The South Australian government has announced it will overhaul its hotel quarantine system before it allows international arrivals to resume, after health authorities identified a security guard working at Peppers Hotel as patient zero in the state’s second wave.
During a press conference on Wednesday Premier Steven Marshall unveiled an eight-step plan to bolster the state’s hotel quarantine system.
“This is a new virus and we’re learning more about it every single day … what we must do is put as many shields as possible between the virus and the community here in South Australia,” he said.
“We are again further strengthening our already independently gold star rated medi-hotel system.”
The government plans to do this through the following eight steps:
- All returned travellers who test positive for COVID-19 in medi-hotels will be transferred to a “dedicated health facility”. Marshall said the government is considering Old Wakefield Hospital as a potential candidate.
- Security at the dedicated facility will be provided exclusively by SA Police and SA protective security officers.
- Staff working at the dedicated facility will not be deployed to medi-hotels or other high-risk environments, including aged care facilities, correctional facilities or hospitals.
- Staff who work in the dedicated facility will have access to the ‘hotel for heroes’ facility so they have the option to rest away from their home.
- The government will discuss all risk mitigation strategies with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee before implementing them, and will continue to seek advice from the AHPPC on issues such as secondary employment for medi-hotel staff.
- The government will ask the national cabinet to consider testing all returning Australian citizens prior to their flight with a view that they must have a negative test result before boarding.
- Peppers Hotel will be thoroughly deep cleaned.
- Once the previous steps are implemented, SA will gradually resume international arrivals for returning Australians.
Hotel quarantine has been linked to both Victoria and SA’s second COVID-19 waves. However, SA health authorities are puzzled as to how the state’s most recent outbreak occurred, with Marshall on Wednesday stating that they have found no deliberate breach of hotel quarantine protocols.
On Monday Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said staff working in the state’s hotel quarantine program — which is set to resume on December 7 — could potentially live on-site when the state begins accepting international arrivals.
Last week Andrews said that all staff in the refreshed program will either work for the Victorian government or will be exclusively contracted, and will frequently undergo advanced testing.
The inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine system released its interim report earlier this month, which made 69 recommendations to government.
The report proposed that the state quarantine program involve “the use of two models operating concurrently”: a facility-based model (like the hotel quarantine program) and a home-based model. It also recommended improvements to accountability.