NSW records zero local COVID-19 cases following hotel security guard infection

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NSW Health has added a leisure centre in Sydney’s south to a list of places visited by a security guard, now confirmed to have contracted the more infectious UK strain.

Visitors to the Hurstville Aquatic Leisure Centre’s stadium and gymnasium area on Wednesday, March 10, from 4:15pm to 5:30pm, should immediately seek testing and isolate if COVID-19 symptoms occur.

NSW Health also updated advice about the Coles in Hurstville train station, now asking shoppers to monitor for symptoms if they visited Saturday, March 13 from 7:30am to 7:40am or Wednesday, March 10 from 9:15pm to 9:46pm.

Earlier, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed there had been no locally acquired COVID-19 cases a day after it was revealed a security guard who worked at two Sydney quarantine hotels tested positive.

The Premier said she was concerned the security guard who worked at the Mantra Sydney Central and the Sofitel Wentworth had acquired the virus but not surprised.

“Pleasingly to date there is no evidence of widespread transmission but of course we know how dangerous the various strains of the virus can be so [NSW] Health is doing everything they can to make sure we stay on top of it,” she said.

Chief health officer Kerry Chant said genomic sequencing had revealed the man had the same UK strain of the virus as an infected traveller staying on the 11th floor of the Sofitel.

Dr Chant said it was unclear how the security guard contracted the virus, given the returned traveller had not even opened their hotel door while the guard was on shift between 7:00pm on March 12 to 7:00am on March 13.

“This investigation has some uncertainties as to the exact mechanism of transmission and obviously I’d be a lot more comfortable if I knew that specifically so we are keeping our options open and exploring a range of possibilities,” Dr Chant said.

The man’s co-workers at the Sofitel and Mantra must get tested as health authorities want to rule out the possibility that a colleague passed the virus on to the guard, Dr Chant said.

Outside of a hotel
The security guard worked shifts at Mantra Sydney Central.(ABC News: Joel Carrett)

She said CCTV in the hotel showed the guard had demonstrated “exemplary” adherence to all health procedures while working and was wearing a face mask for the entire shift.

All travellers staying on the 11th floor of the Sofitel were re-tested on Monday and must remain in quarantine until March 23.

The security guard had received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine before becoming infected and Dr Chant said blood tests on Sunday showed his body had already had some response to the vaccine.

As well as working in the hotel quarantine program, the 47-year-old security guard worked in a building management role at the Highpoint Apartment Towers at Hurstville in Sydney’s south.

“But I would want to assure residents that this gentleman did not have any close or casual contact with any residents in that apartment complex,” Dr Chant said.

As the man was not symptomatic, he attended six venues while unknowingly infectious.

Only one venue, Pancakes on The Rocks in Beverley Hills, has identified close contacts though, with about 40 people (both customers and staff) needing to isolate for 14 days.

Health departments in Victoria, Western Australia, Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania have issued alerts in response to the new case in Sydney but Ms Berejiklian has pleaded for caution around any changes to border controls.

“I would urge all state governments to give us a chance to demonstrate out capacity to get on top of this,” she said.

Ms Berejiklian said more than 8,000 people were tested for COVID-19 in NSW on Sunday.

“If we are going to give our citizens the opportunity to have a normal existence during COVID we need to make sure we change the way we think about it and that’s why I urge everyone to be patient … and not take those drastic measures because it just dashes confidence when people cant rely on borders staying open.”

The Premier says there is no reason to tighten any COVID-19 restrictions in NSW at this time but admits the “situation is evolving”.

Two weeks ago Ms Berejiklian flagged a relaxation of restrictions around standing and drinking outdoors by March 17 barring any new outbreaks in the state.

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Can vaccinated people still transmit the virus?

NSW has reached its vaccination rollout targets with about 37,500 people being jabbed in the first three weeks.

About 35,000 of those people, mostly frontline workers involved in hotel quarantine, received the Pfizer vaccine, and the rest the AstraZeneca.

Ms Berejiklian said the rollout will now ramp up.

“We are aiming to have 80,000 jabs take place in NSW in the next three weeks, of that 35,000 will be the second of the first jab,” she said.

The Pfizer vaccine is administered in two doses, at least three weeks apart.

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