It was the year of the superspreader as Covid case numbers soared to new heights in Australia in 2021, but what happened next to the headline-makers?
After emerging from the initial March 2020 lockdown, most of the country almost cruised through the global pandemic – until it all changed in 2021.
The initial vaccine strollout left Australia vulnerable when Delta kicked in mid-year, striking down hundreds of thousands with the disease.
Then in 2022 came Omicron and hundreds of thousands of cases a day, making super-spreader events less remarkable.
But in the early days of the pandemic, those at the centre of an outbreak caught plenty of attention in the glare of the Covid spotlight.
So what happened after Australia moved on?
Did BBQ man buy BBQs Galore? Did the Bondi limo driver get vaccinated or start wearing a mask? What happened to the West Hoxton Birthday Party host? And where is the Byron Bay dad?
DID BBQ MAN BUY BBQs GALORE?
Wealthy finance boss Tom Pizzey, 59, made worldwide news when his weekend trip to BBQ stores and a butcher’s shop unknowingly sparked a massive Covid scare in May.
Now, seven months later, the part-time guitarist is poking fun at his notoriety with his 80s cover band The Distractions who have just released a new song, BBQ Man.
The video teaser reveals a masked Pizzey wearing an apron while dancing and waving snags at a Sydney park BBQ as bandmates sing: ‘He’s the BBQ man…’
Wealthy finance boss Tom Pizzey, 59, (pictured with wife Anna)made worldwide news when his weekend trip to BBQ stores and a butcher’s shop sparked a massive Covid scare in May
Seven months later Tom Pizzey (pictured) is poking fun at his Covid notoriety with his 80s cover band The Distractions who have just released a new song, BBQ Man
The managing director of an international private equity finance firm became Covid famous when he left a trail of potential Delta hotspots across Sydney.
Despite not having been overseas or in contact with a known case, Mr Pizzey later tested positive – but not before he had a big weekend criss-crossing the city.
Starting with coffee in the CBD on Friday morning, he had his eyes checked in the city before lunch at an Italian restaurant in Paddington, then an early movie at Bondi Junction followed by dinner at another upmarket Italian at Kings Cross.
AUSTRALIA’S FIRST DELTA INFECTION
Genomic testing later traced the source of Tom Pizzey’s infection back to a man in hotel quarantine who had recently returned from the US.
Mr Pizzey had never knowingly been in contact with the case, although he had visited an optician near the entrance to a Sydney quarantine hotel, sparking speculation he may have been infected by a fleeting contact with the man in quarantine.
He and his wife, Anna, were diagnosed as having a double-mutant strain of the virus which was dubbed the B.1.617.2 variant, first seen in India.
That variant later became better known as the Delta strain – which made Mr Pizzey the first known case of community Delta infection in the country, even though it wasn’t fully realised at the time.
The case sparked new restrictions in NSW, with masks required in all public indoor venues and on public transport, limits on household visitors, and aged care visitors. Stangin while drinking indoors, singing, and dancing were also banned, but the state stopped short of a lockdown.
Despite Mr Pizzey’s epic weekend – and the highly infectious nature of Delta – no other infections were ever traced back to him, apart from his wife.
Both have since recovered, but Mr Pizzey is said to have been ill with the disease for two months before he could return to work.
But it was his movements on Saturday, May 1, which sparked the most intrigue.
Despite living in a four-bedroom $10million-plus mansion in leafy Woollahra, Mr Pizzey spent the day traipsing around BBQ stores in the city’s west.
He started at Joe’s Barbeques in Silverwater before moving on to nearby Tucker Barbecues then returning to the Inner West for BBQs Galore at Annandale, spending up to an hour in each.
Mr Pizzey then drove 35km to the city’s south-west to a second BBQs Galore in Casula where he spent another hour before topping up with fuel on his way home.
The following day, his strictly-followed QR code check-ins revealed he christened his shiny new barbie with steaks bought on a mid-afternoon trip to the Meat Store butchery in Bondi Junction.
Later though, city gossip suggested he might not just have been shopping for a new BBQ…and might have been in the market to buy the chain of BBQs Galore instead.
