Security guards at Western Australia’s quarantine hotels will be given specific powers to stop people leaving and breaching quarantine directions, Acting Premier Roger Cook has announced.
Following a review of the state’s hotel quarantine system, the Health Department will also review the physical barriers designed to stop people from leaving hotels before the end of their two-week stay.
The review was announced on Sunday after returned overseas traveller Jenny D’Ubios walked out unopposed from a low-security quarantine hotel in the Perth CBD on Saturday.
Ms D’Ubios’s lawyer said her client had suffered a mental health breakdown in hotel quarantine and had not been properly supported.
Former Australian of the Year and mental health expert Professor Patrick McGorry, the Australian Medical Association and the State Opposition have all called for hotel quarantine to better cater to people with mental health issues.
Offering quarantine in rural locations, where people have access to more space and much needed fresh air, is one of the options being touted as an alternative to city hotel rooms.
In announcing the new powers for security guards, Mr Cook said they would help to prevent future potential breaches.
“The new powers will give them better legal protection to prevent a person breaching a quarantine direction,” he said.
“This is an important next step.”
Mr Cook said there would also now be a new way of dealing with travellers who had breached their quarantine requirements or had indicated they intended to, as Ms D’Ubios did in a Facebook post.
“This will allow both [the Health Department] and police to have a framework to jointly assess the risk rating of whether an individual should be moved to a high-risk hotel,” he said.
“This high-risk hotel is guarded by police.”
‘Harsh’ rules explain no community transmission: Cook
Mr Cook said the state government would work with hotels to ensure they had not only lockdown floors and lifts, but also secured exit and entry points.
More than 30,000 people have so far gone through hotel quarantine in WA, with 25,327 of those returning international travellers.
“Literally hundreds of these people have arrived carrying the COVID virus,” Mr Cook said.
“The reason why that disease has not been transmitted into the community is because of the robustness of our hotel quarantine arrangements.
“Some people believe that [the rules] are too harsh, but it has been successful in stopping COVID-19 from breaking out in Western Australia.
“It is why we have not had a case of community transmission in 262 days.”
There have been two national reviews into hotel quarantine, both of which Mr Cook said had given WA the tick of approval.
The specific powers for security guards are granted under Section 61 of Emergency Management Act.
New quarantine breach revealed
Meanwhile, WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said another person was charged with a quarantine breach overnight on Monday.