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Flight attendant contracts Alpha variant during hotel quarantine in Brisbane

written by Hannah Dowling | June 21, 2021
An Emirates Boeing 777-300ER at Brisbane Airport. (Rob Finlayson)
An Emirates Boeing 777-300ER at Brisbane Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

An international flight attendant that tested positive to COVID-19 in Brisbane over the weekend is said to have contracted the virus from another flight attendant while both completed their mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The 30-year-old woman flew from Portugal to Brisbane on an Emirates flight on 5 June, where she then entered into mandatory 14-day quarantine.

During her quarantine, she returned a negative COVID result three times in total – on day zero, day five and day 12, before she was released.

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Queensland chief health officer Jennette Young said the flight attendant tested positive for the Alpha variant of COVID-19 on her second day out of quarantine, during a routine COVID test for cabin crew.

“[The Alpha variant] is contagious but it’s not as contagious as the Delta variant that we’re now seeing circulate through parts of Sydney, so that is good news,” Dr Young said.

Dr Young said genomic sequencing shows the case was contracted from another flight attendant, also undergoing hotel quarantine, however authorities are still investigating exactly how the two cabin crew had contact with each other, given they were staying on different floors of the hotel.

“She acquired her infection from another cabin crew member who was in quarantine at the Four Points Hotel,” Dr Young said.

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“We now have the genome sequence back and it clearly shows it is exactly the same as another person’s genome sequence who was also in that crew hotel at Four Points.

“We’re just working out how that transmission occurred but there is no doubt she has acquired it in the hotel or at some point when she has come in contact with that person.

“That person was not on that Emirates flight, they were on a totally different flight into Australia.”

The woman had visited a number of locations around Brisbane before she returned the positive results, including Brisbane DFO, the CBD and a restaurant.

The news comes just days after NSW reported two new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, linked to a 60-year-old driver who regularly transports international aircrew, pulse a household contact of this case.

The cases, located in Bondi in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, were the state’s first in more than 40 days.

The driver, an Eastern Suburbs resident, is said to have returned a positive saliva test last Tuesday, which was then confirmed by a secondary PCR test the following day, according to NSW Health.

Health authorities confirmed late on Wednesday that a household contact on this case had also returned a positive result.

The state health body said neither the driver, nor his household contact, had been overseas recently, but the man is known to regularly transport international aircrew to hotel quarantine in his role as a driver.

Despite being considered a frontline worker for the hotel quarantine system, the man has not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The cluster started by this case in NSW has now grown to 11.

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