Health authorities in Queensland and New South Wales are racing to prevent COVID outbreaks after one community case was recorded in each state over recent days.
Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital was put into lockdown on Friday night after a doctor who treated a returned traveller with COVID tested positive.
In Sydney, a security guard who worked at two quarantine hotels returned a positive result yesterday.
Neither state has recorded any further community cases so far, although hundreds of close contacts remain in quarantine. Let’s take a closer look at what’s happened.
The vaccine doesn’t work immediately.
The Sydney security guard had received a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. But this isn’t reason to be concerned about the vaccine’s effectiveness.
Reports indicate the man received his first dose on March 2, and health authorities’ working hypothesis is that he caught the virus during an overnight shift at the Sofitel Wentworth from March 6-7.
Data on the Pfizer vaccine show it only starts to protect 12 days after the first dose. Maximum protection, of course, only comes after the second dose.
So we wouldn’t yet expect this person to be reaping the vaccine’s benefits at the time he was exposed.
It’s possible the first dose may have already conferred some level of protection, and we can hope this person may experience a less severe infection, and be less infectious to other people, than he would have had he not received a single dose days earlier. But we don’t know this will be the case.
We should be more worried about the fact the infected worker was employed at two Sydney quarantine hotels. Reports also indicate he worked a day job in building management.
I’ve previously argued we need to create a model in which hotel quarantine workers only need to work across one site to minimise the risk of transmission.
The Victorian government adopted a recommendation to discourage secondary face-to-face employment for key staff following the hotel quarantine inquiry.
The Queensland case.
The doctor who contracted COVID in Queensland, on the other hand, hadn’t received the vaccine. This has raised the question of why a doctor working with COVID-positive patients — irrefutably on the frontline — hadn’t got the jab yet.
The vaccine rollout is still in its early phases, and we can’t expect everyone in the first group (1a) to have already received the vaccine.
However, where a large number of health-care staff have received at least a first dose, it would have been sensible to have a vaccinated doctor treating COVID-positive patients.
Another hotel quarantine outbreak?
Queensland is also now facing a possible outbreak within hotel quarantine, with genomic sequencing linking a second case in the Hotel Grand Chancellor to the returned traveller we understand passed the virus to the doctor. This second guest tested positive on day 12 of their quarantine.
We don’t yet know for sure whether this second guest picked the virus up in quarantine; investigations are continuing. But we’ve seen the virus spread in hotel quarantine before, most recently at the Holiday Inn, which sent Melbourne into a five-day lockdown.