The quarantine hotel system has proven to be less-than-airtight as a cluster at the Holiday Inn, Airport, in Melbourne grows to eight and experts are pushing for stronger protection for staff. 

South Australia has shuttered its borders to residents of Greater Melbourne overnight in response to a growing outbreak of coronavirus cases linked with the Holiday Inn hotel.

Essential Travellers or those with an exemption, like a returning SA resident, will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and be tested on days 1, 5, and 12; while all others will be prohibited from entering the state.

Eight cases are so far part of the cluster in question at the Airport Holiday Inn, about which SA Chief Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said she was “very concerned”.

Anyone at the hotel on or after Wednesday January 27 is considered a close contact and must also self-quarantine and be tested.

It comes as experts urged quarantine hotels to get outfitted for personal protective equipment (PPE) on par with staff at high-risk COVID hospital wards, as overseas variants of the virus continue to leak into Australia via the accommodation.

While Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told the media on Wednesday there was a “working hypothesis” for how a UK variant had mange to spread in the hotel, it’s believed to be due to a nebuliser he used to treat his asthma.

“[A nebuliser] vaporises medication or liquid into a fine mist and especially when it is used as medication and someone is infectious or later tests positive, that virus mist can be suspended in the air,” Professor Sutton said.

“Fit-tested N95 respirators should … be mandated for all workers and are the minimum level of respiratory protection required for the virus in those facilities,” President-elect of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists Kate Cole told The Age.

“But what underpins all of this is that we need to recognise the importance of aerosol spread or airborne transmission because until we do that these outbreaks are going to continue to happen.”

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