The prospect of spending 10 extra days in hotel quarantine for refusing a coronavirus test would be “horrible” and harmful to mental health, says a returned Melbourne traveller.
His comments came after Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Sunday that recently returned travellers who refused to be tested for COVID-19 would have to stay in hotel quarantine for a further 10 days – 24 in total.
The crackdown came after reports that 30 per cent of people in Victorian hotels were refusing to be tested amid a concerning rise in cases.
The number of coronavirus cases in Victoria has now surpassed 2025, with outbreaks transferring from infected people in hotels to the wider Melbourne community remaining an ongoing issue.
Of the four new cases linked to outbreaks on Sunday, one was a staff member from the Stamford Plaza Hotel, taking that outbreak total to 19.
“This is the 11th consecutive day of double-digit growth in Victoria, with a continuing and concerning number of new cases associated with transmission in households and families,” Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said on Sunday.
Previously, the Victorian government had been asking to test returned travellers twice – on day three and day 11 of their time in hotel quarantine.
But from now on, the day 11 test will be a mandatory requirement to be eligible for release after 14 days.
If returned travellers refuse, they must undergo 10 more days in their hotel room, where they are banned from leaving except for an occasional break for fresh air.
Melbourne man Patrick Zippel, 28, underwent 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine at Crown Promenade after flying home from Switzerland in March.
He said another 10 days stuck in his hotel room would be “horrible”.
“Once you get over the hump of seven days in, that’s when the hardest part starts,” Mr Zippel told The New Daily.
“To have that light at the end of the tunnel taken away, or prolonged, that would have turned me from my positive mindset to being pretty down.”
Despite reeling at the prospect of another 10 days in forced quarantine, Mr Zippel said he backed the new rule.
“I don’t think these people should have the right to refuse to get tested before they’re released,” he said.
“If the government is paying for the quarantine and doing this whole procedure at a high cost, you don’t want to make it all for nothing just because someone doesn’t want to take a test.”
Who is refusing?
Many parents had refused testing of their children because the nasal swab test was uncomfortable, Mr Andrews said on Sunday.
He added that from Sunday, there would be the option for people to be tested via a saliva sample rather than the back of the throat, which was “much less painful”.
“I think that the saliva test will mean that (the 24 days’ quarantine) won’t necessarily be something that we have to do,” Mr Andrews said.
Before the new test type, people have been tested with a swab taken from the back of the throat and the nose.
The saliva test is available to anyone who prefers it, with the nasal test remaining an option.