Australia cannot afford more hotel quarantine mistakes

The most disturbing aspect of South Australia’s COVID-19 outbreak and 6-day hard lockdown is that the outbreak appears to have been seeded by a part-time private security guard that worked at both a quarantine hotel and a pizzeria:

It could be the undoing of South Australia’s previously flawless quarantine system — how a security guard working at the state’s medi-hotels was allowed to make pizza on the side.

That security guard, who contracted the virus from a hotel worker at Peppers in Adelaide’s CBD, set off a further chain of events that saw the coronavirus spread out from its starting point.

Authorities hold fears over the Woodville Pizza shop on Woodville Road where the guard worked part-time, which is now considered one of the Parafield cluster’s hot spots. A close contact of the security guard also caught the virus…

[Chief Health Officer] Professor Spurrier was questioned about why a security guard at a medi-hotel was allowed to also work at a public pizza place, and whether rules would be changed to restrict that.

“We say in medicine, it is very clear with the retrospect, you look back and you think you could have done XYZ, but for me today I am looking forward about what we have to do here and now to get on top of it,” she said.

Thus, South Australia’s COVID-19 outbreak draws parallels with Victoria’s second wave disaster, which was also seeded by hotel quarantine breaches via untrained private security.

These sorts of rookie mistakes must not continue. With Australia almost eliminating local transmission of the virus, the only pathway for future COVID-19 outbreaks is via importation from abroad through quarantine breaches:

Our governments must stop contracting-out quarantine to transient and low-paid workers and utilise highly trained (and well paid) staff with robust knowledge in infection control.

Effective quarantine is Australia’s number one defence against the virus. It is Australia’s number one risk area and where the greatest emphasis and resources from our governments must be placed. No other COVID-19 mitigation measure comes close to having an robust quarantine system.

Australia’s governments simply must get quarantine right if we are to avoid further damaging virus outbreaks. They cannot continue to cut corners and make the same silly mistakes.

Unconventional Economist
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  1. Pragmatic and detailed are often two words not associated with Australia….. “She’ll be right mate” does not muster a lot of confidence

    • Especially when aligned with an outsourced service where the apointed contractor is puting more effort into counting the profits than doing the job they were overpaid for. I cannot ever remember any outsourced government service being cheaper or better, not while the $$$ lights start flashing in the providers eye lids.

  2. The importance of quarantine is magnified when you consider that having all but eliminated the virus, people start celebrating and backsliding on the hygiene, social distancing, masks etc preventative measures. They think threat over, I don’t need to do this any more, what’s the harm etc … which provides the environment for a very rapid outbreak should the virus escape. Which then correctly prompts a very rapid and hard govt response as per SA to control it.
    So going OTT on quarantine is essential for producing stability inside the bubble.

    • And what we learned from the VIC experience is that part time work fragmented across job sites was a key pathway for viral spread across aged care facilities and hotel quarantine. Not the workers’ fault either, asymptomatic spread means you can’t either change your behaviour or justify that change to a boss quickly enough to prevent infection spread.
      Potential solution is for workers to live on site to not infect families, to work in 3 month shifts to allow for being quarantined before 1 month off seeing family ….something like that. Expensive and inconvenient, but cost of viral breakout worse.

      • Also give workers sick leave as there is a good chance the spread was not asymptomatic, but instead spread by people that were knowingly sick but who went to work anyway as otherwise they don’t get paid.

        • This is a big one that full salaried politicians and public servants dont understand. The apointed contractors overseeing the project dont care so long as they get the money.

  3. We had that mistake of workers in a quarantine environment with a second job in Victoria. That same mistake is repeated in NSW (security guard worked in quarantine hotel, and also Parramatta Court and Flemington Market), and now it’s repeated in South Australia. It’s not that people don’t know about it. Rather, it’s because people in charge sees locking down the entire state as preferable to the private company paying the worker a few hundred dollars more a week..

    It’s the neoliberal consensus that all loss is socialized while all profit is privatized.

  4. The fed broke it. Now, they own it.MEMBER

    There have been plenty of papers written exposing what went wrong with the Diamond Princess and how to avoid a similar catastrophe. That was back in February.

    Most small businesses make their money during the weeks leading up to Christmas and over the holidays. After the fires last summer this is make or break for millions of small businesses.

