abc– A woman who contracted the mutant UK strain of COVID-19 and flew into Brisbane from Melbourne after clearing hotel quarantine has since tested positive to the virus again, prompting an urgent public health response.
Under the previous national protocols, the woman was allowed to leave after 10 days in hotel quarantine, and did not need to return a negative test before doing so.
But because authorities are so concerned about this new strain, those rules have now been changed.
Here’s what we know so far.
What do we know about this case?
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the woman flew into Melbourne from the UK on December 26 and tested positive a day later.
She spent 10 days in hotel quarantine, “cleared all her symptoms and was allowed to leave Victoria”, Dr Young said.
The woman caught flight JQ570 from Melbourne to Brisbane, arriving at 11:00pm on January 5. She then travelled to her parents’ house in Maleny, on the Sunshine Coast.
Dr Young said Victorian authorities alerted their Queensland counterparts the woman had tested positive to the UK variant. She was retested in Queensland yesterday and found to still be positive.
It’s worth noting that authorities say she poses a very low risk, and they are contact tracing out of an abundance of caution because of this new strain.
So why was she allowed to leave hotel quarantine?
Until recently, people who tested positive to COVID-19 while in hotel quarantine could leave once they had no symptoms for three days, and at least 10 days had passed since they delivered the positive test.
That’s in contrast to the mandatory 14 days — based on the life cycle of the virus — in place for travellers who do not contract the virus.
That was under guidelines from the Communicable Disease Network Australia, which Victoria and other states and territories had followed.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said “the person wasn’t infectious” when she left the Victorian quarantine system.
She was cleared on day 10 of hotel quarantine after showing no symptoms for three days.