Covid mutant scare as quarantine nurse and ambulance driver come into contact with an elderly Covid-19 patient back from the UK – plunging three into quarantine and putting Australia on high alert
- An elderly woman from the UK arrived in Australia on January 2 with COVID-19
- A nurse, paramedic, and third person had contact with woman and are isolating
- Testing is underway to determine is the case has a new strain rampant in the UK
- Woman was transferred to Royal Perth Hospital where she is in stable condition
The woman, in her 80s, arrived from the UK on January 2 already showing symptoms of the virus and subsequently tested positive.
Genomic testing is underway but it is not yet known if she has the more virulent strain which has caused havoc in Britain.
Travellers arriving from the UK may have to undergo a pre-flight coronavirus test before entering Australia. Pictured is a healthcare worker with travellers at Melbourne Airport
Members of the public queue outside a Covid-19 testing centre at the Royal Perth Hospital in Perth on December 18
The woman was initially placed in hotel quarantine, but her condition required a transfer to the Royal Perth Hospital on Tuesday where she is now considered stable.
Health officials say when the woman first required medical assistance a nurse responded while not wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE), in breach of protocols.
The second breach occurred when a St John Ambulance officer not wearing PPE was less than 1.5 metres from the woman as she was transferred into an ambulance.
A review of CCTV footage at Perth Airport subsequently found a third person had also gone to the aid of the woman when she first arrived.
That person has returned a negative test for the virus so far and remains in isolation.
People in Perth at a COVID-19 testing clinic at Royal Perth Hospital in December (pictured)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called a special national cabinet meeting of state and territory leaders and chief ministers this Friday to discuss new protocols for UK travelers.
Passengers travelling from the UK and other COVID-19 hotspots are expected to undergo mandatory pre-flight coronavirus tests before they even step on the plane in an effort to prevent a highly contagious new strain from gaining a foothold in Australia.
Health chiefs will also consider a travel ban for UK and South Africa but is unlikely to get the green light amid fears thousands of Australians stranded overseas and desperate to return home will unable to do so.
Scientists fear the new mutated UK strain is between 50 per cent and 74 per cent more infectious than the original virus.
A deserted Regent Street in London on Tuesday as millions more worked from home again and schools all shut for seven weeks amid a third national lockdown
The strain has spiralled out of control in the UK, where infections reached a record 61,000 new daily cases on Tuesday, giving the nation’s prime minister Boris Johnson ‘no choice’ but to impose a brutal third national lockdown.
State Health Incident Coordination Centre Incident Controller Robyn Lawrence said processes were put into place immediately following the WA breaches to protect the health of the community.
‘The health and safety of the WA community is the number one priority of the state, and any breach of process is unacceptable,’ Dr Lawrence said.
‘I want to reassure people that public health acted immediately, and both people (the nurse and the paramedic) were placed into quarantine before the virus could incubate or be transmitted to other people.’
Dr Lawrence said the low numbers of COVID-19 in WA were no excuse for complacency and breaches could lead to community transmission.
Perth has managed to keep the virus out of the state courtesy of strict closed borders and hotel quarantine (pictured a testing clinic in Perth in December)
The woman’s case came after WA officials confirmed earlier this week that three people who also spent time in hotel quarantine in Perth had subsequently been found to have had the more transmissible UK COVID-19 strain.
They have since recovered and been released from isolation.
In light of the current circumstances, Premier Mark McGowan said he would support a ban on Australians returning from the UK if that was recommended by health officials and proposed by the federal government.
‘The federal government controls international borders. So it’s really up to them as to whether or not they wish to do it,’ he said.
‘Obviously it’s a pretty extreme measure. But if the health advisors told us we needed to do that well then that’s what we should do.’