Fears about a cluster of Covid-19 cases spreading within a Brisbane quarantine hotel have forced dozens more people into isolation across Australia, as the Queensland government considers using regional mining camps to house returned travellers.
People in New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria who quarantined in the Hotel Grand Chancellor but had since travelled interstate were ordered to isolate and be tested, as Queensland authorities moved 129 people from the hotel to new accommodation, where they will have to restart their 14-day quarantine period.
Six people with the UK variant of Covid-19 have been linked to the seventh floor of the hotel but it remains unclear how the infection spread through the group.
There were no new locally acquired cases recorded in Australia on Thursday.
The Hotel Grand Chancellor outbreak sparked a three-day lockdown of Brisbane that ended on Monday without any locally acquired cases being recorded.
The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said she would discuss a proposal with the federal government and at national cabinet next week to use mining camps as quarantine facilities for returned travellers in the state, and possibly around the country.
She said the camps could accommodate travellers as well as medical staff and cleaners, reducing the likelihood of Covid-19 spreading to the community.
“We are going to look at all options and one of those options is to look at some of the mining camps that we have in Queensland. Now, for a start, some of these mining camps are four-star. They are of a very … high standard.
“It’s a matter for states and territories, but I think with this new strain, we have to put all options on the table and these are sensible, rational options.”
In NSW, health minister Brad Hazzard said the government had considered multiple different options for hotel quarantine, but were comfortable with their current arrangements.
He said locating the hotels in regional areas would be impractical, given thousands of staff work in NSW quarantine facilities each day, and that people who fell acutely ill from Covid-19 needed to have access to the best medical care, which was located in Sydney.
Hazzard also said those who continued to ignore mask laws implemented in Sydney last week would have “full weight of the law thrown at them”.
“We’re all in this together,” he said.
“For heaven’s sake, individuals who think they cannot wear a mask are kidding themselves. Wear the damn mask is the message.”
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said mask restrictions in the state would be eased from midnight Sunday, in line with plans to reintroduce working from offices in the state.
Fifty per cent of office workers who are not in the public service can return to on-site work from Monday, and 25% of public service workers can return.
Masks will only have to be worn in hospitals, on flights and in airports, on public transport and taxis or rideshare vehicles, and in supermarkets, indoor markets, and shopping centres or large retail stores.
The first flights of tennis players arriving for the Australian Open touched down in Melbourne on Thursday, with the government repeating its strong messaging of zero tolerance for those who did not adhere with strong quarantine standards.
But tennis officials were forced to defend a decision to allow American tennis player Tennys Sandgren to board one of its charter flights after he tested positive to coronavirus, saying that Sandgren was considered to be shedding the virus from an earlier infection, and was not contagious.