Halton to lead hotel quarantine review

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday July 10, 2020

Jane Halton (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Former senior public servant Jane Halton will lead a nationwide review into the hotel quarantine system.

Following the national cabinet’s Friday meeting, Scott Morrison said Halton — who is currently a national COVID-19 commissioner — would be working with the states and territories to undertake the review.

The prime minister also announced that the national cabinet had agreed to reduce the total number of inbound flights into Australia by half, starting Monday.

Roughly 4000 fewer travellers would be entering Australia every week, Morrison noted, and arrivals would be asked to cover the cost of the 14-day mandatory hotel quarantine.

“There is also a view across the national cabinet that they are all effectively moving to a charging system for the hotel quarantine that is in place for those returning businesses. Some states already have it, other states are moving towards that, and I will leave that to them to make their announcements at the appropriate time,” he said.

“Where possible, we will seek to have some sort of national uniformity across those pricings and we are sharing those information with the states and territories.”

Halton currently chairs the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. She was previously secretary of the finance and health departments, and deputy secretary at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Chief medical officer professor Paul Kelly said the Halton review would look at quarantine “in a more detailed fashion” and she had been given advice “about the types of things that we would like to have checked”.

“There have been a lot of people [who] have come into hotel quarantine. There have been very few breaches but we have seen — as has been reported in Victoria — a single breach, even if it’s low risk, can lead to a catastrophic outcome. We absolutely need to know that this is working as best as it can,” he said.

A number of the coronavirus cases in Victoria have been linked to staff working in hotel quarantine who had breached health protocols. The state on Friday report a record number of new COVID-19 cases, at 288.

Victoria recently stopped receiving international arrivals due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, and will remain closed to international travellers for “the foreseeable future”.

The Western Australian and New South Wales governments also recently placed caps on their share of the travellers.

 

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