Australians Want Hotel Quarantine To Be More Humane
While most Australians placed in mandatory hotel quarantine have been happy with the measures, some are speaking out against the system’s inhumanity, and failings on compassionate grounds. Their target of course is not the hotels themselves but federal and state health departments who drew up and are policing the guidelines for the two-week stays.
Start an Emergency & Disaster Management degree at American Military University.
Since Australia closed its borders on March 20, all those returning home have been forced into compulsory hotel quarantine for a fortnight. All this as a key part of the country’s strict and seemingly successful measures to contain the COVID-19 spread: About 6,800 cases, 95 deaths and below 20 new infections a day.
At the outset, the hotel quarantine move was met with a flurry of social media venting from travelers who found the 5-star conditions abhorrent. The main complaints from a disgruntled minority were not being able to go outside for fresh air, and the quality of meals. Some even described these shortcomings as “inhumane”. The meals improved, while allowing people outside would have been counterproductive.
Far more serious concerns are being raised about inhumane fallout of the quarantine rule, and [the] black-and-white manner [in which] it has been dished up across the board. Even when there have been exceptional circumstances calling for a more individual approach. Instead, there are many stories of personal tragedy and suffering linked to hotel isolation.
COVID-19 Patients Denied Family Visits In Dying Hours
In the West Australia capital [of] Perth, one man was denied the right to see his wife in April, as she lay dying in hospital. The couple both tested positive for the coronavirus after leaving the Diamond Princess cruise ship. 70-year-old Maureen Preedy died without her husband by her side, after the family’s request to allow their father to leave the hotel was rejected by health department officials WAToday reported.
“I understand rules and regulations, but there is a level of humanity and everything needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis,” daughter Simone said. Her plea led local president of the Australian Medical Association, Andrew Miller, to say empathy was missing from the whole process. As was the ability of frontline clinicians to step outside “inflexible” guidelines, to allow the visit to occur–instead of the resulting “cruel” outcome. The State Premier Mark McGowan called for a review of health protocols, to avoid a repeat.
New Zealand Precedent?
In New Zealand, the same issue has made it to the High Court. On Friday a judge lifted a ban preventing a man who’d flown in from London to see his dying father, to visit him from an Auckland hotel. Other travelers in “managed isolation” are reportedly among 24 people who’ve applied for exemption to see dying family members, but been turned down according to Radio New Zealand. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has responded, saying appeals to break mandatory quarantine on compassionate grounds should be treated on individual merit, not in an “automated” fashion. Australian lawyer, Greg Barns, says Australians will now be taking a close interest in the New Zealand decision.
Lack Of Access To Medical Care
Other complaints hinge on the lack of adequate access to medical care during hotel quarantine. Sydneysider, Ken Watson, fell into an induced coma in intensive care in April, after allegedly waiting nine hours to be admitted to hospital from his lockdown at the Crown Promenade Perth. When paramedics arrived at their room, “hotel staff began banging on the door shouting that protocol had been broken and the ambulance officer then disappeared,” his wife told WAToday. An investigation is underway, after WA Health Minister Roger Cook suggested the failing seems to have come down to a “communications gap” between hotel staff, and medical teams assigned to those in quarantine, and emergency services.
Vulnerable Ignored: Whistleblower Fired?
In April, Sydney doctor Paul Finlay, who was treating returning travelers in hotel isolation, said his advice to authorities on exempting vulnerable people was ignored. Pregnant women, the elderly and those with mental health issues should be allowed to home quarantine, he said. Finlay claims he was subsequently fired from his job after disclosing the NSW Health Ministry lied to him – about allowing those he’d flagged for exemptions to skip hotel quarantine.
Psychiatrist and youth mental health expert, Professor Patrick McGorry, says there is a “duty of care” for better mental health screening and adequate support in hotel quarantine. “There would be some people at higher risk than others, people with a past history of mental health problems,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Traumatic And Dehumanising
Meantime Perth man, Chris Johnson, is another “calling for a more compassionate system” after he and his wife Denise were quarantined on flying home from a family funeral in the U.K. He feels there should be a far more flexible approach, allowing people in such circumstances to isolate at home. This would have allowed his wife to “come to terms with grief in the familiar surrounds of their Perth home,” he told the ABC.
Welfare (wellbeing) checks to ensure vulnerable people in quarantine get the support they need would not go astray either Johnson said. Again, he made it clear his target was not the hotel, but the health department. “The hotel did its best, but we felt that everybody responsible for putting us in that room didn’t care.” As WA prepares to allow 10-people gatherings, with an easing of the lockdown, Johnson points out discrepancies in the current rules: “…we should seriously consider allowing people to be trusted and treated like adults and self-isolate in their homes.”
That’s not the only inconsistency. The strict quarantine on arrival in principle applies to everyone. The rules have seen some people with medical conditions denied the comfort of quarantining in their own homes, even when traveling from one Australian state to another.
Yet while state leaders said there would be no exceptions, there have reportedly been thousands of them. Among the most high-profile was that of billionaire Kerry Stokes, on returning home from Aspen by private jet. Both he and his wife were given medical exemptions in April to spend the 14 days at their Perth mansion. Some 900 such dispensations had been handed out for reasons including “compassionate and health related grounds” a police spokesperson told The Guardian.
Funny, the compassion that comes into play in all those cases, yet has been entirely absent in some heart-rendering stories told above. And no doubt, so many more.