All Victoria’s Hotel Quarantine Staff To Be Vaccinated Ahead of International Flight Arrivals

April 5, 2021 Updated: April 5, 2021

All frontline hotel quarantine workers will have received a COVID-19 vaccine before flights of international returnees arrive in Melbourne on April 8, the Victorian state government has confirmed.

This comes as the Andrews Labor government commits to a “reset” of the hotel quarantine program following an inquiry that found last year’s second wave and its “devastating social and economic consequences”—including over 800 associated deaths—were caused by breaches in hotel quarantine.

“The advice I have is that all staff working in hotel quarantine in those front-facing roles will be vaccinated once the program resumes on the 8th of April,” Labor Minister Jacinta Allan said on April 5.

“The vast majority of hotel quarantine workers have already been vaccinated, and only those who have been vaccinated will be working in hotel quarantine from the 8th of April in those front-facing roles,” Allan said.

This also follows a review of “variants of concern,” led by Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng, that concluded vaccinating hotel quarantine staff would be the most effective measure in preventing the virus’s spread.

Nearly 5000 hotel quarantine workers—including quarantine staff, hotel staff, police and Australian Defence Force personnel—have received their first dose, while 2283 await their second dose, reported The Australian.

Meanwhile, Thursday’s restart will mark the third time Victoria’s hotel quarantine scheme has been overhauled since the start of the pandemic. The state’s hotel program was suspended on Feb. 13, 2021, following leaks from the hotel quarantine, including the Holiday Inn cluster, which triggered the state government into enacting a snap, “circuit-breaker” five-day lockdown.

Arrivals will now be tested four times—on arrival day, day four, 12 and 14—and contacted on day 16 for a “symptom check,” according to key actions (pdf) outlined by the state government.

The state government has also developed ventilation standards in quarantine facilities, including equalising air pressure in rooms and hallways to avoid viral particles from entering communal spaces.

The state government will also standardise all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) across all facilities.

In response to the hotel quarantine inquiry’s final report, the Victorian government said it is “taking action to implement all 81 of the Inquiry’s recommendations”; 49 have been implemented, four have been implemented in part, eight have been committed to, and 20 will be referred to the National Cabinet.

“[T]he Government is committed to learning from these lessons, to ensure that Victoria continues to deliver the safest and most effective quarantine system possible.”

A cap of 800 returned travellers per week is planned before the number increases to 1,120 by April 15.

No new cases of COVID-19 were reported on April 5, marking the state’s 38th consecutive day without a locally acquired case.

AAP contributed to this report.