Victorian Premier Dan Andrews has today announced that the government “can’t rule out is airborne transmission” of COVID-19 after a hotel quarantine worker tested positive overnight.
Andrews gave further updates on the state’s COVID situation on Thursday morning, following on from a late-night press conference on Wednesday night.
“One thing is we can’t rule out is airborne transmission of this. That is challenging – very, very challenging. AHPPC has been dealing with some of these issues,” he told reporters.
“No doubt this will be a feature of the report that I will give to National Cabinet tomorrow. All of us work together and learn from each other. There will be different experiences in different states.”
“With a virus – it’s not static, like it’s changing. Whether it is South Africa, Japan, the UK strain – whatever’s next to come and – you know, pose a challenge to us, we all have to work together. So, we don’t have a definitive answer on that. It is just that step by step painstaking detective work.”
At this stage, the government is waiting on genomic testing results to decipher exactly how the virus spread, and which particular hotel quarantine resident infected the worker. But until that information is received, the government is refusing to rule out the possibility that the virus has spread via air vents and airborne transmission.
However, in good news, 19 out of 20 close contacts of the hotel worker have already spoken with authorities, with the last person expected to cooperate today.
The news comes after Andrews announced a number of minor restrictions on Wednesday night, including slight caps on social gatherings and a reintroduction of the state’s mask mandate.
However, both the Premier and Chief Health Officer have asserted that everything is being done out of an abundance of caution, which – in layman’s terms – means that we should do the right thing but shouldn’t be stocking up the panic bunker in preparation for another lockdown.
“We think the risk to other people in the hotel, sorry, other guests in the hotel, tennis players and their accompanying staff, is relatively low because they were in at the time as opposed to stuff outside the room the last person to leave, the last case to leave the hotel for the health hotels left on the 22nd, so that is now getting on close to 14 days since that time,” Victorian Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said.
“So, if there was any exposure, they would be coming up to that period, so we think that risk is relatively low, which is why we are testing them to be sure, but again, it is precautionary.”
To put it simply, the government is acting out of an abundance of caution as they are operating on the theory that the COVID-19 case in question is that of the highly-infectious UK strain.
But if you’re a Victorian who is quietly panicking at the thought of another lockdown, it is worth noting that Dan Andrews has again reiterated that his strategy in managing the virus is “not zero cases forever.”
The situation is continually developing, with the state’s COVID response and the fate of the upcoming Australian Open hanging in the balance. We’ll be sure to update you as more information becomes available.