Man tests positive for Covid after flying from Perth to Melbourne

Mostafa Rachwani
·4 min read
Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP
Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

A Victorian man who flew from Perth to Melbourne has tested positive for Covid-19 after completing his 14 days of quarantine at a hotel in Western Australia.

The man, from Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, returned a positive test result on Friday morning after having stayed in the Mercure hotel in Perth.

The Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, said all passengers on Qantas flight QF778 from Perth to Melbourne were considered close contacts, and would need to isolate for 14 days.

Foley said the man had stayed in a room adjacent to someone who later tested positive, and was told he was a close contact as he landed in Melbourne.

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“He was immediately tested yesterday afternoon and returned the positive result this morning,” Foley said.

“We will be examining the gentleman’s movements, particularly through the airport, where he did wear a mask, as he did on the flight.”

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Foley said that household contacts were being “urgently” tested, and that everyone on the flight would be contacted by Victoria’s contact tracing team.

“We will be examining the gentleman’s movements, particularly at the airport where he did wear a mask, as he did on the flight, as he did on his journey home having been contacted by public health officials as he arrived at the airport.

“If there are exposure sites or further information becomes available, of course our public health team will be sharing that information with the people of Victoria.”

The man’s actions were commended by Foley, who said he had done the “right thing” in his response to being contacted by health authorities in Western Australia.

“He did all of the right things, got his gear, went straight home, sat in the back seat, put his mask on all the way home and stayed separate from the rest of the members of his family members at home.

“He has gone into isolation and our public health team are following through his movements and any primary close contacts on the flight and elsewhere.”

Foley said the man was asymptomatic and had not breached any health orders.

The man had quarantined at the Mercure hotel, where other guests had already contracted the virus from other returned travellers on the same level.

Initially, the Western Australian health department had reported the cases as being acquired overseas, but genome sequencing had shown that the infection had spread inside the hotel.

It comes after the WA premier, Mark McGowan, had on Thursday announced that the Mercure hotel would no longer be used for returned overseas travellers, after an independent review found it to be the least safe option for quarantining travellers.

The review was announced in the wake of WA’s five-day lockdown in January, and looked at the airflow and ventilation in all of the state’s 10 quarantine hotels.

McGowan said that while the hotel quarantine system was “imperfect”, the recommendations made by the review would be implemented “progressively.”

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“Health authorities are doing their best to implement his recommendations and to do it safely,” he said.

“All health authorities and governments are still learning about everything this once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic throws up.”

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McGowan had also called for a reduction in the number of returned overseas travellers coming from India, saying Australia should consider temporarily closing its border to the country.

His recommendations were partially adopted by national cabinet on Thursday, with the prime minister, Scott Morrison, announcing that flights between India and Australia would be reduced by 30%.

The Northern Territory also recorded 13 new cases in hotel quarantine on Friday, all arrivals from India.

In a statement, NT Health said that nine of the arrivals, including a one-year-old girl, were displaying mild symptoms, while the rest were asymptomatic.

The new cases mean the NT has seen 35 positive cases in returned travellers from India.

Friday’s update is the NT’s largest single-day increase throughout the pandemic, and brings the NT’s total number of active internationally acquired cases to 36.