A returned Victorian traveller at the centre of a new Covid-19 cluster in Melbourne says he's been made to feel like a criminal after health officials revealed the nebuliser he used in hotel quarantine was the source of the outbreak.
The man, 38, who has been staying at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport is one of 14 cases linked to the cluster and he told The Age he was allowed to use the nebuliser twice by officials.
Victoria currently has 20 cases of coronavirus via community transmission.
The hotel’s outbreak is thought to have started with a quarantined family of three infected overseas. It has also led to a snap five-day lockdown.
A man who was a member of the family used a nebuliser in his room, which health authorities said was not declared to them.
However, he told The Age he declared the machine, which is used to treat asthma, to hotel quarantine staff who also offered to find him extra Ventolin.
The man added he had not returned a positive Covid-19 test when he used the nebuliser and claims he was never told he could not use the device, saying: "If I was told that I couldn’t use it, I never would have used it."
Nebulisers are currently banned from being used in quarantine hotels.
“The way it has all come out in the news and through the government has made it sound like I was using it illegally or that I have snuck it in or something like that,” the man told the newspaper.
“You are left feeling like a criminal or that you’ve done the wrong thing. That has been the hardest thing in all this.”
He told The Age staff allowed him to use it at the Holiday Inn Melbourne Airport and then the second hotel he was moved to after he and his family later tested positive.
Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters nebulisers were "not allowed" and "this was clearly communicated".
Mr Andrews defended how authorities have handled the situation stating it was up to people to exercise sound judgement.
He also refused to "have a crack" at the man who used the device and is recovering from the virus.
Covid-19 Quarantine Victoria boss Emma Cassar faced repeated questions from reporters on Saturday afternoon, denying multiple times the man declared the item.
"I can categorically say that there is no evidence from our audit that he has raised this with our health team," she told them.
Ms Cassar said there was no point arguing the matter and the man had been badly treated by the media, and she was sorry about his experience.
"We have never accused him of doing the wrong thing," she said.
Do nebulisers spread coronavirus?
Dr Daniel Duke, from the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at Monash University, told the ABC the main issue with nebulisers was they delivered “thousands of times” more aerosol than natural breathing did.
Aerosol is small droplets or particles in the air.
"If the person is shedding a lot of virus, there is likely to be a high chance a lot of those virus particles will hitch a ride on those aerosol droplets,” he told the ABC.
His view was backed by Dr Stephen Parnis, a former vice-president of the Australian Medical Association, who tweeted in spreading a respiratory device a nebuliser was "hard to beat”.
“That's why we stopped using them in hospitals,” he tweeted.
“That one was used by a #COVID19Vic positive person in quarantine does not inspire confidence. If health workers put ourselves at risk, we should expect robust protection.”
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care recommends people with Covid-19 to avoid nebulisers completely in favour of puffers or spaces "as it may contribute to the spread of the virus".
South Australia banned nebulisers from quarantine hotels after the outbreak.
SA Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier told the ABC it’s “a bit of a wake-up call” following the outbreak in Victoria.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner also moved to ban them on Thursday.
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