An expensive ‘lucky dip’: Inside the hotel quarantine system that’s our last line …

An expensive 'lucky dip': Inside the hotel quarantine system that's our last line of defence

As another coronavirus cluster was linked to hotel quarantine, Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly didn’t mince words.

“That is our major risk now of reintroduction of COVID-19 into Australia, as we have seen in Adelaide over recent days,” he warned on Wednesday, as South Australia prepared to introduce some of the nation’s toughest coronavirus restrictions since the pandemic began.

The Parafield cluster, which has grown to more than 20 confirmed cases, is but the latest in a series of problems linked to hotel quarantine.

Victoria’s second wave, for example, was found to have stemmed from failures in the state’s “hastily assembled” system, while nearly 400 returned travellers were removed from a quarantine facility in Sydney following complaints over hygiene.

It begs the question: if quarantine facilities pose the biggest risk to Australia’s path out of the pandemic, should we be doing more to safeguard them? Or is it time to find a new system?

“This is not just the first [incident],” says epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws, a UNSW professor and World Health Organization advisor.

“It really needs to be re-evaluated right now.”

The Parafield cluster in Adelaide has grown to more than 20 confirmed cases.(ABC News: Michael Clements) How many people have gone through quarantine?

Since the introduction of international border restrictions earlier this year, all returning travellers have been required to undertake 14 days of quarantine in a “designated facility”.

Between March and August, some 130,000 Australians rotated through the nation’s quarantine program, about 850 of whom tested positive for COVID-19 (a positivity rate of just 0.66 per cent).…

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