The chain had recently been put up for sale by Quadrant Private Equity along with sister company Amart Furniture as part of a $750million portfolio.
Speculation ran rampant that Mr Pizzey’s $460billion dollar investment company Apollo Global Management were in the market to snap up the chain for around $100million.
And rather than simply trying to find a new grill, Mr Pizzey had actually been on a fact-finding mission to do due diligence on the chain and eyeball some of its rivals.
Seven months later though and Quadrant still own BBQs Galore – and Apollo Global flatly deny they were ever interested or that Mr Pizzey was on a recce mission.
‘Not his role and not true’, an Apollo spokesman later insisted.
A complaint to the Press Council about coverage of his illness and the BBQs Galore bid was thrown out after it was found to have been in the public interest.
Speculation ran rampant that Mr Pizzey’s $460billion dollar investment company Apollo Global Management were in the market to snap up the BBQs Galore chain for $100million
And he still refuses to discuss it today.
‘I’ve had a policy of not speaking to any person about this and that’s not going to change,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
But it hasn’t stopped him and his high-powered mates in The Distractions from celebrating their guitarist’s sudden celebrity status.
The band have been going since 2015 after it was put together by professional guitarist Jeff Lenham through his company CEO Music.
The middle-aged rockers include tech boss Mike Boyle of HP Australia on drums with Peter Garrett-lookalike Peter Burns, CEO of Next Practice medical centre chain, on vocals.
It also features TAL insurance Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Howard on bass and Creative Director at CHE Proximity agency Mark Tallis on rhythm guitar.
They’ve written their debut single to look back on pandemic lockdowns and the ‘new normal’ – and their guitarist’s rise to fame.
Finance boss and part-time guitarist Tom Pizzey (pictured) was one of the first Australians to catch the Delta variant and his band now have a debut single ‘BBQ Man’ poking fun at his fame
‘I’ll be honest, man, it gave me a fright,’ sings the vocalist in the classic 80s-style Aussie rock anthem with a singalong chorus.
‘They thought they knew, the BBQ man, Such a zoo, the media crew, not up to you, poor BBQ man…’
It adds: ‘We won’t miss Gladys at 11am, social distance, lockdown – goodbye to them.
‘For all we knew, we had it too – he’s the BBQ man…’
The song was to have its official launch at an event in Bondi Bowling Club on December 18 but had to be cancelled at the last moment…because of Covid.
WHERE IS THE BYRON BAY SUPERSPREADER?
Serbian millionaire Zoran Radovanovic, 52, was thrust into the spotlight when he and his son sneaked out of Sydney on a mysterious trip to Byron Bay during lockdown.
Now he is believed to have skipped the country with his son to jet off back to Serbia and faces arrest the second he returns to Australia.
The pair visited a string of locations on the NSW north coast without checking in until both ended up in a Lismore hospital with Covid, and sparked a week-long lockdown in the Byron Bay area.
Zoran’s shady past later came back to haunt him as it was revealed he had previous drug and theft convictions, had faked leaving Australia while overstaying his visa and had to beg Australia for citizenship.
Son Kristian was also revealed to have been caught drink driving twice in three days in 2020, and was called a ‘habitual traffic offender’ in court.
Serbian millionaire Zoran Radovanovic, 52, was thrust into the spotlight when he and son Kristian (pictured) sneaked out of Sydney on a mysterious trip to Byron Bay during lockdown
Kristian Radovanovic pleaded guilty to four charges following the Sydney family’s trip to NSW‘s northern rivers to buy a farm in late July and failed to abide by public health orders.
Radovanovic was fined $5,000 and $7,500 for not using a QR code or wearing a mask in a shop, and and another $12,500 and $10,000 for repeating the same offences in a taxi.
Radovanovic, now 20, from Sydney’s Rose Bay, was a teenager and already serving a community corrections order for a police pursuit while drink driving when he was charged over his jaunt to Byron.
The former gyprocker was also on a conditional release order for affray after joining a brawl.
