Hotel quarantine secrets revealed

Australia’s hotel quarantine secrets have been revealed by senior officials on the same day Victoria announced an extension to its snap lockdown.

Since the decision was struck on March 27 last year, following a meeting between Scott Morrison and senior state leaders in National Cabinet, more than 358,500 people have walked in and out of hotel quarantine, chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly revealed at senate estimates yesterday.

“There were very clear, documented steps about how that should happen,” Mr Kelly said of the National Cabinet meeting at the time.

“Who was responsible for what was decided at that meeting, with very clear and documented steps on how that should happen.”

He said the decision that night was “probably the most important thing we’ve done in relation to keeping Australians safe since that time”.

Remarkably, New South Wales has taken more than half of those 358,500 travellers and has experienced less lockdowns than any other Australian state. The state takes around 3000 people into quarantine each week.

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Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly appears at the Health Department and Therapeutic Goods Administration appearances at Senate Estimates. Picture: Martin OllmanSource:News Corp Australia

The Department of Health revealed only 3900 of those 358,500 have tested positive for the coronavirus. That’s just over one per cent.

Professor Kelly said of those 3900 positives, six of those cases have been spread through the wider community.

“They’ve been picked up very quickly and different states have decided in different ways how to deal with those matters but ultimately, particularly since October last year, that’s been quickly and very successful under control.”

He revealed movement of staff, spacing of people in rooms and ventilation issues between rooms have all been flagged as issues, as well as risk of transmission when meals were delivered.

“Every week we discuss this, we share across the nation and those things are adopted and incorporated by the states and territories who are running the hotel quarantine.”

Mr Kelly described hotel quarantine as the biggest key component of a “ring of containment”.

“Australia has a very unusual experience of the virus compared with many other countries that are very similar to us. I think our border controls, including quarantine, the vast majority of that in hotels, has been enormously successful.”

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