27 April 2021

Chief Health Officer statement: Hotel quarantine

Hotels are not purpose-built for quarantine purposes, but there is no current, better alternative. Allowing high-risk international travellers to quarantine at home is not an option – it would result in widespread community outbreaks.

To date, more than 40,000 people have gone through the WA quarantine system, with 2,091 currently in nine hotels (as at 16:30pm, Monday 26 April 2021). As reported by the Department today, there are currently 28 active cases of COVID-19 in WA.

WA has continually reviewed and enhanced its hotel quarantine protocols and will continue to do so. Guests in hotel quarantine are tested for COVID-19 within the first 48-hours and again on day 12. The Victorian case tested negative for COVID-19 prior to release and passed the health screen on day 14.

Room and hotel allocation are based on room vacancy at the hotels – noting that a hotel room is left vacant for three days after a positive case and cleaned before it can be reused. Based on current occupancy rates and rooms that cannot yet be filled, our existing nine hotels are full.

Mitigation measures introduced by the Department since hotel quarantine commenced include:

1. PPE -- strengthened guidelines for hotel quarantine workers, particularly cleaners and security guards.

2. Infection prevention and control

  •  requiring guests to minimise opening their hotel door and to mask up before doing so
    moving security guards away from rooms with known positive cases
  • introducing buffer zones around rooms with high viral loads.

3. Hepafilters provided in rooms with positive cases.

4. Testing – daily testing for hotel quarantine workers and testing of international flight crew at Perth Airport.

5. Vaccinations – implementing mandatory (in the process of being introduced) vaccinations for hotel quarantine workers and prioritised vaccination of border workers and quarantine hotel workers.

6. No secondary employment for hotel quarantine workers

7. Increased powers for security guards to mitigate risk of guest absconding.

8. Installation/enhancement of CCTV across all quarantine hotels.

Following the Case 903 transmission to a security worker, consultants were engaged to identify issues with ventilation – to ensure better protection of staff within quarantine hotels.

On receipt of the initial reports, the Department reviewed them and sought clarification from the consultants. The final reports were publicly released today – previous iterations of these reports are draft documents.

On receipt of the final reports on 31 March, the Health Department had already put in place several mitigation measures to offset ventilation issues in some of the State’s quarantine hotels – including the Mercure, as detailed above.

In line with enhanced processes, when the second case across the corridor tested positive, surrounding vacant rooms were not filled with new travellers. However, the existing Victorian guest remained in situ, as they were departing the next day. At that time, genome sequencing results were not available to indicate any linkage between the cases and there was an alternative plausible explanation for the guest returning a day 12 positive result.

The Department is continuing to review and improve its hotel quarantine system, including the establishment of a seasonal worker quarantine facility to accommodate travellers from low risk countries such as the Pacific Islands.

During this transition phase however, these hotels have not been stood down, because to do so would have meant there was no room to quarantine returning travellers – putting the community at a much greater risk. In addition, every movement of a quarantine guest exposes a number of workers to an increased risk. These risks must be balanced at all times.

Dr Andrew Robertson
Chief Health Officer

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