What’s Happening to Victoria’s Hotel Quarantine Program
Throughout the quarantine, Australia has implemented strict measures in eradicating community transmissions of the coronavirus. The border has been closed off for almost a year now, and there’s no imminent pressure to open it as well. While the country closes its doors to foreign travellers, the Victoria hotel quarantine program caters to Australians who wish to return—the only ones allowed to get back in the nation. The program is responsible for those citizens, ensuring that they are risk-free before rejoining the community. However, for the third time around, Victoria is placed on lockdown after tracing cases of community transfer from a quarantine hotel in Melbourne airport.
Due to this, 10 out of the 15 hotels intended for quarantine became non-operational, mostly empty, with airline crew as its sole guests. The current state of VIC and recurring cases resulted in the scrutiny of its hotel quarantine program again.
Evident Issues of the Program
We look at the apparent issues of the hotel quarantine program in Victoria.
The approximate cost of daily operations for the hotels contracted as a quarantine facility is $1,000,000. The projects accumulate to $377 million over a year since the hotels are under 12-month contracts. On top of the hotels, transport services and health providers are also part of the program. Although hotel staff and other contractors are still getting paid, not much return comes from the program.
Even with this expensive rate, the program is not housing anyone. It appears that it’s leeching taxpayers money, putting into question its purpose and effectiveness.
The empty hotel rooms leave staff in constant anxiety about how the situation will affect them in the long run. Days are hard, and it’s not a good time to lose a job. While there are no guests, the hotel staff are required to do pieces of training and other duties. They work shorter hours and are not allowed to seek work anywhere else because of their contracts.
The “hot” quarantine site is identified as a source of more than 30 confirmed cases. The hotels involved in the program have been known for breaching infection control rules, resulting in lockdowns. Some of Australia’s infectious diseases experts propose to remove the program from the national quarantine protocol, considering that it puts the country at risk rather than usher it to safety.
Complacency and inefficiency surround the hotel quarantine program, and it has constantly been breaking public trust.
PPE Protocol Violations and Start of Inquiry
As a “circuit-breaker” lockdown ensued, an inquiry on the hotel quarantine program also began. The investigation aims to get down to the root causes as to why travellers quarantined in the designated hotels end up becoming sources of community transmission.
According to initial findings, the quarantine hotels are not following the national infection control standards. A PPE task force came up with the guidelines in protecting the nation against COVID-19. One crucial ruling involves tagging everyone in quarantine as someone of high risk, which means strict isolation and limited human contact are required. In the same way, sanitation protocols should be in place.
The taskforce also implemented a standard that involves a strict wearing of PPE among staff or anyone in contact with those in quarantine. The inquiry revealed that a number of the hotel quarantine facilities failed to follow the standards set. This finding roused disappointment among the public.
Inquiry Results and the Future of the Program
The challenges that resulted from the hotel quarantine program has left the nation’s lawmakers, health experts, and citizens bewildered. Although the initial result of the inquiry has shown absolute inefficiency in how the program operates, it’s still considered a vital part of the country’s COVID-19 response. This includes COVIDSafe settings in aged care facilities, like Delta Care, which are still in effect.
Nothing is for sure yet. At the moment, the suspension of international flights coming to Melbourne is still in place. The lockdown is also still going on. Amid all the problems and bickering, the public remains hopeful that the nation’s leaders make the right call and continue to prioritise the safety of the people over anything else. The pandemic remains to be the world’s enemy, and it should not be taken lightly.