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Government Commitment on Hotel Quarantine Workers Needed

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Monday, 23 November 2020

Tags: COVID-19

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Health spokesperson

Tasmania’s hotel quarantine system has worked well so far, but the government must continue to make improvements based on lessons from other jurisdictions. A critical next step is ensuring employees at quarantine facilities do not work elsewhere. 
With repatriation flights scheduled to commence next month, it’s crucial hotel quarantine systems are as robust as possible. That’s why the Greens raised the matter with health authorities in Budget Estimates today.
We know from South Australia and Victoria the weakest link in their pandemic response has been through people in insecure work who contracted coronavirus, and subsequently spread it elsewhere in the community through a second workplace.
Given this has happened in two separate jurisdictions, it’s clearly a risk that needs to be actively managed in Tasmania. This is particularly true given Premier Peter Gutwein confirmed in Budget Estimates today that, while defence force personnel will provide some support at repatriation hotel quarantine facilities, private companies will be engaged to provide security services.
In many cases workers at these facilities – whether they are security guards, cleaners, or hotel staff - have no choice but to hold a second job so they can pay for basic needs like food, housing, and bills. This is not the fault of individual workers, it’s a symptom of our increasingly casualised workforce, with wages that have stagnated for decades. 
To make sure the Tasmanian community has the best possible protection from a coronavirus outbreak, the government must ensure no worker at any hotel quarantine facility is also working in another setting. Of course, affected workers must be compensated for any wages lost as a result of this protection measure, to ensure they aren’t placed in financial hardship through no fault of their own.
Tasmania’s position when it comes to coronavirus must not be taken for granted. The government needs to keep proactively improving our systems to stay ahead of the game, and to reduce risk wherever possible.
Limiting potential community exposure to those in hotel quarantine is a common sense step that could be easily implemented. We hope the Health Minister and Premier will make the sensible choice, in the interests of public safety.