Genomic sequencing results has confirmed that the hotel quarantine employee who was diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this week does have the highly contagious UK strain of the virus.
In a press conference on Friday morning, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton confirmed the news.
“Our reference laboratory has identified the sequence in our case as the B117 variant,” he said on Friday. “That’s the variant that was first identified in the UK, so the one that people understand to be the UK variant.”
The news isn’t particularly surprising considering this is the theory the government was already working on, but it can now be confirmed thanks to the genomic testing.
“It is a more transmissible variant of concern. We’ve always worked on the assumption that it was going to be this variant. That’s because four of the six residents who’d tested positive at the hotel had that variant identified in them. Where exactly it’s come from is still to be determined,” Sutton said.
“We do need to marry-up that genomics information with the epidemiological information – so the CCTV footage, the interviews – to really understand how transmission might have occurred.”
However, the Chief Health Officer again confirmed that there was no breach in COVID-safe practices as far as we know so far.
“As we’ve said previously, there was no apparent breach in infection prevention and control protocols, or PPE.”
However, in positive news, almost all of the close contacts of the man have tested negative to the virus so far.
It’s important to note that it is possible to test positive at a later date but so far, 16 out of 17 contacts have tested negative, with one more result expected later today.
“It doesn’t mean that they might not test positive at a later point… But these are good signs. Very good signs. That we caught this in good time,” Premier Dan Andrews said.
Andrews also confirmed that there are more than 1500 close and secondary contacts of the infected man, with this number expected to rise further in the coming days as the contact tracing process continues.
Additionally, nearly 300 people have come forward as contacts who have attended the exposure sites listed on the Vic Health website, all of which are now isolating.
“That 299 number I expect to increase over the coming days as more people come forward,” COVID Testing Chief Jeroen Weimar said.
The news comes as the state recorded no new locally acquired cases on Friday out of 14,612 test results that were received back overnight.