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Has Victoria learnt anything since the hotel quarantine inquiry?

Have Victorian authorities learnt anything from the findings of the hotel quarantine inquiry? Based on the recent problems resulting in the Holiday Inn outbreak, it would seem not. In fact, given the Premier’s recent comments that “I think we could all agree on the fact that hospitals are different to hotels in many, many different ways”, one wonders whether Mr Andrews has actually read the hotel quarantine inquiry report.

Staff in protective gear at the Holiday Inn in Flinders Lane on Tuesday.

Staff in protective gear at the Holiday Inn in Flinders Lane on Tuesday.Credit:Luis Ascui

From an infection control point of view, the inquiry highlighted that quarantine should be a strict system of containment and isolation, where clear health guidelines are rigorously followed. Whether this is in a hotel, a hospital, or a special facility such as Howard Springs or any new Victorian facility such as was proposed yesterday is irrelevant – these are just matters of geography. The key issue is “quarantine”, not the location in which it is carried out. After all, travellers are in hotel quarantine in case they have COVID-19 – in other words, they are considered potentially infected until, after 14 days and regular testing, they are proven to be non-infected.

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From a quarantine infection control point of view, all the principles that apply to staff and patients in a hospital COVID ward, should equally apply to hotel quarantine. Yet, in Victoria, there are still clear differences in infection control procedures (N95 mask use, attention to preventing aerosol transmission, etc) between hospital-run facilities and quarantine hotels. This is totally contrary to the inquiry recommendations and, as an infectious diseases physician, absolutely exasperating and really quite unacceptable.

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