GENOME sequencing from the two travellers in ACT hotel quarantine who returned a positive COVID-19 test show they have been infected with the more contagious South African COVID-19 variant (also known as B.1.351).
ACT Health reports that the two males, a man in his 40s and another younger than 20 – who are not related – have moved to a separate area of the hotel for further care and support. Both are well.
Last month chief medical officer Dr Paul Kelly warned that variants of coronavirus which originated in the UK and South Africa were on their way to becoming the dominant COVID-19 strains around the world.
“We need to be prepared for those strains, which are definitely more able to be transmitted between people [and] may be associated with more severity. That is still information we need to continue to watch carefully.”
Additional testing in Canberra of the other returned passengers is taking place today (March 6) on day five of their hotel quarantine period to help identify any further cases early during the quarantine period. Any returned traveller who experiences any symptoms of COVID-19 at any point during the 14-day quarantine period will also be tested.
ACT Health is liaising with NSW Health authorities and Singapore Airlines about the two cases to support other contact-tracing efforts.
Health says the ACT has strong systems in place for hotel quarantine that are designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
“As part of this, all staff working in hotel quarantine follow stringent PPE and infection control processes, and participate in the Safeguarding Canberrans (SCAN) program in which they undergo daily symptom screening and regular COVID-19 testing,” the directorate says.