Magistrate Paul Mulroney said all offences involved a disregard for public health and safety.
‘He did not care at all about the rest of the community,’ he said as he fined Radovanovic on December 20.
‘What he did was not just irresponsible, not just criminal, but had the real potential to put the lives and the wellbeing of the community at serious risk.
‘I am imposing substantial fines to drive home to other people who don’t think this is serious… there should be significant consequences.’
In one incident, police spotted him doing burnouts near his former home before charging at police in his car and then leading them on a dangerous pursuit through quiet suburban streets.
One Sydney teenager, James Knuth, who had been involved in long-running court battles with Kristian, now 20, said he ‘had ruined my life’ and ‘put me in jail’.
The family’s previous neighbours in quiet Forestville on Sydney’s well-to-do North Shore told Daily Mail Australia they were delighted to see the back of the father and son when the family moved across the harbour to Rose Bay in 2019.
Police had become regular visitors to the sleepy street, and although neighbours said they liked his wife Tiana and their daughter, it was a relief when the family left.
Mrs Radovanovic later took out an AVO against her husband as their marriage hit the rocks.
Zoran also faced criminal charges over a bizarre row with his wife about a broken umbrella.
And in October, as father and son faced court dates in Lismore and Waverley over their Byron Bay expedition, neighbours at their home in Rose Bay revealed they’d both left the country.
One told Daily Mail Australia they had seen shipping containers outside the plush rented mansion with removalists loading them up with furniture and belongings.
Wife Tiana stayed behind in the home with the family dog but she too appeared to have left soon after. The whereabouts of their daughter is unknown.
An estate agent confirmed the luxury $10million home’s lease was up at the end of the year but was shocked to learn the family had left early.
It was later confirmed in court that father and son had skipped the country back to Serbia, with no indication if they would ever return to face court.
Son Kristian Radovanovic (pictured) was fined a total of $35,000 for breaching Covid restrictions that sparked a week-long lockdown in the Byron Bay area
On the same day Kristian was fined $35,000 in his absence for four offences relating to the Byron Bay trip, father Zoran failed to appear at Lismore court for sentencing.
Radovanovic Senior faced four counts of failing to comply with electronic registration directives and three counts of not complying with Covid-19 directions.
He had previously admitted the offences, but flew off to Serbia before he could be sentenced.
Magistrate Michael Dakin issued the warrant for his arrest on December 20 when Radovanovic failed to front court after dismissing defence pleas for an adjournment.
He now faces arrest if he ever returns Down Under.
IS THE BONDI LIMO DRIVER WEARING A MASK YET?
Limo driver Michael Podgoetsky, who seeded the Delta spread across Sydney, was hounded for months after sparking the five month lockdown that paralysed NSW.
He caught the Delta strain after picking up Fed Ex flight crew from Sydney Airport in June without being vaccinated or wearing a mask and drove them to their hotel.
He then spent several days off-duty in the community, going to cafes and shops, spreading the disease like wildfire through the city’s Eastern Suburbs.
He finally realised he was infected when he returned to work and a routine test came back positive.
Limo driver Michael Podgoetsky, (pictured) who seeded the Delta spread across Sydney, was hounded for months after sparking the five month lockdown that paralysed NSW
The Eastern Suburbs went into immediate lockdown and within days, the rest of the city followed, sparking months of misery.
Despite a public outcry, police later admitted he had not breached any law and was not required to wear a mask or be vaccinated at that time, despite the risks involved.
He insisted he was not an anti-vaxxer but didn’t trust the Astra Zeneca vaccine because of a history of blood clots and vowed to get the Pfizer jab when he could.
However just months later, Podgoetsky, 63, was snapped without a mask while it was compulsory under lockdown laws and he was fined $500.
He has since been threatened and even had to change the number of his limo firm.
‘I don’t want to be known for Covid-19,’ he insisted to 7News at the time. ‘It’s in my head like I did something wrong.
‘The bio-weapon was introduced to our state and I’m blamed for it. I feel terrible. I feel terrible for what’s happening now in the state.
