Post-quarantine Covid tests considered in Australia

Both New Zealand and Australia are facing issues in quarantine hotels after people in isolation tested negative before leaving but became infected with COVID-19 on their way out.

The situation has prompted some Australian authorities to recommend recently quarantined people to do follow-up tests two days after leaving, with other states considering doing the same. 

Samoa Government authorities have not responded to queries from the Samoa Observer on whether they are considering going down the same path of follow-up tests following the completion of quarantine. 

New Zealand has recorded three positive cases in the community stemming from an infection likely caught in the Pullman Hotel in Auckland. All have been in isolation and have since recovered, with no further community transmission as a result. 

The hotel is no longer being used for quarantine until a review is completed. 

And in Australia, Melbourne Airport’s Holiday Inn is the centre of suspected transmission, with two workers and a traveller testing positive this week.

The traveller tested positive two days after leaving her 14-day stint. She had sought a test after hearing a worker at the Holiday Inn tested positive on Sunday. 

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said authorities believed the virus was spreading within the hotel quarantine system and the traveller had become infected "just before" the end of her stay.

He said he expects there will be a nationwide review on boosting quarantine systems in hotels,  and suggested extra testing after leaving quarantine could be a good practice.

The Guardian reports New South Wales began day 16 tests this weekend, with Victoria and South Australia keen to follow suit. 

N.S.W. now phones all travellers two days after their quarantine period ends and encourages them to get tested at their closest testing clinic. There is no requirement to isolate in the meantime, or while waiting for the result.

The National Emergency Operations Centre did not respond to an emailed request for comment on whether additional tests would suit Samoa’s COVID-19 response.

The Samoa Observer understands people are tested on the fifth and fourteenth day of quarantine, and in the case of a three-week quarantine stint they are tested again at the end of the third week. 

Samoa has been extremely vigilant in who is let back into the country, restricting travel from hotspot countries for much of 2020 and only recently allowing repatriation flights for far-flung citizens like sailors and missionaries in early 2021.

Across 16 flights to Samoa since borders closed last month, two people have tested positive in quarantine but were soon found to be historical, non-contagious cases of COVID-19. A third man who tested positive is currently in quarantine with most signs pointing to his being a historical case too.

With case numbers still rising across the globe, New Zealand has taken the extra measure of reporting historical case figures in its daily briefings on COVID-19 cases.

In its latest emailed briefings, the Ministry of Health said an increase in historical cases is not unexpected.

“From this week our updates are including a running total of historical cases to date for 2021,” the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday.

“This is because there is an increasing number of people becoming infected and recovering before travelling to New Zealand. Our testing may detect residual viral material in people's systems, but it's important to reiterate they are no longer considered to be infectious.”

Meanwhile, Samoa is still banning people who declare they caught COVID-19 in the last six months from entering the country even though they are no longer infectious several days after the onset of their symptoms. 

To return, a previously infected and recovered person must test negative for the virus three times, three weeks apart, six months after their infection is over.

They must have blood tests confirming their situation five days before leaving for Samoa and have all test results sent to the Ministry of Health Director-General and Deputy Director-General before arriving.

They must also provide genome sequencing of their infection “if available.” 

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