  5. I was in the ACT one week ago (just after the SA outbreak had been announced and people were flying from SA to other states) and happened to be at a building where a young woman had called for an ambulance because she had vomiting, weakness in her body, tightness in her chest and difficulty in breathing. I waited for the ambulance to arrive, told the workers of the symptoms and directed them to entrance of where the young woman lived. The ambulance workers were not wearing PPE nor did they put PPE on after I informed them of the symptoms. It turned out not to be a Covid19 case but had it been, things could have turned out differently.

    There is no wonder the virus spreads in Australia, I have seen this careless attitude by medical workers who should know better several times this year and if they cannot get it right what hope do the public have.

    • Covid is pretty mild compared to a whole host of other things that could be caught by medical staff treating sick people. It just blows my mind how crazy serious everyone is over covid compared to preexisting risks, even when they are much greater, but such is human psychology.

      • Most people are dumb and live boring lives. They want the excitement that comes with fear. They are enjoying the novelty of the situation.

      • Really? Im stuck in the UK at the moment and within 2 weeks of the virus taking off some hospitals litteraly filled up with virus patients needing ICU care. The death rate followed. Lots of nurses and doctors have died. Right now there are 3x as many people in hospital with this virus than they get in an entire extreme flu season. And thats with social distancing and masks in place.

  6. Just a thought, but if you really cared about quarantine would you locate your largest quarantine centers in the center your largest city?
    there are lots of opportunities to better manage quarantine but it might be instructive to start with the dictionary definition of the word itself.
    as I said, just a thought

    • You need to locate quarantine station near the port of entry, and support it with food, medicine, water, workers.
      Usually all of those things are also near a major city.
      You can locate further away, but the logistics of shifting all the support volumes and people is increasingly costly the further you move away.
      That would be why the quarantine camp near Darwin has been used much more than Christmas Island

      • Understood!
        Proper quarantine is inconvenient and probably therefore unprofitable
        Now we wouldn’t want to inconvenience anyone, would we?

  7. Charles MartinMEMBER

    ahhyes, Australias “skilled” migration program strikes again. The gift that keeps on giving.

  8. Given that we’ve basically closed the borders, halted tourism, migration, foreign students and made it almost impossible for citizens to return home and therefore taken a huge economic hit (and I’m not saying halting migration or the foreign strident racket is a bad thing) it defies belief that you cut financial corners on your one defence: quarantine. Straya: can’t quite manage to do all the steps in the process. Head meet palm fmd

  9. TheLambKingMEMBER

    Hotels in the middle of large cities are not long term solution to quarantine.

    They might have been an ok solution when you have 36 hours find a way to do it. But we are 9 months into this. The Federal Government (who are responsible for this) SHOULD have come up with a long term, viable solution as this won’t be the last pandemic. Instead, they have been working on undermining State Premiers. There are a number of locations (NT) which should be the ONLY places to quarantine high risk travelers. Actually DO something ScoMo #ScomosGapYear

  10. Migrant borne virus. Migrant local transmission.
    In a Global pandemic.
    And a Vaccine months if not a year away.
    Something has to be done for public health and safety.

    Yet from March until now we have allowed in over 900,000 arrivals (ABS arrivals data – the number tfalling rapidly from April but now creeping back up) and the majority have been third world TR, visitors or non Australian PR fleeing their third world hell hole & coming back to suck up Australia welfare and Medicare.

    Only a small fraction were returned Australian citizens and we still have 25,000+ of genuine Australian citizens stranded overseas.

    Since the hotel quarantine program eventually evolved into what it is now, the same pattern of outbreaks has occurred and will keep occurring as the Virus explodes in full pandemic globally.

    Contagion xfer 1.
    Migrant guestworkers on falsified identities working cash in hand in the ‘hotel quarantine’ from an infected migrant PR or ‘traveller’

    👉🏾Melbourne – the TR migrant faux security guards
    👉🏾Adelaide – TR Indian cleaner / falsified identity multiple cash in hand jobs.

    Contagion xfer 2.
    The infected Migrant guestworker then spread the Virus into their filthy crowded migrant enclaves.

    Infecting other migrant guestworkers also on falsified identities, working & living illegally in visa breach.

