They might be quarantining at the same hotel that produced Western Australia’s first COVID-19 case in 10 months, but returned travellers at the Four Points by Sheraton say they are being left in the dark on key issues.
An unknown number were due to leave the hotel on Tuesday after undergoing 14 days of quarantine but – only a short time before they were due to leave – they learned the plan had changed when they saw a press conference broadcast live on television.
At the media briefing, WA Premier Mark McGowan said the travellers would have to produce another negative test before they could be released.
The hotel has been in the headlines because a security guard who worked there has tested positive to COVID-19 and his case has been linked back to the British variant present in two overseas travellers at the facility.
Hannah Tall, a nurse who has flown out from the UK to take up a position in Queensland, was getting ready to leave the hotel to catch a plane when she heard on the TV she had to “sit tight”.
“To hear that literally half an hour before we were due to leave the hotel was unbelievable because the actual nursing team didn’t know this information and nor did the hotel,” Ms Tall said.
“I’ve been very impressed with how Western Australia has dealt with the pandemic … but I do feel that there should be better communication.”
It has also been revealed the security guard, who is now part of a police investigation, delivered medication to the door of a returned traveller at the hotel who had coronavirus on January 24.
The guard is cooperating with an inquiry into the incident but the Health Minister, Roger Cook said yesterday that he could not confirm whether he was wearing personal protective equipment at the time.
‘They didn’t have masks on’
Ms Tall, who has now been retested and is awaiting the results, is among three guests at the Sheraton who have told the ABC they have witnessed guards not wearing masks.
“When I arrived at the hotel, the hotel staff and security guards were all in full PPE, and [also] when I was escorted to the lift,” she said.
“When I came onto the fourth floor, I was actually very surprised to see the two security guards sitting on chairs when I tried to get by with my luggage and they didn’t have masks on.
“[It] really shocked me, to be honest, because I’ve been a nurse in the UK, so I’ve been in the middle of a pandemic and I’m very used to what PPE should be worn.
“I would have expected them to be wearing an FFP3 mask, particularly if there have been positive cases in the hotel.”
Treatment of travellers ‘disappointing and frustrating’
Ben Grimshaw, another returned traveller at the Sheraton who was due to leave on Tuesday, said he had tried to find out from the health team based at the hotel which floors the COVID 19 cases were on but no one could help him.
Mr Grimshaw said he did not have a problem with being retested but was disappointed by what he said was a lack of consideration being shown to those caught up in hotel quarantine.
“To find out on a TV interview, a press conference, rather than actually be informed by the health team or the hotel themselves is disappointing and frustrating,” Mr Grimshaw said.
He said he had also witnessed guards not wearing PPE.
“The hotel staff have been absolutely fantastic – can’t fault them, and every time we have seen them they’ve been wearing PPE, they’ve been wearing masks and gloves,” he said.
“The security team is completely different.
“When we arrived at the hotel on the 19th of January they were fully dressed in PPE but as soon as we checked into our room, and then subsequently up until Sunday, when we’ve had to put our head out of the door to collect meals or basically dispose of rubbish, when we’ve taken a glance at the security guards … they have not been wearing masks.”
WA Health Minister Roger Cook told the media conference on Tuesday the current protocol for security guards wearing PPE was under review.
“If the people are in their rooms and the guard is simply monitoring that corridor, they wouldn’t necessarily [be wearing a mask],” Mr Cook said.
“They would probably have to carry it with them in order to protect themselves in the event that someone left the room.”
Mr Cook defended the government’s hotel quarantine system, saying it had a pretty impressive record.
“This system has been in place for almost a year operating 24/7, processing over 35,000 guests at those hotels.
“Over the weekend, we had one incident which, to the best of our knowledge, is the first.”
No more overseas arrivals will be sent to the Four Points by Sheraton in Perth for the time being.