With all eyes on the Sydney COVID-19 outbreak where another month of lockdown was announced yesterday, the minor inconvenience of having to wear masks for another week will be a small price to pay for residents and visitors in Southeast Queensland.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young has repeatedly emphasised the beneficial - although not panacean - effects of mask wearing in containing the spread of COVID-19, so it is unsurprising the requirement has been extended for seven more days given the uncertainty around the spread from new cases.
There were no new community-transmitted cases of the virus announced overnight, but more details have emerged about yesterday's new case, most importantly that he flew to Western Australia after completing hotel quarantine and was sent back to Queensland, that he was in a shared room at a Brisbane hostel, and that he has the Alpha strain of COVID-19.
"I can report now that the genomic sequencing has come in from the gentleman who came in from the Philippines to Brisbane and who is staying at the Roma Street City Backpackers. What we have identified is he is a direct match with three other travellers who he was on two flights with - Philippines to PNG and PNG to Brisbane," Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said.
Those three travellers had different hotel quarantine arrangements to the case concerned who was at Quest Chermside, which D'Ath said confirmed he had contracted the virus while in transit on the plane or through the airport.
"We can confirm also that it is the alpha variant that we are dealing with. I want to thank the Backpackers because the manager there has been absolutely incredible, provided a lot of data which has allowed us to identify and test all individuals associated with that Backpackers," D'Ath said.
Authorities have received 59 negative results from the 62 people exposed to the gentleman in the hostel, with the remaining three results expected today as they were taken last night.
But it is the story of how he ended up at the backpackers that raises the most questions, particularly given his long incubation period with the virus.
"We know that around 1 per cent of people can have an incubation period of longer than 14 days, as has happened with this gentleman," Dr Young explained.
"When he got out of hotel quarantine here in Brisbane, had done his 14 days and got three negative tests, he then on-travelled to Western Australia but they turned him around - they put him into a hotel for two days till there was a suitable flight, and then he was placed on that flight and returned to Queensland.
"I'm just getting the details of that flight he was on. I don't have that yet, but we will contact trace the people who sat around him given he's got the Alpha variant."
Young said when the man arrived back in Brisbane he was already starting to have some symptoms of COVID-19 and upon arrival at the hostel he "essentially stayed in his room there because he was starting to feel increasingly unwell".
"The other two people in the room have tested negative which is good," she said.
Dr Young added the individuals who were at the hostel will be tested frequently.
"We're going to keep those people in the backpackers hotel, we're not moving them into a quarantine hotel, because we're quite comfortable with some extra support for that hotel. We can manage all of these people there - we'll just have to work out which of them have been close contacts and which [are] casual, so who needs to remain there and who we can allow to return to their normal lives.
"We still have those other outbreaks that we're managing with large numbers of contacts," she said, adding there were currently 2,000 people in home quarantine in Queensland.
"It's too early for us to relax at this stage, which is why I've asked that masks remain in place for the 11 LGAs (local government areas) for another week," she said.
Updated at 11:02am AEST on 29 July 2021.
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