A senior police union official has criticised the lack of communication with officers forced into quarantine by the Brisbane hotel COVID-19 cluster, as Queensland Health denied an “untrue” report of a breach by one of the linked returned travellers now infected.
Queensland Police Union vice-president Shane Prior complained of an “absolute debacle” after the health department failed to tell some of the more than 70 officers now in quarantine how and when they would be tested, and able to return to duties.
“If [Queensland Health] can’t manage this with just a few genuine cases, and over 70 police in isolation, God help us all if this strain gets out,” Mr Prior posted on Facebook.
“Queensland will make the UK and the USA look competent.”
A number of comments on the post detail the experience of officers who had been isolating for days after working within the hotel, some for up to the 14 days required, but were still unsure of when and how they could leave.
Some officers had begun to receive calls from health authorities after questions were raised on Thursday afternoon, a police source with knowledge of the matter, but not authorised to speak on it, said.
A Queensland Health spokeswoman said all testing was based on standard public health protocols and the department would continue to work with police so officers could be released from quarantine on day 14.
The criticism came just hours before a News Corp report that there had been a quarantine breach at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, which has been evacuated after it was identified as the source of a cluster of the UK strain of coronavirus.
It was claimed the woman, aged in her 20s, accompanied her father to hospital in an ambulance on Monday night but returned to the hotel by “other means”.
Both travellers from Lebanon would later test positive to the more contagious UK variant of the virus.
Health authorities have rejected any suggestion a breach occurred.
“We are concerned some early reporting has misrepresented this situation and it’s important people understand the facts,” a department spokeswoman said. “All protocols were followed in this case.
“Guests were transported from and returned to the hotel by Queensland Ambulance Service while in appropriate [personal protection equipment]. The suggestion the person caught a ride-share back to the hotel is untrue. Full and proper COVID-19 PPE protocols were followed while these guests were in the hospital.”
Following confirmation the pair were infected by the more contagious strain on Tuesday night, first discovered in the UK, chief health officer Jeannette Young ordered all guests to be moved from the hotel in day-long operation.
With six cases traced to the hotel’s seventh floor, staff and a number of previous quarantine guests were also directed to quarantine and undergo a COVID-19 test out of what Dr Young described as an abundance of caution while authorities investigated how the virus may have spread among the group.
Only two of the group – a cleaner who worked in the hotel and her partner – had been active in the community while unknowingly infectious.
The other four, all returned travellers, all stayed on the same floor of the hotel at different times and in separate rooms, sparking calls from Ms Palaszczuk for an overhaul of Australia’s quarantine system.
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