News WA hotel quarantine security guards to be given greater powers to stop people breaching rules

WA hotel quarantine security guards to be given greater powers to stop people breaching rules

Acting Premier Roger Cook says security will be tightened in WA's hotel quarantine system. Photo: ABC News
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

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.

Jenny D’Ubios walked out of hotel quarantine in Perth on Saturday. Photo: Facebook

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.

WA’s “robust” hotel quarantine arrangements have been a success, Mr Cook says. Photo: ABC News

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.

WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson says it is alleged the man left his hotel about 3am. Photo: ABC News

A 34-year-old man who travelled from New South Wales on compassionate grounds arrived in WA on December 23 and was in self-quarantine in a non-contracted hotel.

Police allege the man left his hotel about 3am.

“We’ve identified what we consider to be [further] breaches of his quarantine where another person was invited to his room for several hours,” Commissioner Dawson said.

“We have evidence which we’ve now put before the court.”

The man has tested negative to COVID-19 and is due to face court.

Commissioner Dawson said if the man received bail, he would be required to complete the remainder of his quarantine at a high-risk hotel.

Opposition calls for further action

Before Ms D’Ubios walked out of the city hotel on Saturday, she had refused a COVID-19 test.

She was found by police more than nine hours after leaving the hotel, at a hospital more than 50 kilometres away in Perth’s southern suburb of Rockingham.

During the intervening time, Ms D’Ubios had caught a bus, gone to a beach and visited friends in the suburb of Warnbro.

After being taken into police custody, she agreed to a voluntary COVID-19 test and returned a negative result.

Ms D’Ubios was charged with failing to comply with a direction and has been remanded in custody until her next court appearance next week.

Mr Cook said he was very angry at her for potentially putting many people’s health at risk and said it was unacceptable that the quarantine breach had occurred.

But the state opposition said that was not good enough and Mr Cook needed to take responsibility.

It has called for police officers to be stationed at low-security quarantine hotels to stop people leaving, and for an independent inquiry into WA’s COVID-19 preparedness.