Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the handful of cases that had been confirmed outside the northern beaches region were linked to that cluster, so she did not need to declare hotspots in other parts of Sydney.
However she warned that the situation was “rapidly changing” as contact tracers worked through all known contacts of the current cases, and thousands of people got tested.
“So while [the Sydney cases] are linked and there isn’t community spread in those localities, they won’t be declared hotspots,” she said.
“But were there to be community spread, as has occurred in the northern beaches, then of course we would look at that and consider whether we needed to make them a hotspot.”
Dr Young said for that reason, people from Queensland should seriously consider the risk in planning trips to Sydney during the summer holidays.
“Just think it through carefully, because if things rapidly escalate in the rest of Sydney, other areas might be declared hotspots and people might end up caught in that process,” she said.
The warning followed the case of a woman from Sydney who travelled to Brisbane while infectious. As a result, authorities are carrying out urgent contact tracing of anyone who was at the Glen Hotel at Eight Mile Plains after 11.30am on Wednesday, December 16.
The hotel was closed and underwent a deep clean on Friday after being alerted to the case by Queensland Health, however it was expected to reopen on Saturday.
The woman, in her 50s, had lunch at the hotel on Wednesday before travelling by hire car to a hotel on the Sunshine Coast, where she spent the night.
She then travelled back to Brisbane for her flight home to Sydney, stopping at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane’s north on the way for a COVID test, after being alerted to the growing Sydney cluster.
Authorities are carrying out contact tracing for the woman’s flight to Brisbane Airport – Virgin flight VA 925 on December 16, arriving at 9.30am.
However, they do not have any major concerns about the Sunshine Coast hotel or the handful of other places where the woman reportedly stopped while travelling.
UQ public health physician and epidemiologist Linda Selvey said that was because there was a much greater risk of spreading the disease at places like restaurants than there was in hotel rooms.
“In those kind of settings, it can be loud, people are talking and eating, and when you talk loudly, you release more aerosols,” Professor Selvey said.
“If someone had limited symptoms, then in that situation you’re not coughing and sneezing all over everything, but if you’re shouting or talking loudly, you can still spread more material.”
Professor Selvey said the incident should serve as a “wake-up call” for people in Queensland that the virus has not gone away and they should still be doing things like social distancing, especially over the Christmas period.
“The key thing that people need to remember is if they have any symptoms at all, even if they’re mild, they should get a test and isolate until they get the result,” she said.
“People living in the vicinity of the Glen Hotel, but also people living anywhere, need to realise it’s still not back to normal, we need to recognise the risks and manage them as best we can.
“It’s up to all of us to take responsibility for that.”
Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.