The state government has reacted to ongoing concerns about SA’s hotel quarantine facilities by announcing a raft of changes to how they will operate.
“Case zero” of the Parafield cluster, which set the state into the strictest lockdown the country had seen through the pandemic, has been traced back to a security guard working in a Waymouth Street medi-hotel facility.
The transfer of the virus both to the security guard, and later to a couple currently in quarantine at the hotel, has led many in South Australia to questioning how authorities are safeguarding the state from those who have returned positive tests in quarantine.
In response, Premier Steven Marshall has announced an overhaul to how the quarantine system operates in the state.
Among the new protocols to be introduced include transferring patients who test positive to the virus out of medi-hotels and into dedicated health facilities. Premier Steven Marshall pointed to the now-empty Calvary Wakefield Hospital as a potential home for the new facility.
Security at the facilities will now provided solely by South Australia Police officers and state-backed security officers.
Staff working at the separate facilities will not be deployed to other facilities in the state’s hotel quarantine system, and employees will be given the option to stay at a dedicated “hotel for heroes” to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to their families.
The government is still seeking advice on whether to continue allowing those working at medi-hotels secondary employment, a practice that has been recommended against by Victoria’s inquiry into that state’s bungled quarantine program.
SA will now also ask national cabinet to consider testing all returning citizens to Australia prior to boarding international flights into the country.
The changes to the scheme were announced following the Premier’s confirmation that no apparent wrongdoing was identified in CCTV from the Peppers medi-hotel.
Health authorities are still investigating how “case zero” initially caught the virus, although SA’s chief public health officer Dr Nicola Spurrier warns that we may never know the full story behind this.