Security at Western Australia’s quarantine hotels will be bolstered after a review sparked by the escape of a woman who failed to complete 14 days in supervised isolation.
Acting Premier and Health Minister Roger Cook says the review’s three recommendations will ensure the continued integrity of a system which has already catered for more than 30,000 people, including about 25,000 returned international travellers.
At the same time it was also revealed police had received more than 2000 complaints from guests unhappy with their treatment in the quarantine system.
The increased security arrangements include new protocols for dealing with people who have breached quarantine requirements or are considered a risk of doing so.
Contracted security guards at quarantine hotels will get increased powers to prevent people breaching directions and physical barriers to stop people leaving the hotels will also be improved, including secure entry and exit points along with existing lockdown lifts and floors.
The new measures follow events last week when a woman, who had posted on social media she would leave, was later caught by police after fleeing her accommodation.
Jenny Maree D’ubios hadn’t completed mandatory 14-day quarantine after arriving from Madrid on December 19, when she absconded on Saturday morning.
WA police found her at Rockingham Hospital, southwest of Perth. She was charged with failing to comply with a direction under the Emergency Management Act, was refused bail and will appear in court again in January.
D’ubios, who described her quarantine experience as “traumatic” on social media, has since returned a negative COVID-19 test result.
She’d posted on Facebook that she wanted a “non-toxic safe place to quarantine”, and also made several conspiracy theory claims.
Mr Cook said the woman’s actions were “concerning” given the directions and advice she had received.
“We have a situation here where someone ignored all that advice and continued to push their luck,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“That person’s luck has run out. It’s just important that we understand that we require everyone to exercise absolute cooperation with these directions.”
But both Mr Cook and Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said it was also important to remember that quarantine hotels were not prisons and people in isolation were not prisoners.
Mr Dawson said authorities were dealing with “common Western Australians and international travellers” who were not there as a consequence of crime.
“We can’t treat them and we don’t treat them as prisoners.”
The commissioner also revealed police had taken more than 2000 formal complaints about the quarantine arrangements.
“We know that people are unhappy with certain things. No, we can’t allow them to walk around the parks. They can’t all have balconies. They can’t all live like they are normally accustomed to,” he said.
“I repeat again, we are in a state of emergency. This is not the preference of anyone that we would want to quarantine people for 14 days.
“But we do this on the public health advice. It’s worked for Western Australia to date.”
Mr Dawson said the new measures were being implemented immediately and authorities would continue to make changes and improvements “in a proportionate way”.
He also rejected suggestions police routinely performed “social media scraping” of people in hotel quarantine or self-isolation.
“If we’ve got to do that we would only do it in a lawful way for matters that are criminal,” he said.
“We don’t have the time and nor do we have the necessity.”
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