WA’s success in containing the spread of COVID-19 can be attributed to several key factors.
Swift measures implemented by governments have clearly worked, aided significantly by WA’s isolation which, prior to COVID, has often been a disadvantage.
Australians have seen the devastation the virus has wrought overseas and almost unanimously, adhered to necessary restrictions.
There has also been an invisible front line to protect our state and that has been the many staff in our hotels providing quarantine services.
For the better part of a year, WA’s hotel quarantine system has acted as a continuous filter for returning residents, workers and those travelling between high-risk jurisdictions. Operating day and night and under extraordinary pressure, hotels have been the invisible front line of defence that has kept Western Australians safe and our state open for business.
The number of people who have passed through WA’s hotel quarantine system is staggering. Since March 2020, almost 40,000 people have been directed by Government to quarantine for 14 days in one of WA’s quarantine hotel facilities.
Commandeered by Government using extraordinary powers under the Emergency Management Act, around a dozen hotels were rapidly transformed into state quarantine facilities. In weeks they converted from venues that cater for leisure and business travellers to accommodating waves of potentially infectious guests. In doing so their businesses were put on hold and commercial activities suspended.
The expectations and pressure this has placed on workers in hotel quarantine facilities has been immense. These workers range from housekeeping and cleaners to reception, food and beverage attendants, repairs, maintenance and security.
The past year has been an anxious time for these workers and their families as they navigate irregular hours, stressful duties and uncomfortable, regular COVID-19 testing.
WA’s nurses, doctors and frontline medical staff deserve all of the plaudits and support that have received throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Let us keep in mind that our hotel quarantine system has been the forgotten force behind the scenes which has been instrumental in keeping us protected. Workers in these hotels deserve similar praise and appreciation.
Hotel quarantine workers have worked co-operatively with authorities for nearly a year to adapt their internal practices, integrate high standards of hygiene, health and safety whilst still providing what they do best – hospitality.
Contrary to what a small handful of social media posts may have you believe, the experience for the tens of thousands of guests who have been through our hotel quarantine system has been overwhelmingly positive.
Hotel staff have gone to great lengths to make guests as comfortable as possible during their stay, going above and beyond what their job would usually entail. A range of unique requests have been accommodated and staff have often helped support guests struggling with the isolation. All the while, they have been dealing with the same pressures that this virus has inflicted on us all personally.
The WA Government’s new requirement preventing secondary employment and move to pay hotel quarantine workers a 40 percent loading from Monday is an outstanding initiative. It recognises the importance of their work to the broader WA community and compensates them for not being able to hold a second or third job.
Ensuring these frontline workers are adequately remunerated is critical to the continuity of operations within these facilities. With WA experiencing a severe workforce shortage that is hitting the hospitality industry hard, we must retain staff who are playing such a critical role in our defence against COVID-19.
The recent 5-day lockdown caused by an infected security guard working in the hotel quarantine system rightly angered Western Australians, however no system is perfect.
Imperfections in a system become very evident when that system is tasked with handling a cunning pandemic whose very survival relies on it evolving to spread more efficiently.
We have a long road ahead but WA will enjoy some of the most relaxed restrictions in the world, with businesses open, people moving freely and our economy rebounding strongly.
Thank you to those who are working on the invisible front line, ensuring we can continue to enjoy our very fortunate way of life.
Further information: David De Garis 0412 577 567