Qld Premier right to call for review of national hotel quarantine arrangements

The Grand Chancellor, around lunchtime on 13 January 2021, with ambulances lined up, ready to transfer quarantined guests to other hotels, and with police officers keeping watch.

The Grand Chancellor Hotel in Spring Hill is around the corner and up the hill, around a 300m walk, from my office at the Johnson Hotel on Boundary St. I never imagined it would end up being the place from which the UK mutant COVID-19 strain would spread into the Queensland community. Hopefully the community transmission remains limited to the cleaner and her partner (not counting the quarantined guests infected in the hotel) and we don’t end up in another lockdown. The Premier has rightly suggested we need to review quarantine arrangements for international travellers to Australia (check out this Perth Now report). This is a point that was well made in a comment on my last Saturday post by QEW reader Paul, who made it in the context of a critique of my views on the Greater Brisbane lockdown, and I’ve hoisted it from comments to reproduce it below:

The current issue is not whether lock-downs are necessary (they are) but how the more transmissible strain of the virus got into Australia. This is clearly a failure of quarantine at international borders. Hotel quarantine in major cities is an extremely foolish idea. You can’t contain a highly transmissible virus in a commercial hotel. Of course some people will break quarantine, of course some people will make mistakes, of course some people are stupid and ignorant – that’s just the human condition and quarantine procedures must take this into account.

All incoming overseas travellers should quarantine for 2-3 weeks in purpose built facilities in isolated areas before being released into the Australian population. For example demountables built near the RAAF northern bases (RAAF Scherger or RAAF Learmonth). Remote and isolated, nothing but kangaroos and crocodiles. The airstrips are designed for fighter jets and transports and can take overseas commercial planes. Plenty of locally built air conditioned demountables built for the mining industry. A mere $100M (petty cash in the Federal Budget) would be enough to bring Australians home and restart the immigration program. These demountables could be used by defence subsequently in northern exercises.

Quarantine in remote locations is not a new idea. It was standard practice near ports in the nineteenth century.

Quarantine in remote locations is obvious to any one dealing with human or agricultural animal/plant quarantine. We can keep agricultural viruses such as ‘foot and mouth’ disease in cattle out. Hard to think of any reason it is not done with Covid 19 other than wanting to help the economy of inner city hotels and perhaps of party donors.

While Paul and I aren’t fully in agreement on lockdowns, I think he’s made some excellent points about hotel quarantine and his idea is well worth consideration by National Cabinet. Hopefully, they’re already considering something along these lines.

The ambulances were lined up outside the Grand Chancellor for much of the day.
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