Queensland slams doors on quarantine as hotel system reaches breaking point

From midday, Queensland’s quarantine hotels are mostly closed to new guests for two weeks, and will then ration rooms to travellers from interstate hotspots in order to manage demand.

Aug 25, 2021, updated Aug 25, 2021
Queensland's hotel quarantine network has come under pressure.(Supplied)

Queensland's hotel quarantine network has come under pressure.(Supplied)

With Queensland’s border restrictions leading to an unpredictable number of travellers requiring mandatory hotel quarantine, amid unexpected surges in international arrivals, the state’s quarantine network has come under strain.

As of yesterday, 5,114 people were in mandatory quarantine in 22 quarantine hotels, with almost 300 arrivals at Brisbane Airport directed to hotels in the last 24 hours.

Queensland’s already strict eligibility requirements for border passes still resulted in 1,993 people given approval to relocate to the state in just one week.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young today conceded the practice of finding more hotels, and rapidly training staff on infection control, “was becoming unsustainable”.

“We just can’t go and stand up more hotels, every day, as we were doing,” Young said.

Queensland Health and the Queensland Police Service recommended a change of policy, which Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she accepted.

“We are scrambling for hotels and this has got to stop,” Palaszczuk said, adding that all arrivals should be processed in a “sensible and orderly fashion”.

“Queensland is being loved to death.”

People from NSW, Victoria and the ACT will be blocked from travelling to Queensland, along with returning Queensland residents from those hotspots.

It is not clear how many people will be turned away over the next fortnight. Palaszczuk said some travellers with exemptions, including on compassionate and medical grounds, will still be accommodated.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the two-week “pause” would affect people who had travel planned, and would now have to re-apply so that Queensland Health could allocate a travel window for their arrival to ensure there is a hotel room available.

“Anyone who’s not already on a flight at midday will not be able to arrive simply on a right of entry pass,” D’Ath said this morning.

“This will help us manage room capacity much better by knowing how many people are arriving and when.”

Palaszczuk said there was already a cap on international travel but it had been exceeded on occasions, including by Queensland assisting with the Afghan rescue mission.

She would not be drawn on whether home quarantine might be a better option for interstate arrivals in future. South Australia is conducting a limited trial for travellers, and the recent Indooroopilly outbreak in Brisbane involved thousands of people in less strict home quarantine.

With Queensland now trailing other states in the vaccination rollout, the State Government is still encouraging people to register so that bookings are not wasted. Young said she was appealing to Queenslanders who may not be as motivated to get the vaccine as those who have already registered or been given a jab.

Palaszczuk again attributed Queensland’s slow vaccination rollout to supply issues – “If the Federal Government wants to give me 100,000 more Pfizers I’ll put them into people’s arms” – which have also influenced her thinking as to when the state can safely open up again to NSW.

Meanwhile, a review of hospital staff vaccination policies has been completed, and delivered to Queensland Health, which will brief D’Ath today to allow her to take a submission to Cabinet on Monday before the review is released.

Palaszczuk defended the pace of the review, suggesting journalists ask the NSW Government about the spread of COVID-19 in its hospitals, rather than how an unvaccinated receptionist at the Prince Charles Hospital caught the virus and passed it on to another person.

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