Improved oversight for Victoria’s hotel quarantine program

In advance of international travellers returning to Melbourne from 7 December 2020, with a cap of 160 passenger arrivals each day, the Victorian Government have announced “significant changes” to the operation of the state’s returning traveller hotel quarantine program.

Changes focus on strengthening program leadership, oversight and training; embedding public health and enforcement expertise into program delivery, and tightening “obligations for staff and residents to keep them and the community safe.”

They include the establishment of a dedicated agency, COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) that has been established to oversee all elements of program delivery.

Ultimate CQV operational oversight will be led by Corrections Commissioner, Emma Cassar, who has been appointed Interim CQV Commissioner. All staff working in the program “are employed or directly contracted by CQV,” with the exception of cleaning staff, who hold fixed term contracts with Alfred Health.

Victoria Police will conduct supervision, compliance and enforcement activities at all locations, supported by Australian Defence Force personnel and Resident Support Officers.

Additional infection control measures include daily testing of staff, a centralised contact tracing team and contact mapping strengthened PPE protocols and a ban on secondary employment for staff.

An expanded Frontline Worker Accommodation program (formerly the ‘Hotels for Heroes’ program) will be expanded to include access to those working in the COVID-19 Accommodation program and for aged care workers, if alternative accommodation is needed.

The restriction of movement, to, from and within hotel quarantine accommodation has also been central to decisions that guests will not be allowed to leave their rooms, during their stay, “including for fresh air or exercise breaks,” while care packages from relatives will now also be not permitted. These more stringent requirements will be offset by a “timetable of structured activities,” “specialised children and family friendly activities, exercise, mental health and wellbeing programs.”

Alfred Health will have “an expanded role in the management of health hotels, where people who have, or are suspected to have coronavirus, and residents with complex care needs, are accommodated.” Stricter cleaning standards have also been introduced, “with cleaning and hotel staff receiving additional training.”

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