New Australian COVID Outbreak Linked To Sex Scandal In Quarantine Hotels

Australia has fewer than 8500 total confirmed cases of COVID-19. For a country similar in population to Texas, that’s striking because it’s about the same number of cases my home state has been reporting each day. Australia’s success appears to be a combination of effective policy response and luck.

The country went into lock down, and this didn’t just include international travel. Many Australian states still have travel restrictions in place. International arrivals of their own citizens required quarantine. But it’s those quarantine facilities that are the site of a new modest virus outbreak in Melbourne – and also of a sex scandal.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews identified growth in cases a month ago as coming from “an infection control breach in the hotel quarantine program.” We now know what that ‘breach’ was. Contract security employees having sex with people being quarantined.

The entire point of the quarantine was that the arriving passengers might have the virus, and that’s true even if they weren’t testing positive for it. It defeats the purpose of the quarantine if the people charged with enforcing it are doing the opposite of social distancing.

The government had taken over several hotels for returning Australian citizens to spend their required 14-day quarantines.

  • 31 cases are linked to the Stamford Plaza
  • Other cases are linked to Rydges on Swanston

[T]he alleged breaches include claims some workers had sex with guests in isolation, and a lack of training for the guards.

…Australia’s Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said: “There are two cases where it appears that there have been clear breaches with significant ramifications.”

When asked what he made of allegations that security officers were sleeping with guests in quarantine, Hunt said: “If those statements are true, that would be completely and utterly unacceptable.”

Melbourne is not allowing international arrivals of citizens or others “for the next two weeks” so that they can review the quarantine program which is being turned over to the agency which runs the state’s jails.

While some critics blame the lapse on the government giving guards just 5 minutes of training I’m not sure whether the next 5 minutes would have included “don’t have sex with travelers under quarantine” (or that it would’ve mattered if it did).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Not so impressed by the Australian statistics and I’m an Aussie. Sure they are much better than those of the US but nobody considered Covid-19 a hoax here.
    In contrast, Japan has had under 20,000 Covid-19 cases in total but has 5 times more people packed together in far smaller country. And Japan’s achievement didn’t require any lockdown. The difference? They wear masks consistently whereas they are rare in Oz – widely disliked it seems. That’s hardly anything to admire about Oz.

  2. The heart of the matter is contracting out essential services to the lowest bidder ( …although even then one would not expect sex to be on the agenda).
    I gather security at MEL is provided by the same company: it’s the only airport I know of that requires passengers selected for screening to be done as a group rather than individually: eg, they select 6 or 8 people, take them aside, then run the detection swab over the clothes, shoes and in the bags of everyone. Totally gross, and presumably done that way to save money. At least they seemed to have abandoned that in March.
    Last time I went through there (mid March) they were not changing gloves to go through bags in post X-ray screening of hand-carry ( and seemed bemused when I asked them to use fresh ones). So they used the same gloves, repeatedly …ie a recipe for cross-infection. Incompetent.

  3. @Bob
    I dont think the guards are shirtlifters…but you may want to double check at OMAAT.

  4. Australia has a ton of travel with China especially on a per-capita basis: 1,430,000 million in 2019 for a population of 25 million vs. the US a similar 1,400,000 million per 330 million population!!

    Makes the US look even more ridiculous with its complete botching of the COVID-19 crisis — so many innocent lives killed.

  5. Also the guards were sharing cars and cigarette lighters with each other, going home and spreading to their families and their families were going out to large gatherings despite living with the highest-risk people in the country. Idiocy all the way down.

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