The Australian has released a stunning series of reports (here and here) on Victoria’s latest hotel quarantine failure, which seeded the state’s third hard lockdown in February and resulted in international arrivals being banned for two months.
The allegations are based on a secret Victorian Government report leaked to the paper, entitled Hotel Quarantine Outbreak Retrospective CQV Infection Prevention & Control March 2021, which reveals that the third lockdown was not caused by a man using a nebuliser, but rather the virus was released into a corridor during the lengthy swabbing of a woman in an open doorway.
Accordingly, “the virus, ‘previously contained’ in her room, was blown down the corridor by airconditioning before ‘pooling outside the door’ of the room where the man with the nebuliser was staying with his partner and infant”.
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Other interesting findings from the reports include:
- A person became infected “picking up meals from outside their room door or putting out rubbish”.
- “Food and beverage workers delivering meals to residents’ doors” were infected via aerosol transmission.
- “An authorised officer who handled the family’s hotel entry and exit was also infected”.
- Large numbers of unvaccinated contractors and tradies have been allowed onsite for maintenance and other work since the quarantine program was rebooted in April.
- “Official incident reports detail hundreds of infection control breaches, operational blunders and defiant rule-breaking”.
- A senior bureaucrat managing infection prevention across the quarantine program, Matiu Bush, has repeatedly breached protocols.
These report highlights, yet again, why densely packed city hotels are unsuitable for quarantine. Shared hallways and ventilation makes these premises ideal conduits to spread virus between guests and staff, and then into the wider community.
Regular outbreaks and shutdowns across Australia’s capital cities is all the empirical evidence we need to prove that the system is not as robust as it should be.
Instead, the Morrison Government should immediately work with the states to fund/build federal open air facilities modelled on Howard Springs near Darwin:
These types of facilities offer enormous benefits over conducting quarantine in hotels located in capital cities, namely:
- They are located away from major population centres;
- They provide abundant fresh air and space between guests and staff; and
- They provide greater comfort than being stuffed into a hotel room for two weeks.
MPs are finally starting to get the message with crossbenchers Adam Bandt, Helen Haines, Rebekha Sharkie, Zali Steggall, Andrew Wilkie, Bob Katter and upper house colleagues Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff yesterday issuing a joint call for the Morrison Government to establish a “dedicated surge capacity quarantine facility”.
But even a “dedicated surge capacity quarantine facility” is not enough. We need federal Howard Springs-style facilities built across every state and for quarantine to be moved entirely out of hotels.
A robust quarantine system is Australia’s number one defence against the virus and the only way to prevent further virus outbreaks and costly shutdowns. The Morrison Government must take immediate action. It has constitutional responsibility for quarantine.