‘I don’t know where I picked it up but I followed the rules.’
Contact tracing for a West Hoxton birthday party failed and allowed the mutant Covid strain to rip through the Western Suburbs (pictured), bringing months of misery
DID THE BIRTHDAY PARTY SUPERSPREADER SURVIVE?
Although the Bondi limo driver sparked the Sydney Delta outbreak, it was a birthday party in West Hoxton in June that did the most damage, NSW Health later admitted.
THE SUPERSPREADER THAT GOT ‘OUT OF CONTROL’
In August, NSW Health admitted the system had failed over the West Hoxton birthday party.
It was held up as a prime example of the importance of vaccination when all the jabbed guests escaped infection.
But behind the scenes, contact tracing for the event got away from the ‘gold standard’ track and trace team.
‘It was thought that we got there very early, that we got to people before they’d become very infectious in the community, but that turned out to be not the case,’ NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant told an inquiry.
Four days after the party, the entire city was thrown into lockdown.
Contact tracing for the party failed and allowed the mutant Covid strain to rip through the Western Suburbs, bringing months of misery.
One party-goer arrived infected from Bondi Junction, and then spread the disease to almost every other guest, including the host’s father who had flown up from Melbourne.
But the host herself – believed to be celebrating her 30th birthday – escaped without so much as a sniffle, as she was a healthcare worker and had been fully vaccinated.
Of the 30 people at the party, 24 became infected and went on to infect countless more in the city’s Western Suburbs and beyond.
The five other guests who also escaped infection were healthcare workers too and were also fully vaccinated.
The city had yet to go into lockdown and no pandemic restrictions were breached with the party at that stage – but it sparked the entire city being put in a Covid coma just a few days later.
The host’s father also took the disease back down to Melbourne with him where he infected his boss at Sandringham Dry Cleaners in the city’s south-east Bayside area.
‘We went into hospital with Covid,’ owner Hanny Li told Daily Mail Australia. ‘We recovered quite well, and walking and everything is fairly normal now.
‘But the business has not done as well. It’s still a little bit tough after this and lockdown. We need people to go back to work so they need to do dry cleaning…’
The city had yet to go into lockdown and no pandemic restrictions were breached with the party – but it sparked the entire city being put in a military-enforced Covid coma just days later
REMOVAL RUN THAT ENDED IN FAMILY TRAGEDY
Assyrian immigrant twins Roni and Ramsin Shawka, 27, took their removalist truck on an illegal run through regional Australia after breaking out of Greater Sydney while infected.
The pair had been tested just before leaving Sydney but had pressed on with the delivery immediately instead of isolating while they waited for the result.
And when NSW Health phoned to tell Roni had tested positive and need to isolate immediately, his poor English had meant he didn’t understand.
Ramsin and co-worker Maryo Shanki, 21, were also later confirmed Covid positive.
Assyrian immigrant twins Roni and Ramsin Shawka, 27, (pictured with their partners and their mother Saeeda, centre) took their removalist truck through regional Australia after leaving Greater Sydney while infected
Police eventually tracked down their truck in Molong, near Orange, 300km north west of Sydney, and pulled it over to stop them infecting anyone else.
Back home in Green Valley in Sydney’s south-west though, the twins gave Covid to their mother Saeeda Shawka, 54.
She became seriously ill and died from the disease at home just a few days later.
In heartbreaking scenes, the brothers – who were still isolation – were forced to watch the family tragedy unfold from inside a sealed car outside the home.
The funeral for their mother (pictured) took place with just 10 people under strict lockdown conditions almost three weeks later after the twins were freed from isolation
A funeral for their mother took place with just 10 people under strict lockdown conditions almost three weeks later after the twins were freed from isolation.
In November they were fined $1100 each for not complying with a COVID-19 notice direction and ordered to pay NSW Police another $2000 in decontamination costs.
They faced possible prison sentences, but Orange Local Court Magistrate David Day said he took mercy on them because of their poor English and their mother’s death.
Incredibly though, the court heard NSW Health believed no-one else outside of their immediate family had been infected by their run into country NSW.