Coronavirus: SA premier slams call to move quarantine from hotels to camps

 smh.com.au  11/22/2020 03:24:01 

In a statement on social media on Sunday morning, he said that although his party had given bipartisan support to many of the state's coronavirus measures, he could no longer "stand by and support the continued acceptance of international arrivals into South Australian medi-hotels".

"Furthermore, until an alternative solution is found, the international student trial via South Australian medi-hotels should also not go ahead," Mr Malinauskas said.

"Given the experience of medi-hotel failure in Melbourne and now Adelaide, we definitively know that placing international arrivals (infected with COVID-19) in CBD accommodation with subcontracted private security simply does not work."

South Australia's recent Parafield cluster, in Adelaide's north, was seeded from a hotel housing quarantining travellers after a security guard became infected and spread the virus into the community.

Mr Marshall and the state's Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier, strongly rejected Mr Malinauskas' concerns.

"It makes no sense whatsoever. We don't have 1200 rooms in Woomera or Christmas Island to pop up with a quarantine hotel, let alone the staff, let alone building the hospital alongside it," the Premier said.

"I think this is just a blatant attempt, quite frankly, at pushing fear and division. I, quite frankly, find it disgusting that Peter Malinauskas thinks South Australians returning from overseas, or those returning from Victoria to do their quarantine, should be put in a detention-style quarantine centre on Christmas Island or Woomera."

Professor Spurrier defended the performance of the hotels, and said moving a quarantine facility into the outback was extremely difficult logistically and posed significant risks to vulnerable Indigenous communities.

"It would be very, very difficult," she said. "Medi-hotels have been very strong in terms of their overall functioning and their performance. I'm actually quite comfortable with having the medi-hotels as they currently stand."

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After the SA outbreak, Australia's acting Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, said quarantine staff in all states and territories would be tested weekly for coronavirus after the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee identified hotel quarantine as "our major risk" of reintroducing coronavirus into areas without local transmission.

The issue of insecure, and highly casualised, work was brought to the fore again last week when it was revealed the privately subcontracted security guard for the state's hotel quarantine system was also working part-time at a pizza bar.

Victoria's deadly second wave of the pandemic began when private hotel security guards became infected and spread the virus into the community.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews had introduced a one-off $1500 payment for those forced into isolation, and a $450 supplement for those taking a test, after evidence emerged casual workers were not isolating because they could not afford to.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus last week said a solution for casual and contracted staff working in high-risk environments as well as other jobs would "save lives in the process".

"Weve seen around the country through this crisis that insecure work is a risk to public health," she said.

In a related development, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian went public on Sunday with her plan to use the state's hotel quarantine system to bring in international students and skilled migrants at the expense of returning Australians.

The position puts her at odds with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the national cabinet, which committed to a policy of putting returning Australians first.

On Sunday morning she defended her stance.

"Of course until Christmas and the new year period is over that should absolutely be the case ... but NSW welcomes back [3000 Australians] every week. More Australians than all the other states combined," Ms Berejiklian said.

"Because a lot of our universities will have to actually axe jobs if we don't, especially regional universities, I don't want to see that happen."

Asked about Ms Berejiklian's position on Sunday, Mr Andrews backed current arrangements.

"At just over 1100 [people] a week.. we think the priority should be getting people who have waited  many of them a long time  to come home. We want to get them home so they can be with their family over summer whether Christmas is a factor or not," he said.

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