Health authorities are racing to identify the source of infection of a security guard who has tested positive for coronavirus.
The positive case breaks NSW’s 55-day streak of no locally acquired coronavirus cases.
The 47-year-old works mostly weekends at the Sofitel Wentworth in Sydney’s CBD and the Mantra Sydney Central hotel in Haymarket.
Under the state’s routine surveillance of quarantine staff, workers are tested after each shift.
The man tested positive on Saturday night after testing as part of that scheme, and a second test confirmed the result yesterday.
The man had previously tested negative following his most recent shifts on March 5 and 6 and had reported having no symptoms.
NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said the “working hypothesis” was that he had been infected by a positive case in quarantine at the Sofitel between 7:00pm on March 6 and 7:00am on March 7.
“What we have done as a precaution is reached out again to the workers that were at that hotel at that time because, if this person was exposed, we are obviously thinking could anyone else have been exposed,” Dr Chant said.
Urgent genomic sequencing is underway in an attempt to find links between the worker and a positive overseas case, with results expected late tonight or early tomorrow.
About 130 people who worked with the guard between 7:00pm on Friday March 12 to 7:00am on Saturday March 13 are self-isolating and getting tested.
“That allows us time to work through and ascertain the nature of interaction that this security guard would have had to those quarantine workers,” Dr Chant said.
Contact tracing is also underway to identify anyone who has been in contact with the security guard since March 8.
His immediate household contacts are now in isolation and have been tested, with results so far coming back negative.
The security guard also works at another venue but Dr Chant said he mostly remained in an office in that role and work was underway to determine the level of risk involved.
NSW Health has issued an alert for Pancakes on the Rocks, Beverley Hills, on Saturday March 13 from 10:45am to midday.
Anyone who was at the restaurant is deemed a close contact. They are urged to get tested immediately and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result.
On the week from Monday, March 8, until Friday, March 12, the security guard visited venues deemed to be “low risk” at this stage in Bexley North, Haymarket and Hurstville.
The man also caught a train from Hurstville to the city, arriving at 6:30pm on Friday March 12 and and city to Hurstville, leaving at 7:00am on Saturday March 13.
Late on Sunday evening, the Victorian Department of Health announced it was contacting all arrivals to Victoria from Sydney since March 13.
It said anyone who visited the Beverley Hills pancake cafe at the designated time was considered a close contact and is required to quarantine for 14 days.
Guard was due to receive second Pfizer vaccine this week
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the guard received his first Pfizer vaccine jab on March 2 and was due to receive the second dose this week.
“[This is] obviously good news, but you should be aware the antibody reaction required from vaccination doesn’t get confirmed or doesn’t achieve its maximum [until] some time after the first and second vaccination,” he said.
“As we have said all along, vaccination helps but it does not necessarily stop you getting the virus.”
The Pfizer vaccine is administered as two shots, spaced at least three weeks apart.
Dr Chant said the guard’s immune system was unlikely to kick in for 12 to 14 days, or potentially longer, with the second dose designed to boost the immune response.
“While we are still learning how the vaccines impacted transmission, what we would hope for … is if you are vaccinated, you probably don’t have such a high viral load, you are protected against severe illness,” she said.
“Your viral load may well be lower and, therefore, it will potentially stop you transmitting it to the same degree. But a lot of this work is still being looked at and the science is being worked through as we literally speak.”
Mr Hazzard said he was “relatively relaxed” despite the positive case.
“He has been out and about, but not excessively,” Mr Hazzard said.
“I am relatively relaxed today, knowing we have the systems in place that we have, and I am also relaxed about the fact that the testing did its job, picked up the gentleman.”
NSW Police, which runs the hotel quarantine program, said it was working with NSW Health to ensure close contacts were tested, monitored and remained in isolation.
“As part of these inquiries, NSW Police will assist health investigators by reviewing CCTV, conducting interviews and analysing rosters,” it said in a statement.
“We remain committed to working hard to use every mechanism possible to protect the community and ensure their ongoing safety from COVID-19.”
More than 136,000 people have undergone 14-day hotel quarantine since it began in March 2020.
Police said more than 255,000 police and security shifts had been worked during the quarantine program.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison received his second shot in Sydney.
Referring to the positive NSW case, he stressed the importance of people being COVID-safe, particularly while the vaccination program was still being rolled out.
‘This is an important point: The [effectiveness of the] vaccination is not immediate,” Mr Morrison said.
“I have had my second dose and it does take a while.
“You should still try to observe the COVID-safe behaviours — I’m wearing a mask today.”
Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the vaccine was not fully effective until weeks after the second dose had been administered.
“There is a time lag of getting that vaccine and the protection kicking in of a few weeks, and as you get the second dose — particularly with the Pfizer vaccine — that protection increases,” he said.
Professor Kelly said the Pfizer vaccine was “very effective, but not 100 per cent effective” against mild and moderate disease, but it was almost 100 per cent effective against severe disease, hospitalisation and death.
The positive case was reported after 8:00pm last night and it will be recorded in tomorrow’s COVID-19 figures.
No new locally acquired cases were reported to 8:00pm last night.
Three new cases were acquired overseas, bringing the total number of cases in NSW since the pandemic began to 5,048.
There were 9,269 tests conducted in the latest reporting period.
The positive NSW quarantine worker case comes after a Queensland doctor tested positive to COVID-19 after treating returned overseas travellers in Brisbane.
NSW Health is continuing to advise anyone who has arrived in NSW from Queensland after March 11 to check the Queensland Health website for advice and to determine if they have visited any of the affected venues.
Anyone in NSW who has visited those venues is advised to self-isolate and call NSW Health. Anyone else who has been in Brisbane, Ipswich, Logan, Moreton Bay and Redland is advised to monitor for symptoms and get tested if they appear.