Has Australia’s hotel quarantine system been broken? | Coronavirus pandemic news
Melbourne, Australia – Australia is working to contain the outbreak of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, which began with an unmasked and unvaccinated driver of an international crew member in Sydney.
The blockade measures in Australia’s largest city have been extended to the end of August. Other major cities, including Melbourne, are now relaxing restrictions, but states have imposed restrictions on interstate travel.
The epidemic has put pressure on governments whose vaccination plan is the slowest in developed countries, and has once again raised questions about the hotel quarantine system implemented by international travelers at the beginning of the pandemic.
Although it helps control the virus, the requirement of strict quarantine for each arrival for 14 days has not yet been fulfilled. It also prevented approximately 30,000 Australians from returning home and others from visiting relatives overseas.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted that the hotel quarantine plan was “99.99% effective.”
However, there were at least 21 leaks from various hotels, leading to repeated closures of schools and businesses and severe disruption to daily life because the city was forced to lock down to curb the spread of the virus.
Critics say the system acts as an incubator and communicator, creating a greater risk in a country where only slightly more than 13% of people are fully vaccinated-this is the OECD or OECD country The second-lowest ratio.
“Since November, there has been an average leak in the hotel quarantine every 9 days,” Mike Toole, a professor of international hygiene, told Al Jazeera. “They led to massive community outbreaks and subsequent blockades in five cities.”
Tour, who worked at the Burnett Institute in Melbourne and has medical epidemiologists and public health experience, said that sometimes it is not the hotel that contains the virus, but the cause of the spread of the virus.
He said: “Some states have not paid enough attention to airborne transmission. The virus has spread in hotel corridors.”
“They did not review the ventilation of the hotel, nor did they provide employees with adequate breathing masks.”
In addition to buildings—hotel rooms are designed for vacationers and business travelers, not to contain the virus—he also blamed poor management of quarantine.
He said: “The current outbreak of more than 2,000 cases in Sydney is because the New South Wales government has not required the crew of Sydney Airport to wear masks.”
“He hasn’t been vaccinated either.”
‘Lack of planning’
Mismanagement was the cause of the outbreak in Victoria in June 2020, which prompted the Premier of the state to declare a “disaster state” and implement a multi-month lockdown, costing an estimated A$12 billion (US$8.8 billion) and hundreds of deaths.
A subsequent investigation found that between March 2020 and June 2020, a total of 21,821 returning travelers were quarantined in Melbourne hotels, of which only 236 (1.1%) actually tested positive for COVID-19.
However, although the number of community cases in May 2020 dropped from a peak of 541 cases to only 57 cases, violations of the quarantine plan resulted in a peak of 725 new cases per day in early August.
The report found that these violations were caused by poorly planned, inexperienced private security guards, and poor management by the Ministry of Health and Human Services, the government agency that oversees the plan.
According to the report, “the lack of a mandatory large-scale quarantine plan means that Victoria’s hotel quarantine plan was conceived and implemented from the ground up. From concept to operation, it can be run within 36 hours.”
“This lack of planning is the most unsatisfactory situation from which such a complex and high-risk plan can be developed.”
The epidemic has also contributed to the spread of the virus in China Nursing home, Which resulted in nearly 700 deaths, and reviewed poor infection control practices in these facilities.
Mike Tur said that the hotel quarantine plan needs to be improved to contain the virus, and each state should use purpose-built quarantine facilities, such as the Howard Springs Center in Darwin, which has no leaks.
In Howard Springs, travelers are quarantined in separate cabins, which are open to the outdoors, rather than closed corridors, and the risk of airborne viruses is higher. Unlike hotels in the city center, this facility is also more remote, so in the event of a violation, fewer people are at risk.
Toole estimates that five new facilities (one in each state) will cost about 2 billion Australian dollars (1.5 billion U.S. dollars), and he noted that “this is far below the current economic cost of a weekly lockdown of 1 billion U.S. dollars (750 million U.S. dollars).”
“But it takes six months to build them, so the hotel isolation problem must be resolved during this period,” he said. “Otherwise, we will continue to have loopholes and lockdowns until about 80% of people are vaccinated.”
In response to the hotel quarantine investigation, the Victorian government formulated a plan to build a 500-bed “quarantine center” outside Melbourne city centre.
According to the Howard Springs model, the center will open in 2022, and similar options are being explored in New South Wales and Queensland.
Tony Blakely, professor of epidemiology at the University of Melbourne, said that such dedicated facilities will have a lifespan far beyond COVID-19.
He told Al Jazeera: “In this pandemic and in the next pandemic, we will need purpose-built facilities.”
These facilities could also allow more stranded Australians to return. With the recent outbreak, the government halved the number of international arrivals, which broke the hearts of those who had been separated from their homes for months.
Blakely estimates that under the same risk of leakage as existing urban hotels, the number of people who can pass through dedicated facilities will increase by 5 to 10 times.
Although the announcement of the quarantine center and the urgency of re-vaccinations marked a positive response from the government, these actions were hampered by tensions and mutual accusations between the state and federal governments, especially in terms of funding and management responsibilities.
Australia’s limited supply of vaccines has also been affected by interstate controversy, and each state has provided a case that explains why they should be given priority in vaccination plans. Morrison recently apologized for the slow launch.
It is estimated that the recent nationwide lockdown has cost Australia’s economy at least 10 billion Australian dollars ($7.4 billion). Although Australia’s number of cases appears to be small compared with countries such as India, Indonesia, and even the United States, the continued virus policy eliminates the implications. Even the smallest outbreak may be blocked.
This prospect is testing millions of Australians, who quickly lost patience to quarreling politicians and the mismanagement of COVID-19.