Victoria’s New Hotel Quarantine Boss to Improve Enforcement, Infection Control

December 1, 2020 Updated: December 1, 2020

Victoria’s new quarantine program will be led by Corrections Commissioner Emma Cassar who says she is confident that the new program is a balance between “strong enforcement” and specialised infection control in its new-look set-up.

On Monday Premier Daniel Andrews announced a dedicated government agency for managing overseas returnees called COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV). The program will restart on Dec. 7 and will be led by the newly appointed Cassar who reports to Police and Emergency services Minister Lisa Neville.

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Stamford Hotel in Melbourne, Australia on June 25, 2020. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The revamped isolation system will not use private security, which was said to be one of several failures of the previous program, instead it will utilise around 300 state police officers, and 220 Australian Defence Force personnel.

Inadequate training, poor infection protocols, and lack of accountability were flagged areas to improve on in the Hotel Quarantine Inquiry’s interim report. The board of inquiry listed over 90 recommendations, the Victorian government has acknowledged only 52 of them.

Cassar said the improvements had been made with a focus on preventing and controlling virus infection. 

“All the reset features of the program are around infection, prevention and control,” she told ABC News on Tuesday morning. “We do need a strong enforcement process to make sure the guests are safe and remain in their rooms.”

As well as enforcement teams, the system will also have separate medical and wellbeing cohorts. They will be kept in independent work “bubbles” to limit how many people they are in contact with, and they will stay on site.

Additional control measures will see all staff members COVID-19 tested daily, with a voluntary option for their close contacts to be tested too.

Meanwhile, returning travellers will not be allowed to leave their room for fresh air or exercise breaks.

However, there have been substantial improvements to the foodservice, including the addition of resident support assistants who will be responsible for “running Uber Eats,” luggage transporting and other logistical needs. Doctors, nurses, mental health assistance and welfare cohorts will also be on site.

Returning Australians will pay around $3,500 per adult for a mandatory two-week stay in a Melbourne hotel. Initially, Victoria will be capped at 160 travellers a day.

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews at a press conference in Melbourne, Australia on Nov. 23, 2020. (Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Premier Andrews at a press conference on Monday said the new program would be “strongest and safest quarantine program in the country,” but warned there were risks involved. “Some would say that it is inevitable that there will be outbreaks, there will be cases,” Andrews said.

“The key point here is to make sure you’ve got the strongest system in place to lock down any outbreak … we’re very confident that we’ll be able to do that.”

Victoria’s hotel quarantine system was halted in late June following a breach of COVID-19 disease from Melbourne’s Rydges on Swanston and the Stamford Plaza.

Failures within the previous program are said to be responsible for the second wave of CCP virus cases which has seen over 800 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Epidemiology has found that 99 percent of all infections after June trace back to the outbreak in the Melbourne hotels.

The Hotel Quarantine Inquiry is expected to hand down their final report on Dec. 21.