8 February 2021

Extended hotel quarantine unlikely despite a traveller testing positive post-quarantine

| Dominic Giannini
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Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says an extension of the hotel quarantine period is unlikely despite a returned traveller testing positive on day 16. Photo: Region Media.

An extension of hotel quarantine for returned travellers on today’s repatriation flight is unlikely despite a Wollongong resident testing positive for the virus on day 16, two days after leaving quarantine, ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has confirmed.

A NSW Health spokesperson said that investigations suggest the infection was likely acquired overseas and that “there is no indication at this stage that there was transmission in the hotel quarantine setting”.

Around 160 Australians will land in Canberra this afternoon (8 February) from India on one of 20 repatriation flights the Australian Government is coordinating on top of the international arrivals cap.

All passengers had to return a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before boarding the plane and are tested on the first day of quarantine and again between day 10 to 12.

People who do not agree to take a test before exiting quarantine must quarantine for an additional 10 days.

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Ms Stephen-Smith said that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) is discussing the case in today’s meeting, but that the risk remains low due to the number of tests being conducted throughout the repatriation process.

“Overall, that is more than 14 days from the [first test to the] time that they leave quarantine, so I do not think we will be looking at automatically lengthening the period of time for people in quarantine,” she said.

“AHPPC will be talking about the value of day 16 testing, but we certainly want to remind everyone who has returned from overseas, even if they have left quarantine, that if they are at all symptomatic go and get tested.”

NSW recommends that returned travellers get tested on day 16 after leaving quarantine but the measure is not compulsory.

Workers looking after the returned travellers during their hotel quarantine at the Pacific Suites on Northbourne Avenue will now have to undergo daily saliva testing for the virus.

A weekly nasal swab, which is more accurate, will still be conducted.

The ACT is expected to take a second repatriation flight in March.

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