AUSTRALIA – ABC NEWS said the decision comes some weeks after a review of WA’s quarantine hotels found the Mercure was the least suitable of Perth’s 10 dedicated quarantine facilities, due to the design of its airflow and ventilation.
Genome sequencing data has revealed a mother and her four-year-old child, who were returned travellers from the UK, caught the virus at the hotel from an infected couple who had returned from India and were staying in a room opposite them.
Mr McGowan said both rooms had HEPA filter air purifiers fitted in them.
He said 18 people who were on the same floor as the infected couple had since been released from quarantine.
Two of the guests, who were in adjacent rooms to the infected couple, have been asked to self-quarantine for another two weeks and get retested.
The other 16 guests were asked to get retested and self-isolate until they return a negative result.
Four of them had already received negative test results.
A further 13 security guards, 31 hotel staff, one doctor and two CCTV installers, who visited the hotel floor since April 10, will also be retested and have been asked to isolate until they get a negative result.
Hotel system ‘imperfect’: Premier
An independent review of WA’s hotel quarantine system following a January incident of a security guard contracting the virus, which sparked a five-day lockdown, made 16 recommendations — all of which were supported by the state government.
The recommendations included improving hotel ventilation, establishing better systems for sharing data and improving risk management.
The review of the airflow and ventilation of all 10 quarantine hotels ranked the Mercure Hotel as the least safe option.
Health Minister Roger Cook said the Chief Health Officer had found all 10 hotels were suitable for quarantine, but some represented a lower risk than others.
He therefore recommended the Mercure should be used for very low-risk guests.
Mr Cook said the government was in the process of transitioning the hotel to a dedicated low-risk facility when the transmission event was detected.
Mr McGowan said the recommendations made in the hotel quarantine report were being “implemented progressively”.
“Health authorities are doing their best to implement his recommendations and to do it safely,” he said.
He said the hotel quarantine system was “imperfect”.
“All health authorities and governments are still learning about everything this once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic throws up,” Mr McGowan said.
“What has been tried and tested is our border controls.
“As such, I am going to raise with National Cabinet my concerns about the volume of returning Australians that have the virus and the pressure that is placing on us and our hotel quarantine system.”
Opposition slams ‘successive failures’ of hotel system
WA Opposition Leader Mia Davies said Labor had not acted quickly enough to implement recommendations from the review of the state’s hotel quarantine system.
“While no system is perfect, the successive failures under the Labor government’s watch are placing West Australians at risk — at home and overseas,” Ms Davies said.
“Failures to properly test hotel quarantine workers plunged our state into lockdown earlier this year and were followed by revelations workers weren’t required to wear masks, get vaccinated, and were still working secondary jobs contrary to the learnings of other states.”
Opposition health spokeswoman Libby Mettam said it was unacceptable that Labor had not detailed the issues with the Mercure Hotel until now.
“Not only does this illustrate a complete lack of transparency but also total incompetence when it comes to the management of the health sector in this state,” she said.
“The continuing lack of transparency by the McGowan Labor government, particularly given the escalating health crisis, is a real concern.”
Ms Mettam also expressed concern at the Premier’s stance on Australians returning from India.
“Whilst I support the McGowan government’s effort to seek health advice to discontinue all Indian arrivals, this should only be a temporary measure,” Ms Mettam said.
However, the State Government said the WA Chief Health Officer’s advice following the hotel quarantine review was that the recommendations did “not identify any fundamental flaws in the air handling systems” that would prevent the use of any hotels.
“The recommendations from the review were about improving the hotel quarantine system to continue to adapt to the unfolding pandemic and the growing number of highly infectious strains of COVID-19 that continue to emerge,” the statement said.
“The Department of Health had already commenced works at the [Mercure] hotel to address recommendations in the review when the positive test results were recorded.”
Mercure hotel to be used for low-risk travellers
While the Mercure would no longer accept returned overseas travellers, Mr McGowan said it would be used as a dedicated quarantine hotel for low-risk seasonal workers from countries including Tonga and Vanuatu.
A flight of seasonal workers is expected to arrive in late May.
“As returned travellers continue to arrive, they will fill the other quarantine hotels in our city,” Mr McGowan said.
“I want to assure people that seasonal workers from Tonga or Vanuatu come from very low-risk areas.
“This hotel will still remain under WA Health’s management.”