Contact tracing register crucial in Crossroads Hotel outbreak

13 July, 2020 by Vanessa Cavasinni

Over the weekend, nine positive cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the Crossroads Hotel in south-western Sydney. This morning, NSW Health has confirmed there are now more cases linked to the hotel, but have not confirmed exact numbers at time of publishing. The Marlow Hotel Group pub was closed immediately for cleaning, and has been actively cooperating with NSW Health to get everyone who attended the pub tested, to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

NSW Health first announced late on Friday afternoon that two unconnected patrons of the hotel on Friday 3 July had tested positive for COVID-19, but with no link between them anyone who attended on the day needed to be tested. One staff member has tested positive since, and so the scope of testing has broadened.

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NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said anyone who either worked or visited the Crossroads Hotel from 3-10 July should isolate themselves for 14 days after they were last at the hotel, regardless of symptoms or test results, and be tested even if they are not displaying any symptoms. NSW Health does not consider any of the nine positive cases the source of the infection at the hotel, and is urging any visitors to the pub in that week to isolate and get tested as a matter of urgency.

“While investigations are continuing, it is vital people get tested so we can try and establish the source of infection at the hotel. I encourage people to access a number of clinics at local hospitals at Campbelltown, Fairfield and Liverpool so people are tested as quickly as possible,” stated Dr Chant.

“We do have some linkages to Melbourne but we need some final diagnostic tests to nail this.”

One case linked to the Crossroads Hotel outbreak attended Picton Hotel during their infectious period, attending on 4, 9, and 10 July in the gaming room. The hotel is closed for cleaning.

Crossroads Hotel compliance

Jason Marlow, managing director of the Marlow Hotel Group, said that while the hotel is closed and all staff are in isolation, they are pleased with their compliance and how that has helped NSW Health in investigating the outbreak.

“The hotel was very compliant, we had a COVID plan of management introduced on the first day we were permitted to open, which consistently gets updated. We certainly did adhere to our social distancing of 1.5m between tables, and in fact we probably created far greater space than that in some areas, particularly in areas of high traffic,” explained Marlow.

“We’ve been running a sign-in service or you would have been part of a booking where we’ve captured your details that way. We were able to hand those records over to the Department of Health and they have commended us on our compliance and the information they’ve received to date.”

The hotel was shut immediately upon being alerted by NSW Health on Friday, and has had a team of 10 cleaners giving the hotel a deep clean, which is due to be completed today. The next steps for the hotel are to receive authority for the venue to re-open, but with all staff isolating for 14 days, Marlow said the venue will not open until the isolation period has ended for staff.

While various media outlets began reporting with some alarm on Friday that 600 people had been through the hotel on Friday 3 July, Marlow assured Australian Hotelier that that figure is over an 18-hour day of trade, and that even at peak meal times, the numbers  were in compliance with maximum capacities at the large-format pub.

“We certainly haven’t breached capacity at any of those times on any occasion.”

AHA NSW has kept in contact with the teams at Crossroads Hotel and Marlow Hotel Group over the weekend and has commended the venue and its staff on how seriously they are taking the incident, and how well they’ve kept details for contact tracing.

“NSW Health has actually complimented the venue in the way they’ve maintained their contact tracing register. We’ve identified that having accurate information is key to being able to trace these outbreaks. The venue has maintained those details. They have a comprehensive booking system for patrons, so they’re working closely with NSW Health,” stated John Green, director of liquor and policing.

Marlow expressed his heartfelt thanks to both AHA NSW and other hoteliers who have reached out to him with support over the last few days.

Vigilance more important than ever

The outbreak at Crossroads Hotel has served as a reminder for the entire industry that compliance with trading restrictions and contact tracing registers is more important than ever. This morning, AHA NSW hosted a virtual meeting with all of its members to reinforce the message.

“This is at a critical stage. We have always understood that there was a chance that particularly people from Victoria during school holidays would come into New South Wales and there may be a small outbreak,” stated Green.

“We had a meeting this morning electronically with all of our members across NSW, just reinforcing the importance of having a COVID safety plan in place, making sure that contact tracing is done appropriately, and they strongly consider downloading and registering with the NSW Covid Safe registration process.”

With COVID-19 still active globally, Marlow suggests that outbreaks at venues will likely happen again, and it’s critical to keep detailed records of visitation to curb the size of those outbreaks.

“Unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to be the last time in New South Wales for our industry. I appeal to everybody to do the right thing and make sure they’re in the position to be able to comply with the Department of Health. That’s been our fortunate position, and they’ve commended us for it.