‘Normal’ Christmas for COVID-Free Australians 2020

‘Normal’ Christmas for COVID-Free Australians 2020
People walk past the Myer Christmas window display as they do their Christmas shopping in Melbourne, Australia, on Dec. 20, 2012. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

A report on Victoria’s hotel quarantine failings is set to provide valuable lessons as Australia heads into Christmas with few COVID-19 concerns.

The inquiry chaired by Jennifer Coate will deliver its final report on Monday, with the findings expected to detail what went wrong with the botched scheme.

Victoria’s second wave, which resulted in more than 18,000 new infections and 800 deaths, can be traced back to outbreaks among security guards working at the Rydges and Stamford Plaza hotels.

After months of hearings featuring 63 witnesses, it is still not known who made the decision to use private security guards in the program rather than the police.

Private security guards are not involved in the state’s new-look hotel quarantine program.

Roving guards have meanwhile been deployed in South Australia’s quarantine hotels to minimise the chances of them becoming infected.

An investigation into the so-called Parafield cluster, which grew quickly to 33 infections, found that security guards who picked up the virus had been sitting for long periods outside the rooms of returned travellers confirmed to have the disease.

This, combined with poor ventilation in hotel corridors, was thought to have contributed to the guards picking up the virus.

Australia recorded just seven new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, all in hotel quarantine.

Victoria has now gone 46 days without a locally acquired case of COVID-19, while NSW has extended its streak to 11 days.

The success in stifling outbreaks over recent months means Australians will be able to visit family and friends across the country this Christmas.

It has given health authorities the luxury of being able to monitor the experiences of countries such as the UK and the United States as they rush out coronavirus vaccines in a desperate bid to reduce their rates of infections.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is content to wait until early next year to roll out a vaccine and says Australia is one of only a handful of countries to have suppressed the virus.

“There won’t be too many places around the world where Christmas will be as normal as it is in Australia this year,” he told reporters on Dec. 15.