Airborne transmission ‘almost certainly’ behind outbreak


A group of Australian doctors has written to the Queensland Government calling for "indoor air safety" to form a major part of an investigation into the mysterious Hotel Grand Chancellor coronavirus cluster.

Melbourne-based infectious diseases physician Michelle Ananda-Rajah, one of the signatories to the letter, told the Courier-Mail airborne transmission "is almost certainly behind this".

"Aerosols can linger suspended in poorly ventilated areas for prolonged periods - that's how these large indoor clusters are occurring," she said.

"Our national and state guidelines downplay the importance of aerosol (aka airborne) transmission preferring to stick to droplets and surface contamination as the explanation for disease transmission."

Hotel Grand Chancellor, which has been evacuated after the development of a six-person coronavirus cluster. Photo: Dan Peled.
Hotel Grand Chancellor, which has been evacuated after the development of a six-person coronavirus cluster. Photo: Dan Peled.

Four travellers who were in hotel quarantine on floor seven of the Grand Chancellor are in hospital with the highly contagious UK COVID-19 variant, dubbed B117.

A cleaner who worked at the hotel, and her partner, have also contracted the variant.

Associate Professor Ananda-Rajah, of Monash University, is one of 11 interstate doctors who have written to Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Health Minister Yvette D'Ath asking for hotel quarantine guidelines for air quality to be established.

"We … suggest that guidelines for the measurement of CO2 levels within quarantine facilities be developed," the doctors wrote.


"This simple and objective method will allow for assessment of indoor air safety and help identify potential for aerosol spread of COVID-19 within each facility."

Dr Ananda-Rajah said carbon dioxide monitoring could be used "as a means of monitoring indoor air quality and therefore, reduce the risk of transmission".

The doctors "strongly recommend" the involvement of an aerosol scientist, such as QUT's Lidia Morawska, as well as a heating, ventilation and airconditioning expert and an occupational hygienist to be included as part of the investigation team.

"We believe experts from these three fields have an important role to play in elucidating the cause of viral spread both within the hotel, and in future planning for all hotel quarantine around Australia," the doctors wrote.

Ms Palaszczuk has pledged airconditioning at the Grand Chancellor would be reviewed as part of a joint-police-health investigation into the Grand Chancellor outbreak.

In a statement last night, Queensland Health said: "All possibilities of transmission, including surfaces, are within the scope of the joint review. The whole hotel is part of the investigation."







Originally published as Airborne transmission 'almost certainly' behind hotel outbreak