Returned Australians are furious after being forced to spend another 14 days in quarantine after a mystery Covid cluster was linked to their Brisbane hotel.
Almost 130 returned travellers at the Hotel Grand Chancellor were told they were being moved out on Wednesday and must restart their two weeks isolation.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she held grave concerns about the hotel cluster after six people – four quarantining guests, a cleaner and her partner – contracted the highly-contagious UK strain of coronavirus.
Travellers who were just hours away from being allowed back into the community say they feel like prisoners trapped in a jail.
Others are angry at being forced to spend another night in the Covid cluster hotel before being moved to a different venue despite authorities being on high alert.
Returned Australian Jamie Large (pictured) is one of almost 130 people who are being evacuated from the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane due to a Covid cluster. He is pictured in the hotel waiting to be moved out
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she held grave concerns about the Hotel Grand Chancellor (pictured) cluster, which has grown to six cases of the highly-contagious UK strain of coronavirus
Returned travellers staying at the hotel took to social media to vent their fury over the way the situation was being handled
Paul Atta, who was due to released on Friday after arriving back from Canada, said he was told he may not even get to his new hotel until sometime on Thursday.
‘If this hotel is as dangerous as they say, then why am I and others being made to stay another night – and on top of that expected to eat food prepared in the infected hotel,’ Mr Atta posted on Facebook.
‘Who’s in charge here? This is madness.
‘I haven’t even been tested today due to an error. Are you kidding me? You can’t even get the testing correct.’
Jamie Large was on day 12 of his quarantine when he received the letter under the door at breakfast informing him he had to be evacuated out.
He arrived back in Australia having had two flights cancelled and spending $6,500 on airfares.
‘I feel like a prisoner. I don’t know how I’m going to get through another two weeks,’ Mr Large told Daily Mail Australia.
‘No one’s telling me anything. Imagine if this happens at the new hotel, then I have to do another two weeks.’
Mr Large, who was on Day 12 of his two weeks quarantine, said he was unsure how he was going to cope with another round of quarantine
Returned Australians were provided with a letter informing them they were being moved out of the Hotel Grand Chancellor
Mr Large, who was staying on the ninth floor, said he was told he would be moved out after dinner, dashing hopes of being reunited with family this weekend.
‘I woke up this morning all excited. Then I got the note – it was like a slap in the face,’ he said.
Mr Large said the prospect of doing two weeks quarantine again was difficult to process.
‘I’m not looking forward to it, especially if I don’t get a balcony for fresh air because I had a balcony here. If I don’t get fresh air I think I’ll go insane,’ he said.
Mr Large said he believed the authorities could have done a better job of communicating with the returned travellers.
‘I feel like because all my tests were negative, why do I have to do another two weeks? It seems very unfair,’ he said.
‘The people who tested positive should have been moved out… instead of making us do another two weeks.’
Another quarantined traveller, Umair Ahsan, was just about to finish his quarantine when he was delivered the news he would have to go through it all again.
Mr Ahsan said he was supposed to leave on Tuesday night and had his friend downstairs to pick him up.
‘It feels like a jail now. We need to do another quarantine in another hotel,’ Mr Ahsan told news.com.au on Wednesday.
About 600 people have been forced into quarantine due to the Hotel Grand Chancellor cluster. Pictured are paramedics at the Brisbane hotel on Wednesday
Six cases of the highly-contagious UK strain of coronavirus have been detected at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane. Pictured is a quarantined guest at the hotel on Wednesday
Mr Ahsan said the situation was ‘very tough’ because despite doing ‘everything right… you have to face another quarantine’.
The returned travellers were being transferred to alternative accommodation after the two guests staying on the same floor mysteriously caught the virus strain.
Some 226 employees who have worked at the hotel since December 30 must also be quarantined and tested.
An additional 250 guests who have left quarantine since December 30 and remain in Queensland are being contacted as they must undergo another 14 days of hotel quarantine.
‘We now are concerned about this cluster,’ Ms Palaszczuk said on Wednesday, apologising to those affected but stressing it was necessary.
Guests at the Hotel Grand Chancellor will be moved to other hotels in Brisbane after the coronavirus cluster grew to six cases. Pictured is two guests on their balcony at Hotel Grand Chancellor on Wednesday
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (pictured on Wednesday) expressed concern about the hotel cluster, despite the state recording no new locally-acquired cases
‘What we are dealing with here is something that we’ve never had to deal with before.
‘This is a new highly infectious strain. We do not want to see this getting out into the community and that’s why we have taken these precautionary steps today in the interests of the public safety.
‘This is of concern, it is of national concern. Everybody needs to be on higher alert with this particular strain.’
The six cases from the hotel cluster were linked by genomic sequencing.
‘That is new information – we received the results of the last test at 10.30pm last night – but it’s information we must act on,’ Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said.
The Hotel Grand Chancellor cases
• A man aged in his 30s who arrived from the UK on December 30.
• His partner – a woman in her 30s who arrived from the UK on December 30.
• A hotel cleaner in her 20s.
• Her partner – a man in his 20s.
• A man in his 40s who arrived from Lebanon on January 1.
• His daughter – a woman in her 20s, who arrived on January 1.
‘This morning we are putting in place a range of extra measures for people associated with quarantine in this hotel to help reduce any risk of spread.’
Health authorities are still scrambling to work out how a hotel cleaner contracted the virus from a man in quarantine who had returned from Britain.
The woman’s later movements in Brisbane triggered a citywide three-day lockdown, which ended Monday night.
Dr Young said all defence force, police and maritime safety staff who were posted at the hotel were being contacted, including those who may have left Australia.
‘We’ve immediately worked through the night to sort all that and have that process start first thing this morning, so it’s in place,’ she said.
‘So we need to just find all those people and test them.’
She emphasised there was nothing to suggest that the hotel or any of its staff have done anything wrong.
No new guests have entered the Hotel Grand Chancellor since January 7.
‘I want to compliment hotel management for their level of cooperation,’ Dr Young said.
‘It’s important we understand the link. It’s a mystery we need to solve.’
The returned travellers will not have to pay for their quarantine.
The concerning cluster has prompted both NSW and Victoria to urge anyone who had been at the hotel since December 30, either as a returned traveller or staff, but has since crossed back over the border, to get tested and isolate for 14 days.