The simple questions Qld Health can’t answer


Authorities admit they still don't know how a mutant COVID strain escaped their controls, as quarantined travellers from the shutdown Hotel Grand Chancellor were dispersed to other hotels throughout Brisbane.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said they were looking at whether the highly-contagious UK strain may have spread through airconditioning as it was revealed a father and daughter returned from Lebanon who had stayed on the same floor as patient-zero had also tested positive, with the cases part of the same cluster.

Despite officials not knowing how the virus has spread, Dr Young said she was not concerned about the new variant spreading to the new hotels that 129 existing Hotel Grand Chancellor guests were yesterday moved to.

People in quarantine at the Hotel Grand Chancellor have been transported by ambulance to other local quarantine hotels. Picture: Tara Croser.
People in quarantine at the Hotel Grand Chancellor have been transported by ambulance to other local quarantine hotels. Picture: Tara Croser.

Authorities are scrambling to track down 250 people who had been released from the hotel since December 30 to put them into 14 days isolation - including people now interstate, on ships and potentially now overseas - while a further 226 workers, including 75 police, were also quarantined.

NSW Health last night called on anyone who had been at the Hotel Grand Chancellor from December 30, but had since returned to their state, to get tested and isolate - regardless of their test result.

A veil of secrecy was yesterday drawn over the quarantine breach as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk's press conference was cut short and follow up questions to Queensland Health were not answered, including whether the government was considering a further lockdown.

Another unanswered question was whether health authorities were confident none of the positive cases at the Grand Chancellor had left their rooms before their positive test results.


Police revealed there was no CCTV available for floor 7, where the outbreak occurred.

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath urged anyone who had any information about any potential breaches at the hotel to come forward and phone PoliceLink.

Dr Young said genome sequencing revealed the father and daughter were linked to the initial case, but authorities still did not know how - with both cases on the same seventh floor, but not neighbouring rooms.

"We just know that in some way it has happened (spread), which is why I've advised the Premier this morning that I think the safest thing to do is to move all of the guests out of that hotel to other hotels immediately," she said.

The Chief Health Officer said there had been cases in other states where there had been transmission between floors, and officials had not been able to work out how.

"Now that we've had two separate transmission events, I think we have to be very cautious and move everyone out," Dr Young said.

An ambulance ferries someone from the Hotel Grand Chancellor to another hotel quarantine. Picture: Tara Croser.
An ambulance ferries someone from the Hotel Grand Chancellor to another hotel quarantine. Picture: Tara Croser.

Ms Palaszczuk said authorities "are now concerned about this cluster" but there was "no need for the public to be concerned".

She said she would urgently be speaking to the country's leaders about hotel quarantine, believing changes were needed to deal with this new strain.

"I think we need to immediately look at the way in which we are handling people coming into the country - international arrivals - and also too, looking at the quarantine hotels that they are going into," she said.

"What we are dealing with here is something that we've never had to deal with before."

The Premier insisted the move to shift the current Grand Chancellor Hotel guests was "precautionary", as she acknowledged it was going to be "tough" on them as they see out more time in quarantine.

Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said they were "prioritising" the investigation, saying: "these things are meticulous".

"Not only are we investigating the actions of any persons that were involved with the Grand Chancellor Hotel who worked there or may have been in quarantine there," he said.

"We are investigating the behaviour of a virus which is new.

"So this is a very difficult thing to do and of course we are being meticulous in our prioritising but we are not rushing it."

Mr Gollschewski said there was no CCTV vision on floor 7 of the Hotel Grand Chancellor for police to review.

LNP health spokeswoman Ros Bates said transferring people out of the Hotel Grand Chancellor was a "step in the right direction".

She said Queenslanders needed certainty around the state's quarantine system.

"How did this happen in the first place?" she said.

"How do we make sure it doesn't happen again and after a snap three-day lockdown, Queenslanders need certainty and clarity to make sure that we have got the best hotel quarantine in the state."

Ms Bates said the government had a responsibility to ensure the state's quarantine system was the best it could be.

Ms Palaszczuk said the Grand Chancellor had not had any issues since September when they started taking in travellers, and that they had co-operated entirely with officials.

No more guests have gone into the hotel since January 7, when the variant was discovered.


Originally published as The simple questions Qld Health can't answer