Concerns Qatar Airways passengers in Queensland quarantine contracted COVID-19 via ‘superspreader’



Queensland’s Chief Health Officer says she holds concerns for six passengers who travelled on a Qatar Airways flight who may have contracted COVID-19 from a “superspreader”.

Dr Jeannette Young said three passengers from the international flight QR898, that arrived into Queensland from Doha last month, have tested positive for the Russian variant, out of the six recorded COVID-19 cases onboard.

She said she was not worried about the Russian variant of the virus because “it’s not a particularly contagious or problematic variant”.

“The problem isn’t the variant, it’s the one individual,” Dr Young said.

“We know through this pandemic we have had instances of superspreaders. I’m concerned this individual is a superspreader.

“We’ve had plenty throughout the pandemic, we had one individual who managed to spread it in a few hours to 40 other people for instance.

“So we’ve had them all along from day one. We still don’t understand why one person spreads the virus to someone else, or to many other people and other don’t.”

Dr Young said the virus was likely to have spread on the Qatar Airways flight and possibly at the hotel.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young speaks to the media in Brisbane on January 14, 2021.
Dr Jeannette Young says anyone on the eighth floor of the Mercure Hotel must get tested and isolate.(AAP: Darren England)

“There’s now six cases, so one of the people transited to New Zealand, then another person tested positive who would have had it at the time they were on the plane.

“Now they’ve then given it to two other people at least, one of them we’re confident happened on the plane but the other one I’m not as confident.

“It could have happened, unlikely, but it could have happened in the hotel because this person was in the room next to the person who was positive.”

Dr Young said she was asking eight people on floor eight of the hotel to be tested and isolate until they had a result.

Seven cases recorded in hotel quarantine

It comes as Queensland recorded no new locally transmitted cases of coronavirus overnight, but seven cases were detected in hotel quarantine from overseas travellers.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said two of those cases were linked to a man who was a passenger on the Qatar Airways flight and tested positive.

She said another five were on a chartered flight from Ok Tedi Mine in Papua New Guinea.

“We are concerned about the number of positives we’re seeing coming in on those chartered flights from the mine in Papua New Guinea,” she said.

“We have been advised the mine has suspended these flights for the next two weeks, and we welcome this announced to ensure we don’t have an abundance of cases coming in.”

Ms D’Ath said out of the 74 passengers on the Qatar Airways flight, six people had since tested positive for COVID-19.

She said as a precaution, eight people who had been quarantining at the Mercure Hotel in Brisbane on floor eight and had since left would be required to get tested and isolate.

“As two of these cases were in rooms next to each other in the Mercure Hotel, we are asking for the eight individuals who have left between the 18th and 21st of February to get tested and to isolate themselves until they get their results,” she said.

“For a number of them, their 14 days will be today or tomorrow but we just want them to get tested and quarantine until we get their results.”

Quarantine extended hours from release

Juan Pufleau and his partner travelled from Canada to Brisbane on the Qatar Airways flight.

They were four hours away from finishing their quarantine period on Wednesday when they were told it had been extended until Monday.

A man in a mash on a plane.
Juan Pufleau travelled on the Qatar Airways flight and is now in hotel quarantine in Brisbane.(Supplied)

“It was disappointing because you are building up your whole experience, your whole 14 days towards thinking ‘this is day seven, how many more to go?'” he said.

“Then you have your last sleep and you think it’s the last night.

“If they knew there was a test somebody didn’t pass and there was a new strain, then why did they give us release papers and withdraw them at the last minute?”

Mr Pufleau said apart from the lack of fresh air, he was not worried about the virus spreading at the Mercure Hotel in Brisbane.

“We have a window but it doesn’t open so we don’t have fresh air at all — that’s the hard part,” Mr Pufleau said.

“Fresh air also has an impact on the possibility of cross-contamination room to room … but it looks like it’s happened on a different floor so I’m not really too concerned about the cross-contamination inside the hotel.”

Mr Pufleau said he and his partner was looking forward to returning home to Melbourne to see his two children on March 8 when they are released.

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