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Quarantine hotels seemed like a great solution, not so much anymore

Australia’s quarantine hotels have seen a rise in breaches. The implications are concerning

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A man wears a mask as he walks in Sydney, Wednesday, July 7, 2021.

A man wears a mask as he walks in Sydney, Wednesday, July 7, 2021. Sydney’s two-week lockdown has been extended for another week due to the vulnerability of an Australia population largely unvaccinated against COVID-19, officials said.

Rick Rycroft, Associated Press

Previously, Australia’s quarantine hotels were a solution to the country’s COVID-19 prevention efforts. Now, the same quarantine hotels have become a challenge — even cause — for the current outbreaks, reported The Guardian. What changed?

For months, Australia’s COVID-19 defenses kept outbreaks contained. Not anymore. The country is currently struggling to manage its worst outbreaks yet, the Deseret News reported.

  • Most of Australia is currently under lockdown, per CNBC. Sydney, the capital, has further extended its lockdown.
  • Monday, Australia reported its first local death of the year, said The Hill.

What is a quarantine hotel?

Australia’s quarantine hotels are part of the country’s quarantine system, reported CNN. Australian citizens or permanent residents returning to the country from overseas were required to quarantine in specific dedicated hotels.

“There’s now a large consensus (that) quarantine in hotels is an inadequate and in fact dangerous approach,” said Dr. Driss Ait Ouakrim, an epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne.

  • “It was a good quick and dirty solution in April 2020, but since then we have seen and suffered from the limitations of such a system,” he said per The Guardian.

What are the limitations of quarantine hotels?

In total, Australia has recorded up to 30 breaches — or COVID-19 cases — from its quarantine system, reported The Guardian. Of these, 20 have occurred this year. Increasingly, these breach cases have come from quarantine hotel guests in adjacent or nearby rooms.

  • Since early May, seven of the 12 COVID-19 cases that have breached quarantine hotels have involved the delta strain, per The Guardian.
  • One breached COVID-19 case led to outbreaks and a subsequent lockdown in Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Why are quarantine hotels not as effective?

Quarantine hotels have not maintained their effectiveness because the challenges of containing COVID-19 have continued to change, reported BBC. Experts have begun to question if new, more transmissible variants may require longer or stricter quarantines, per The Wall Street Journal.

The use of quarantine hotels “was a good strategy during the first 6-12 months for Australia, giving us time,” Maximilian de Courten, professor at Victoria University, told The Guardian.

  • “But it is not a solution, nor sufficient for now and in the foreseeable future. We need a better, more comprehensive approach to COVID,” he said.

What will Australia use instead of quarantine hotels?

Australia has developed two alternative to quarantines in hotels: home quarantines or a quarantine-specific facility, per The Wall Street Journal.

  • The country may begin allowing home quarantine for some travelers, particularly vaccinated ones, said The Guardian.
  • Australia has also begun planning a specially designed quarantine center to use for international arrivals, per The Wall Street Journal.