Western Australia is beefing up its hotel quarantine scheme after a woman allegedly fled quarantine in Perth by simply walking out of the facility.
Acting Premier Roger Cook outlined the new recommendations on Tuesday, including new powers for guards and a review of hotel barriers to stop travellers escaping.
The measures came as it emerged a 34 year-old NSW man who arrived in WA on compassionate grounds on December 23 allegedly breached self-quarantine by having a visitor for several hours, WA Police said.
The changes announced on Tuesday are effective immediately and will include a new system to assess how returned travellers who breach or are likely to breach rules are dealt with. This includes the option of being moved to a high-risk hotel guarded by police.
Security guards in quarantine hotels will also be given new powers and training so they have better legal protections in preventing traveller breaches.
Each hotel will also be reviewed to secure entry and exit points to prevent travellers leaving.
Mr Cook said the weekend breach was “concerning and it didn’t meet our high standards”.
“As a result of that we are now conducting this review, including these three immediate recommendations for changes,” he said.
The review was prompted after traveller Jenny Maree D‘Ubios returned to Australia from Spain and allegedly breached COVID-19 directions by escaping her 14-day hotel quarantine on Saturday.
Ms D‘Ubios was not restrained at the hotel despite security guards demanding she not leave. Police were called and security guards followed her as she left but lost sight of her.
She allegedly then roamed in the community for almost 12 hours before police found her at a Perth hospital.
Authorities did not alert the public for more than nine hours after her alleged escape despite the potential risk to community health.
Ms D‘Ubios was charged under the Emergency Management Act and was refused bail in the Perth Magistrates Court on Sunday.
She has been remanded in custody until January 4 and faces a fine of up to $50,000 and up to 12 months in prison if convicted.
It is alleged Ms D‘Ubios threatened to leave the hotel due to her own health issues.
Mr Cook said more than 25,000 of 30,000 people through WA’s hotel quarantine program had been returning international travellers, with hundreds of the arrivals carrying COVID-19.
He credited the robustness of the state’s quarantine measures with why the disease had not spread into the community.
“Some people believe that they are too harsh but it has been successful in stopping COVID-19 from breaking out in Western Australia,” he said.
“It is why we have not had a case of community transmission for 262 days. That has not happened by chance. It has happened because of the strict measures we have put in place from our borders to our hotels. Those measures have been constantly reviewed.”