“It’s not boo-hoo we don’t like hotels, it’s that hotels are not quarantine facilities” — that’s the reaction of one “terrified” traveller stuck in a Brisbane hotel that is the site of Queensland’s latest COVID-19 outbreak.
- A man is thought to have caught the virus from a group from South Africa staying in the same hotel
- Some hotel guests are calling on the federal government to build real quarantine facilities
- Authorities are investigating if the Amora outbreak is related to doors being opened near other rooms
The Amora Hotel in Creek Street in the CBD was revealed on Tuesday as the location of the state’s latest COVID-19 transmission incident.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young confirmed a man in his 40s who spent two weeks quarantining in the hotel tested positive to a strain that was carried by another hotel guest.
Dr Young said the man was thought to have contracted the virus from a group of travellers from South Africa staying in the same hotel.
She said the infected man had been on the same floor in a room opposite where one of the South African travellers had been quarantined.
When news of the outbreak at the 296-room, 4.5-star hotel filtered out, it prompted some guests to display signs highlighting their concerns.
Returned traveller Rikki-Lee Romeyn, 31, was one who featured a placard calling on the federal government to “build real quarantine facilities”.
She said being in the hotel was terrifying.
Ms Romeyn returned from Taiwan to care for her aging grandparents and went into quarantine on July 20 with her wife Jill.
She said they could not even open a window in the hotel room.
“I’m very scared for my health and wellbeing, and they have said if anything happens just call an ambulance — that is the only advice I have been given.”
Ms Romeyn, who suffers from claustrophobia, said Australia needed to fast-track freestanding quarantine facilities to have them ready in three months, not by the end of the year.
“There is absolutely no reason why we could not use what we have got in Howard Springs [in the Northern Territory] — a few dongas in the desert,” she said.
“We would be saving people’s lives and bringing more Australians home safely and I just don’t understand why 16 months into a pandemic we are still at hotels, which are not built for quarantine.
“These things can be built in eight weeks and we have the capacity, we have the room, we have everything available to us — it needs to happen now — and it would stop so much [virus] spreading.”
Ms Romeyn said she did not want people to think she did not like the hotel and was whinging.
“It’s not boo-hoo we don’t like hotels — it’s that hotels are not quarantine facilities,” she said.
Hotel quarantine is ‘not perfect’
University of Queensland virologist Dr Kirsty Short said the outbreak at the Amora Hotel was concerning but unsurprising.
“We know that hotel quarantine is not perfect,” Dr Short said.
“We have seen spillovers from hotel quarantine time and time again and we shouldn’t expect that to change unless we change something in the system.
“It’s concerning from the point that we don’t want this happening, but it’s not surprising because it has happened before and we can expect it to happen again.”
Two Brisbane lockdowns so far this year
Queensland authorities are investigating whether the latest outbreak at the Amora was related to doors being opened near other rooms.
Brisbane has twice undergone lockdowns this year because of outbreaks from hotels.
In January, a cleaner at Brisbane’s Hotel Grand Chancellor was thought to have acquired a COVID-19 infection through indirect contact during a shift.
The positive case forced Greater Brisbane into a three-day lockdown.
Last month, a flight attendant who flew in from Portugal was suspected of being infected while staying in Brisbane at the Four Points Sheraton hotel.
Investigations suggested the woman might have contracted the virus after a quarantine worker caught the virus from another hotel guest.
The worker later administered a swab test to the flight attendant — and infected her.
The outbreak prompted a lockdown in Brisbane city and the Moreton region.