Most contacts of infected Brisbane doctor return negative virus tests

The doctor assessed two coronavirus patients on Wednesday last week at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital, then tested positive on Friday.

The doctor assessed two coronavirus patients on Wednesday last week at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital, then tested positive on Friday. Photo: ABC News/Liz Pickering

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says 86 close contacts of a Brisbane doctor who tested positive for COVID-19 have returned negative results with more test results still to come.

Queensland had six new cases of COVID-19 in hotel quarantine overnight – none in the Hotel Grand Chancellor.

Ms Palaszczuk said there was still 24 hours left to see if there had been any spread of community transmission from the doctor.

On Sunday, deputy chief health officer Sonya Bennett said the doctor’s three closest contacts had “most reassuringly” tested negative.

Authorities also expect to confirm whether a returned overseas traveller infected another guest in quarantine at Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor.

The hotel was sent into a 72-hour lockdown on Sunday as authorities investigated whether an overseas case announced on Saturday caught the virus while in quarantine.

Health authorities said the lockdown and investigation at the hotel were unrelated to the outbreak in January, when a quarantine cleaner at the same hotel tested positive to the virus.

Dr Bennett said authorities hoped genomic testing results would rule out a direct link between the infected patient and the second case at the Hotel Grand Chancellor.

Queensland Health has set up an incident response team to investigate the possible transmission at the hotel, which is not admitting any more people into quarantine, and will not be releasing anyone from quarantine until Wednesday.

Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor is in lockdown until Tuesday. Photo: ABC

Dr Bennett said both of the hotel’s cases had the more infectious British strain and were on the same floor of the hotel at the same time.

“It either could be that they had a very late incubation period, it may be they have a similar source from overseas, or it may be there’s a transmission in hotel quarantine,” she said.

Meanwhile, health unions have reported the PA Hospital lockdown has caused gridlock for ambulances, with wait times to deliver patients to emergency departments at other major hospitals across Brisbane pushed out.

Queensland ‘not out of the woods’

The Greater Brisbane region has so far managed to avoid a repeat of the snap three-day lockdown seen earlier in 2021 following the first outbreak at the Grand Chancellor.

On Sunday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk gave no indication the region might head into another snap lockdown, but said the state was “not out of the woods yet”.

Dr Bennett said she did not know whether the infected doctor was wearing a fit-tested N95 mask when she treated the patient who was admitted to the PA Hospital from the hotel on Wednesday.

In 2020, Victorian authorities went above and beyond national guidelines by mandating N95 masks for all frontline hospital workers dealing with coronavirus – a step Dr Bennett said was still “under active consideration” in Queensland.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said all hospitals had the equipment to meet national guidelines on coronavirus and it was “too early to know” how the doctor was infected.

The Queensland government has fended off criticism from the Australian Medical Association and the state opposition in the past week about the infection of the frontline healthcare worker and the pace of its vaccine rollout.

Frontline health workers are on track to receive their second round of the Pfizer vaccine jab this week, marking the first group in Queensland to be fully inoculated against the virus.

Shadow health minister Ros Bates said the government as of Saturday had given out only 28 per cent of the 66,560 vaccine doses it had received.

The government is considering using Lang Park stadium as a vaccine hub. Photo: ABC

She said by Tuesday it would have received 92,930 and should have been fast-tracking inoculations for frontline health staff.

The government has also not ruled out a suggestion to use Brisbane’s Lang Park stadium as a vaccine hub in an effort to speed up the delivery.

Ms D’Ath said this week would be “the first week that people will be getting their second vaccination”.

“But what has always been said in relation to this vaccine is it doesn’t stop the individual getting COVID,” she said.

“What it does is stop the person getting seriously ill from COVID and there is some evidence that because it reduces the viral load, what it does is lower the risk of them transmitting it to someone else.”

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