How did coronavirus spread from a hotel surface to Adelaide’s northern suburbs?
Contracting coronavirus via a surface is considered somewhat rare, but it’s exactly what seems to have sparked a cluster in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.
Now, as SA plunges into the toughest restrictions it’s had all year, tracing how the virus spread is critical.
The chain of events so far
SA Health was first notified of a community case on November 14 when an 80-year-old woman who presented to the Lyell McEwin emergency department tested positive.
She was tested on Saturday night, and her test result came back positive in the early hours of Sunday morning.
A woman in her 50s and a man in his 60s then tested positive. One of them is the elderly woman’s child.
The fourth case, a close family contact of one of the earlier cases, works at Yatala Labour Prison in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.
By Monday, the number of positive cases had ballooned to 17 — all close contacts of the woman and her family.
Health authorities confirmed the cluster started with a cleaner who worked at the Peppers Waymouth medi-hotel, in Adelaide’s CBD.
They said she was a close contact of the elderly woman, and contracted COVID-19 “via a surface”. They maintained she did not come into contact with any hotel guests.
On Tuesday, the total number of cases was 20. By Wednesday, it had climbed to 23.
‘Small but critical’ increase
South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier, said Wednesday’s new cases represented a “small but critical” increase.
“The one case that we received information about yesterday at midday was about a young man who works at a medi-hotel, but it was not Peppers, where our other three cases have been,” Professor Spurrier said.
“It was at the Stamford Hotel and this person worked in the kitchen.
“Last night we figured out the link.”
It turns out the Peppers Hotel security guard also held a part-time job at the Woodville Pizza Bar, Professor Spurrier said.
The Stamford Plaza hotel worker then attended the shop to buy a pizza — but the two men did not cross paths at the shop.
SA Health said it believed another employee at the pizza shop was a close contact of both hotel workers, but further genomic testing is required.
That takes the total number of confirmed cases linked to the shop to three.
SA Health authorities are urging anyone who went to, or ordered takeaway from the Woodville Pizza Bar between November 6-16, to immediately self-quarantine and get tested for coronavirus.
Health authorities doing ‘exactly the right thing’
Professor Spurrier said the particular strain of coronavirus in question is breeding “very, very rapidly” with a short incubation period of about 24 hours, and with infected people showing only minimal symptoms.
She said the state’s six-day shutdown would act as a “circuit breaker”.
The Chair of Epidemiology at Deakin University, Catherine Bennett, praised SA Health’s cautious approach.
“They’re treating everyone with great caution, so if anyone has even the smallest risk of being infected, they’re being treated as close contacts.
“Trying to get ahead of the virus by finding people who might have been infected by tracking them down and testing them early, that’s how you get on top of it.”
Professor Bennett said good hand hygiene and socially distancing were the “first line of protection”.
“This is a message not just for Adelaide, but for all of Australia,” she said.