The Australian Medical Association has slammed the management of Western Australia’s hotel management system after genomic sequencing suggested that a security guard acquired the virus from a returned US traveler.
On Saturday last week, health authorities in Western Australia detected the “Pan Pacific cluster” after routine testing of a security guard working at the Pan Pacific Hotel quarantine site. The guard and two of his housemates, who work as food delivery drivers, tested positive.
Yesterday, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said that the security guard did not contract COVID-19 due to ventilation issues at the hotel — a common cause of other quarantine outbreaks.
Instead, genomic sequencing suggested that the guard — referred to as “case No. 1001” — acquired the virus from a traveler returning from the US.
“He has proven positive to the US variant, which is identical to the person who visited from the United States and was transferred to the hotel on the same day as case No. 1001 was working,” McGowan said. “So we suspect that he acquired the virus from that person, although we don’t know how.”
The Pan Pacific outbreak is the second quarantine outbreak in as many weeks in Western Australia. An earlier incident at Perth’s Mercure Hotel triggered a three-day lockdown over the Anzac Day long weekend.
The Australian Medical Association’s Western Australian president, Andrew Miller, criticized the management of hotel quarantine, saying that private security guards should not be left to look after positive cases in stuffy conditions and with inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Positive cases should be moved out of hotel quarantine and into dedicated facilities, where they can be cared for by professional medical and quarantine teams, Miller added.
“I think the people who own the hotels are trying to do the right thing. But it’s the management from the health department specifically — the guidelines and the enforcement around these private security guard companies,” Miller said. “It’s all a bit too much at arm’s length. We need quarantine professionals at least for the people who are proven positive. Once they’ve proven positive, get them out of there — get them into air-gapped quarantine, with professional people, nurses, doctors and full PPE.”
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