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South Australia's opposition calls for end to hotel quarantine as state exits lockdown

The Guardian logo The Guardian 2 days ago Josh Taylor
a car parked on a city street: Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

South Australia’s opposition leader has called for a halt on putting returned travellers in hotel quarantine until a safer system can be put in place, as the state emerged from its temporary lockdown on Sunday.

Labor opposition leader Peter Malinauskas wrote to premier Steven Marshall on Sunday and said the outbreak from hotel quarantine in Adelaide and the second wave experienced in Victoria as a result of its hotel quarantine issues showed that putting returned travellers in CBD hotels “with subcontracted private security simply does not work”.

“The only way to alleviate this risk is to immediately end the international arrival and medi-hotel system in its current format, until a safer solution is found,” he said.

Malinauskas suggested in a Facebook post that there could be purpose-built facilities outside the CBD staffed by a non-casual workforce.

Marshall said on Sunday the suggestion would not work, and was a break in bipartisanship.

“It makes no sense whatsoever,” he said. “We don’t have 1,200 rooms in Woomera or Christmas Island to pop up with a quarantine hotel let alone the staff, let alone building the hospital alongside it.”

The Parafield outbreak from the Peppers medi-hotel still stands at 26 cases. The state recorded just one new case overnight – a woman in her 20s in a medi-hotel who returned to South Australia from overseas before the state stopped accepting returned travellers.

The lockdown ended in South Australia at midnight on Sunday, three days earlier than planned, after a 36-year-old kitchen worker at the Stamford medi-hotel who initially said he had contracted the virus while picking up a pizza at an Adelaide pizza bar later admitted to working in the kitchen alongside an infected security guard from the Peppers hotel.

The man is on a temporary graduate visa which expires next month. A taskforce of 20 police detectives are investigating the false report.

Federal Labor’s shadow employment minister, Brendan O’Connor, told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday that while people should not lie to contact tracers, the man might have been forced to lie about his work situation because he did not have access to jobseeker or jobkeeper support on a temporary visa.

“We have had hundreds of thousands of temporary visa applicants who don’t have any support in a recession where obviously employers won’t choose to employ them necessarily if they are not going to get the subsidy,” he said.

“I’m just making the point, so you make decisions at the federal level, they can have consequences down the track.

“We did say there should be modest support for people on temporary visas. You can’t give them nothing because they will end up being in a difficult situation as clearly is the case with respect to this particular individual.”

The South Australian chief health officer, Prof Nicola Spurrier, said South Australia will probably have more cases of Covid-19 linked to the Parafield cluster in the coming days as close contacts, already in isolation, continue to be tested.

Spurrier said she will feel confident the state has avoided a second wave in a few weeks.

She denied the decision to lock down the entire state was based solely on the information provided by the pizza worker, saying modelling last week showed that without the lockdown South Australia could have had anywhere between 100 and 200 cases a day by mid-December.

“With Christmas not far away, this was not something I felt we should be allowing to happen in South Australia,” she said. “We had come too far to allow this to just take off like this.”

Despite the state emerging from lockdown, Victoria now requires South Australians wishing to travel into Victoria to apply for a permit. Those who live communities 70km from the border will be able to use their existing permits.

Those outside Adelaide and those in Adelaide outside the hotspot areas will be granted permits, with the latter encouraged to get tested.

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