10 December 2020

Food delivery driver kicks off quarantine breach inquiry

| Dominic Giannini
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Repatriating Australians at Canberra Airport

Repatriated Australians were met at Canberra Airport by authorities before being escorted to hotel quarantine for two weeks. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

An unsuspecting food delivery driver has caused ACT Health and ACT Policing to investigate potential breaches of its hotel quarantine regime.

ACT Policing’s COVID-19 Taskforce made a number of inquiries after receiving a tip-off about a possible intrusion at the Pacific Suites on Northbourne Avenue yesterday (9 December) where recently repatriated Australians are quarantining.

“ACT Policing is satisfied this was not an intentional quarantine breach, after identifying and speaking to the person,” ACT Policing COVID-19 Taskforce’s Superintendent Matthew Heather said.

The person was a former employee at the hotel and used the car park entrance and lift to deliver food outside the door of someone else in quarantine.

A staff member quickly alerted authorities to the breach.

The delivery man was unaware that the person was a quarantinee, Superintendent Matthew Heather said.

“The food was placed outside the door and there was no close contact between the two people.”

All 120 repatriated Australians underwent mandatory COVID-19 testing between day 10 and 12 of their quarantine and all returned negative results, ACT Health said.

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The quarantine period is set to end at midnight tonight (10 December).

Sensitivities around the hotel quarantine regime – which led to the Victorian outbreak – have resulted in increased vigilance around quarantine, with ACT Policing and the Australian Defence Force managing compliance at the hotel.

However, some people, like UNSW epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws, have called for purpose-built facilities to be used for quarantine instead of hotels where untrained staff can easily let their guard down.

ACT Policing said it will participate in the ACT Government’s review of hotel quarantine arrangements.

The ACT Government implemented some changes to the hotel quarantine program following the Jane Halton review but has repeatedly said its hotel quarantine process was robust and based on best practice.

The Halton review did not identify any need for dramatic changes to the ACT’s hotel quarantine program.

The news of the breach comes just days after the ACT Government announced that it would not be receiving its planned second repatriation flight before Christmas.

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