Hotel staff negative for COVID, 40 others taken off duty

The health scare proves the ongoing hazards that quarantine workers face

Hotel staff negative for COVID, 40 others taken off duty

The false-positive COVID-19 test results of a nurse and police officer working at a Melbourne quarantine hotel have raised concerns about the ongoing hazards that quarantine workers face.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the first two employees later proved to be negative for COVID-19, based on subsequent saliva swab and nasal PCR tests.

However, the health scare caused at least 40 other workers to be stood down as they await their own test results.

Read more: Restrictions set to ease in Melbourne as workers prepare for office return

“Contact tracing was undertaken and staff isolated as a precaution until the result was confirmed,” Victoria’s Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville announced on Twitter.

“Saliva tests are very reliable with negative results, but can return occasional false positives. The staff were asymptomatic with results picked up during [a] strict daily testing regime,” Neville said.

The nurse was reportedly assigned to take the temperature of newly arrived guests, and wore personal protective gear from head to foot throughout her duty. Meanwhile, the police officer made the rounds as a floor monitor. Co-workers currently placed in isolation include:

  • 33 nurses
  • 4 police officers
  • 3 members of the cleaning staff

The decision to quarantine the employees comes as a precaution, as Victoria fights to keep communities COVID-safe.

The Melbourne hotel serves as an isolation centre for COVID-positive travellers. Specialists from the Health Department have inspected the site where the employees worked and ordered certain areas sanitised, The Age reported.

Read more: Should vaccine be mandatory in these sectors?

Quarantine hotels are considered a “hot spot” in the battle against COVID-19. Infections passed on from guests to security personnel allegedly triggered the spike in cases in Victoria, forcing officials to declare a hard lockdown around the second half of 2020.

One of Australia’s most well-known epidemiology experts Dr. Tony Blakely recently called for all quarantine hotel workers to be vaccinated first before the government allows international travellers back into the country.

Without special immunisation efforts for hotel frontliners, officials would have to shut down borders immediately to prevent the further spread of new strains, Dr. Blakely suggested.

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