Days ago I sat in Florida, where I enjoyed mask free-living, packed bars and restaurants and beach life (although it was stormy so that could've been better). Now yes, cases in Florida are apparently "skyrocketing" and 4% of the State's population is currently active with COVID. That is a damning statistic but what isn't covered is that 98% of cases are mild. The people in Florida are all about personal choice. So it was with some shock, but not unexpected that my home State of Victoria went into its third harsh lockdown in 12 months, for the sake of 13 cases.
Why is this an issue?
Victoria had one of the world's harshes lockdown due to the failings of a State Government that couldn't organise a root in a brothel, however, still would've lost thousands of dollars in the process. As such 2020 saw the decimation of the Victorian Economy due to its lockdown and the result is that the Australian nation was having to pick up the bill by saddling the country with billions of dollars of debt due to a Federal Government support package. This all happened because of the Victorian State Government, lead by Daniel Andrews and failures to keep people safe by the means of Hotel Quarantine for returning Australians. Now many naysayers, sorry "Dan Lovers", want to place the blame entirely on the Federal Government because Quarantine is a federal responsibility. It is, but you are forgetting one thing. It was on March 27th 2020 that all of the State's Leaders agreed to run Hotel Quarantine as a state issue with the backing of the Federal Government. Andrews fault here was to "go it alone" and then constantly lied about it making out he, and Victoria was the victim and was discriminated against by the Federal Government because their support was on offer for the other states and territories only. Which was a total lie, but it was a sound bite that people seemed to buy.
A farce of an inquiry was launched and get this, he got off. It wasn't to be unexpected but the Inquiry found that the programme was poorly managed and no one department had sole responsibility. Ultimately, too many cooks spoil the broth. Andrews stated that Victoria had learned its lessons and would take on all recommendations. Because of this, at the start of last week he was boasting:
"This is not about boasting, it’s just a fact . . . The AMA over in WA is calling it the ‘gold standard’, that’s not terms I use, that’s what they said. If it was anything other than a good system then I doubt very much other first ministers across the country would have agreed to copy it."
Also that the reason Victoria would continue not to pull it's weight with getting Australians home is that:
"We have less capacity because we have a different model and I believe higher standards."
Yet by the end of the week, a harsh lockdown was announced because Hotel Quarantine was at fault again. But wait! Wasn't it so good Dan that other states wanted to copy it?
As of January 8th 2021, all returning Australian's require a negative PCR test within three days of departure. But if the Hotel Quarantine is bursting at the seams and leaking COVID into the community then that's a massive amount of people who are getting COVID within those three days of the flight, or is it possible they are getting COVID from the hotel quarantine themselves?
New South Wales handles the mass amount of inbound Australians at present and the results are amazing.
I have seen many who have gone through the New South Wales system and, call me Irish, but I think there's a common denominator as to why New South Wales works. Could it be that the New South Wales programme have rooms that have open windows and balconies for people to get fresh air in their room for the two weeks?
Victoria's hotels in this quarantine programme from day one were hotels that were a shoebox of a hotel room, even if it was a five-star chain. The hotels that have had problems were properties that were built decades ago with old air conditioner units and structures. Staff and Quarantine folk are stuck breathing air only brought in by an air conditioner unit. To the point that an asthmatic with a nebuliser is the one being blamed for the current outbreak within a hotel complex. If a nebuliser spreads COVID in the air and can then spread it throughout the hotel then surely that happened because of the air conditioner system right?
The properties used in Sydney not only have balconies but some options, if you're lucky enough, are serviced apartments. So you can cook your own meals and do your own laundry. This prevents the requirements for the staff to be attending the rooms each day, even if it was just a knock on the door, dump the food and walk away. Then there's the ability for people in the NSW rooms to have fresh air and not live off recycled air. I mean it's just a thought.
I am someone who spends the majority of my days in a metal tube with recycled air and the instant you're on the ground and can breathe fresh air is a massive luxury that does wonders for you and these "pressurised metal tubes" have Hospital Grade Filters in the ventilation system. These hotels with old air conditioner units I seriously doubt would have that. So the ability to have fresh air in your hotel quarantine room is vital, as too the ability to go outside. Florence Nightingale even knew this in the 1800s.
"I have seen to be most effectual, the rest of the treatment being open air during the greater part of the day] (riding or otherwise, according to the patient's strength), bedroom ventilation at night,"
It would seem that New South Wales, even the Northern Territory with it's Howard Springs facility knows this and it's why the outbreaks aren't occurring to this extent within their facilities. If they do then the Health System knows how to handle an outbreak without destroying their State's economy. Victoria is more concerned about media spin and damage control as opposed to using common sense and taking advice from others who are getting this right and treating people with decency.
The sad thing is though, Andrews right now is trying to use this current outbreak and requirement for the state's latest lockdown to push a narrative that hotel quarantine is the problem and as such shouldn't be used for returning travellers. His solution is instead "Detention Centres" or "Don't come home at all, just get stuffed!"
“There needs to be a cold, hard discussion, and I’m happy to lead it, if I have to, about whether with this UK strain . . . should it be a much smaller [arrivals] program that’s based on compassionate grounds?
Well, this is the thing Andrews. You are right!
Hotel Quarantine is outdated and it's time for it to be ended. It is the wrong programme and Australian's should not be subjected to it, nor should they be charged $3,000 for it. A multitude of countries have found other ways to ensure their citizens have the freedoms to leave and return if their travel is considered essential whilst not having to give up their life savings for it.
The UK, Iceland and Ireland are similar in their policies. Policies that Australia should now adopt. The policy is as follows:
A negative PCR test within three days of departure;
On arrival a declaration of a ten-day quarantine at your house or place of your choosing (including selected hotels);
Take two PCR tests after your arrival;
They are even offering a five-day quarantine if you agree to get these two tests done within that five day period. If all tests are negative, you go back to your normal life;
For Iceland, if you've had the vaccine, you don't even have to do a quarantine or any of the above.
Australia, it's time to do the same programme. Locking up people in hotel rooms (even with fresh air) amongst others in the building who are infected and dealing with staff (even in PPE) who are going room to room is the threat right now. Especially when people are flying in with a negative PCR test to begin with. Now I am not saying that Australia should open its International Borders overnight, but this is the policy that should be enacted. This would boost the economy by getting airlines back in the air and getting families and friends back together with ease in a safe way. Initially, Australia's self-iso at home was a failure because people didn't follow the two-week quarantine at their home and couldn't be found during a check. So the assumption was made that people were breaching their declaration.
Well, there are two different things at play when it came to that back then. The first is that the authorities at the start of 2020 weren't given the correct details by border force as to where people declared they would be. The second is that people now understand the virus more and the threats it apparently imposes on society. The "she'll be right" mentality of backpackers breaching their declared self-isolation is over. People now just simply want to get home as soon as possible, within their means and not in a position that actually puts them more at risk of getting COVID than actually flying home. We also have the data that shows that this virus, although bad, is not ebola! If returning citizens are required to have a negative PCR test prior to a flight and then two more are required within their arrival that's three negative tests in a week. Surely that is more than enough to cover false positives/negatives etc. It does everything possible to eliminate the risk. Wake the hell up Australia and open the borders to your fellow countrymen and update your Quarantine programme.