Findings of an independent review into Western Australia’s hotel quarantine arrangements have been handed to the McGowan Government, and were endorsed by the State Disaster Council today.
The independent review, conducted by Professor Tarun Weeramanthri, acknowledges WA’s successful public health response to COVID-19 with more than 40,000 people safely quarantined in WA since the beginning of the pandemic and no community transmission of COVID-19 recorded for almost 12 months.
The review into hotel quarantine was prompted following a hotel quarantine worker, known as case 903, who contracted a highly transmissible variant of COVID-19.
Following case 903, parts of WA, including Perth, Peel and the South-West entered a snap five-day lockdown from 6pm, Sunday January 31, 2021 to 6pm, Friday, February 5, 2021.
A year into the pandemic, and with hotel quarantine likely to be needed for some time, the review makes 16 recommendations to strengthen and improve hotel quarantine arrangements in WA now, and into the future.
The recommendations made over three pieces of advice ranging from improving on-site ventilation and infection protection, to addressing secondary employment of hotel quarantine workers, establishing better systems for gathering and sharing data and improving governance, accountability, organisational and risk management structures including establishing a Quarantine Advisory Panel.
Professor Weeramanthri worked with staff from the WA Department of Health, the WA Police Force and other government jurisdictions and non-government stakeholders in undertaking the review.
As part of the review, Professor Weeramanthri visited all nine quarantine hotels and the Perth Airport to understand on-the-ground operations.
Key recommendations already implemented include strengthened testing regimes for hotel quarantine workers, and restricting high-risk hotel quarantine workers from holding secondary employment, with a 40 per cent uplift allowance to supplement high-risk workers’ income.
Other immediate actions from the review have been implemented including independent assessments of ventilation systems and the advertisement of Hotel Quarantine Services Site Managers.
These roles will manage day-to-day operations at hotel quarantine sites to strengthen corporate and clinical governance.
A new strategic multi-agency Quarantine Advisory Panel will also be established to enhance governance and sustainability of the hotel quarantine arrangements – as one of the key recommendations.
The advice and responses have been published on https://www.wa.gov.au
As stated by Premier Mark McGowan:
“Western Australia’s safe and sensible approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, including its hotel quarantine arrangements, has kept the WA community safe and strong.
“However, as the virus continues to evolve it is important that we are always working to improve our approach.
“More than a year into the pandemic, Professor Weeramanthri’s review serves as a constant reminder that our COVID safe measures must be continually maintained and updated to ensure we protect Western Australia.
“Community transmission of COVID-19 will always be a risk, we just need to look at other jurisdictions across the world to see how prevalent the virus still is, and how much havoc variant strains continue to wreak.
“In WA, our strongest defence systems to combat COVID-19 include border controls, vaccination, contact tracing and effective quarantine measures, with continuous improvement being crucial.”
As stated by Health Minister Roger Cook:
“Naturally some measures for hotel quarantine had to be implemented quickly given the pandemic was thrust upon us early last year.
“While those measures have kept WA safe, it’s important that we look towards the future and how hotel quarantine arrangements can be strengthened.
“Everyone must be alert to the potential for COVID-19 to emerge at any time in our community and this review outlines how we can better protect WA by refining our hotel quarantine system.
“The McGowan Government supports all recommendations, with several already implemented and significant progress made on others.”