    Contagion xfer 3.
    Those migrants then spread the Virus to the Australian community via fast food, Deliveroo, Uber, McDonald’s, Hungry Jacks, Coles & Woolworths shelve stacking..

    In Melbourne infecting our tax payer funded public housing which we found was a fetid nest of migrant transients on pretext visas living in filthy crowded sublet cash in hand bunk share.

    And these migrant TR, living and working illegally in visa breach – are also working in our health care and aged care nursing homes as cash in hand cleaners & bed pan assistants.

    And so the migrant guestworkers infect & kill our vulnerable and elderly Australian citizens.

    Facts are;
    It’s a incoming traveller/ migrant borne virus.

    Well over 90% of all infections brought in by non Australian citizens mostly PR.

    India, Asia, as well as Europe, UK & the US.

    The hotels then used for quarantine rely on migrant guestworkers (almost always working illegally cash in hand and in visa breach with falsified identities) and that is the vector for migrant to local community virus contagion.

    The migrant guestworker , often doing multiple cash in hand jobs stolen from Australians also defying any attempt at real identification, working when they know they are sick or have symptoms, refusing to be tested & giving false information in contact tracing.

    The infected migrant guestworker then infects their local Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Pakistani, African or Middle Eastern community.

    The first indications long after the migrant has spread their contagion are mass outbreaks at the migrant schools, the mosques, or outbreaks in our hospitals, aged care, fast food or other areas these migrants work illegally in.

    The answer is verification of all people working in any public facing role in their actual identity with mandatory daily health checks.
    Especially in aged care, health services but also retail, wholesale, food processing, transport.

    And any use of public space or transport – bus train etc should have an on demand and detainment for identity and virus health check.

    Based on probabilities & risk profiling – the police and health enforcement would be targeted to non citizen third world migrants as most probable virus carriers.

    Australia also needs to do force inspection, testing and disinfecting of the migrant guestworker slums that are the virus reservoir.

    In Singapore which understood all this – they were able to lock down, quarantine and force test their migrant guestworkers as they were in isolated dormitories.
    They then deported a lot of them.

    Our 2 million plus migrant guestworkers are all spread out in vast migrant enclave slums within our cities.

    So we need an electronic tracking and containment system to prevent the bio security risk these vast migrant slums now pose as the virus incubation hub and transmission vector to Australians.

    The real answer of course is round up and deportation of these unwelcome migrant guestworkers.

    Cancel their visas & forcible deportation.

    Deport all of them, all 2 million.
    Cancel all their visas.
    They are almost all in breach.
    They have no funds.
    There is no skilled jobs, protection case, classes to attend.
    They are only here to live and work illegally.
    Restore those Jobs to Australians.
    Restore that housing to Australians.

    Remove this migrant guestworker virus incubation hub and transmission vector.

    They are a long standing social and economic burden to Australia. And now are a national bio security risk.

    👉🏾100 flights a day @250 migrant guestworkers per plane would see the whole 2 million packed off to their third world country of origin in 90 days.

    • One that makes working in a pizza shop part time look attractive. So how much do you make working in a pizza shop. #ExploitedWaitstaff

    • adelaide_economistMEMBER

      Given they are at the end of a (long) chain of subcontracting, have zero education or training in what they are doing and are completely casual hires, I’m guessing it’s something approximating minimum wage (and that’s possibly being too optimistic after ‘fees’ and whatever else is likely being billed against the wage). The best bit about our legion of foreign workers is that they are happy to work for whatever is offered and either don’t know better or do know better and realise they only get employed precisely because they are prepared to work for less than a legal wage.

  11. I suggested Kangaroo Island.
    Pay the locals to go on holiday.
    A 737 can land there. ~20min flight to ADL, or <60 on a medivac helo.
    Put up some transportables.
    Group them appropriately.
    Give them fairly open ability to explore the island.
    Wait out their two weeks.

    Doesn't have to be KI. NT seem to be managing it well in a fairly remote area.

    • Too easy bro…but where’s the profit in that
      and btw exactly who is going to be staying in all those central city hotel rooms that are directly and indirectly owned by politicians and Australia’s business elite.
      They’ve got businesses to run and mortgages to pay and employees to uh employ and politicians in the pockets, you’ve got to give this all some thought before making silly suggestions like isolating quarantine stations.