Local News - Victoria

Pub outbreak leaves primary school all shook up

Staff at Meadowglen Primary School knew Mr Campbell suspected he might have had the virus when he came to school for two days last month to record video lessons for music students.

“Everyone at school was aware,” he says.

Other staff kept a safe distance from him and Mr Campbell had no contact with any children. Any risk of further contagion at the school appears remote.


Victoria’s health officials believe Mr Campbell is no longer infectious and that dead virus cells in his nasal passages may have triggered a false positive test. However, his experience has left him concerned at the prospect of Victorian re-opening its schools to all students.

“This is an indicator of what can happen really quickly,” he told The Age from his Yarra Valley home where he remains in self-imposed quarantine.

“My granddaughter was fairly sick with it and she is only nine. To say it doesn’t happen in kids, to say they are not going to get it and they are not going to transmit it to other people, I think is a little bit foolish.”

Keith Campbell says it is "foolish" to think children can't carry and pass on the virus.

Keith Campbell says it is “foolish” to think children can’t carry and pass on the virus.
Credit:Eddie Jim

Despite the usual circumstances surrounding Mr Campbell’s infection and doubts about the veracity of his positive test, the Victorian government seized on his case as part of its political feud with the federal government over when to allow all school students back in school.

Victoria is the only mainland state that has not set a timetable for all students to return to class this term. On Sunday morning, as federal Education Minister Dan Tehan was attacking Victoria’s stance, Premier Daniel Andrews tweeted details of Mr Campbell’s case.

“You might have heard about this on the news this morning – but I wanted to update you directly,” Mr Andrews said. “A teacher at Meadowglen Primary in Epping has tested positive for coronavirus. He’s recovering at home, and our thoughts and best wishes go out to him.”

It is the only time throughout the pandemic that Mr Andrews has tweeted about an individual case.

The origin of Mr Campbell’s infection is far removed from Meadowglen Primary, a school in the northern suburb of Epping where Mr Campbell taught music for 15 years before retiring at the end of last year.

Rather than the playground or staff room, it appears to be a Saturday night birthday party at the Eaglemont Cellars and Wine Bar, where Mr Campbell and his daughters are a popular, regular fixture with their rock’n’roll covers.

Between performing his usual sets of Neil Diamond, Elvis, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley hits, it is likely Mr Campbell and one of his daughters contracted the virus from English guests who’d just flown into Australia from Britain for the party.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on March 15, the day after the party, that anyone arriving in Australia from overseas needed to self-quarantine for two weeks. It was not until 23 March that federal and state governments ordered the closure of pubs to stop the spread of the virus.

“It was all about bad timing,” Mr Campbell says. “My nephew didn’t work that day. He is the drummer, so he dodged a bullet. My other daughter left early that night because she had to catch a flight.

“I remember talking to these English people. You just don’t know.”

The bar staff and owners of the Eaglemont Cellars and Wine Bar all became sick with the virus and other guests have since tested positive, with at least two requiring hospitalisation.

Mr Campbell says he first noticed a cough five days after the party. By March 19, he was feeling unwell. At the urging of a friend, he rang the Austin Hospital to see if he needed to be tested for coronavirus. According to the tick-box questionnaire he completed over the phone, he didn’t.


“No one knew what was going on with this thing and looking at the criteria, I didn’t fit the bill,” he says. “I just wasn’t sick enough.”

After his daughter and her family became sick, Mr Campbell was called by Department of Health contact tracers. Again they asked him a series of question. Again testing was not deemed necessary, as his symptoms were mild and by that stage, more than 14 days had passed since the party.

Throughout this time, Mr Campbell was living in isolation in a home he shares with his sister-in-law. At the school’s invitation, made the videos on April 21 and April 27.

It was two days after the second school visit that Mr Campbell’s sister-in-law, who was worried that her sense of taste had become numb, went to her GP. The doctor recommended that both she and Mr Campbell be tested.

They each returned a positive test on Friday, triggering the immediate involvement of government health and education officials.

“Basically they wanted to track all my movements from the past three to four weeks,” Mr Campbell says. “It was pretty easy to do because basically, I hadn’t been anywhere. The only worry was the school.

“On Saturday lunchtime, I got a call from them to say I had been released from isolation. They said you have got inactive or dead coronavirus cells up your nose. They have picked that up in the test and it has come back positive.

“Apparently, I was not contagious.”

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