Minor slip ups may be behind SA outbreak

By | December 15, 2020

The investigation into how three South Australian medi-hotel staff members contracted coronavirus, later throwing the state into lockdown, is almost complete.

SA chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said she had been briefed on the report by the Communicable Disease Control Branch (CDCB) and was “pleased” there was no major incident or event that authorities could account for the transmission of the disease at Peppers Waymouth Hotel.

However, she said there were a few minor things that could have contributed, spotted on CCTV footage by infection control experts.

“The ventilation in hotel corridors is not particularly good and you can understand that because there aren’t many people who sit in the corridors of hotels,” Professor Spurrier said.

“What we had seen was one of the security guards, that was one of the (positive) cases, was situated outside the room of what we know is our index case, which was the returned traveller.

“When you’re a guest in the hotel, there are times you have to open the door to pick up food or leave linen. During those times it is possible for droplets and aerosol to come out of that room.

“If the ventilation in the passageway is not optimal, it’s possible for the droplets to concentrate.”

Professor Spurrier also said the security guard seated in the passageway — which authorities now say is “risky” — touched his face mask and rubbed his eyes, making it possible for the virus to spread despite him wearing PPE.

She also said there were times expats touched the outside of their hotel room doors while opening them, making it possible to transmit the virus if another person touched that same door before it was cleaned.

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“I don’t think we are ever going to be able to say definitively exactly at what time and point transmission occurred.

“But what this information has given us, going forward, is how to improve our medi-hotel system.”

As a result of the report, security guards will roam the corridors instead of remaining seated and CCTV will be maximised.

Returned travellers will undergo a day five test in addition to the day one and day 12 COVID-19 tests to quickly determine when a person becomes infectious.

Authorities are considering increasing the frequency of testing for medi-hotel staff, who are currently tested on a seven-day basis.

An infectious control manager will also be situated at every hotel quarantine facility, which was a recommendation from Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry.

Professor Spurrier said the report was being finalised and would be made publicly available.

“I think it’s very important not just for SA but everybody in other states to learn from our experiences.”

The state was thrown into a frenzy last month after a woman in her 80s — who was a family member of an infected Peppers worker — tested positive to the virus after presenting at the Lyell McEwin Hospital.

That case lead to the discovery of the Parafield cluster, which later sparked a number of public health alerts and a three-day lockdown.

The state once again has no active cases after further testing on Monday’s positive case confirmed it represented an old infection.

Health and Fitness | news.com.au — Australia’s leading news site