now being represented by a lawyer.

“We had to go through a formal process to give directed interview for the flight attendant so we could get that information,” Gollschewski said, adding that a similar process was being undertaken in relation to the man.

Authorities in NSW are assisting the investigation into the alleged breaches of health directions in both states. The pair face thousands of dollars in fines – more if they are taken to court – as police continue to catch motorists with incorrect border declarations and people defying the mask mandate.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk chaired this morning’s COVID-19 briefing from the first full day of hotel quarantine after she returned from the Tokyo Olympics.

Gollschewski said she was in a “modest” hotel room with her normal security contingent, separate to the police watching over the unnamed hotel.

He and Health Minister Yvette D’Ath rejected reports it was a suite, with the minister saying numerous other travellers had stayed in the same accommodation during their 14-day quarantine.

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