The Premier of South Australia is urging change for repatriation arrangements for overseas citizens and wants all returning travellers to undergo mandatory COVID-19 tests before boarding flights.
However, these changes would have to be approved by the National Cabinet.
The proposal was submitted as part of an eight-point plan outlined by Mr Steven Marshall today. This is in response to the coronavirus cluster linked to one of Adelaide’s medi-hotels which catered returning travellers.
Mr Marshall revealed this morning, “We will ask National Cabinet to consider testing all returning Australian citizens before their flights with a view that they must have negative test results before boarding.”
Yesterday, it was announced that the two people previously thought to have acquired COVID-19 overseas caught the virus while in quarantine at the Peppers Waymouth Hotel.
The Premier asserted that the change should sweep nationally so that overseas arrivals were tested before getting on flights, rather than just for flights coming into Adelaide. This is for the reason that flights were often rerouted. We’d need to do this from a national approach,” he said.
Meanwhile, South Australia cancelled all incoming flights until at least November 30 to sort out problems in the state’s medi-hotel system and allow space for locals associated with the Parafield cluster to quarantine.
Mr Marshall revealed he has written to the Commonwealth to ask that the pause should be extended. Since then, about 600 people had been arriving in Adelaide each week, with up to 1,200 in quarantine in CBD hotels.
The Premier rest assured, as per his statement, that they are still committed to the repatriation of Australian citizens who are stranded overseas, he promised to play their part.
“But we’re not going to rush into this. We’re going to gradually step back into receiving those people when we receive that advice from Health that it is safe to do so.” He added.
South Australia’s Premier is urging change to repatriation arrangements for overseas citizens, and wants all returning travellers to undergo mandatory coronavirus tests before boarding flights.
Two people have caught coronavirus while in hotel quarantine in Adelaide
International flights into the city have been suspended
The Premier wants people tested and cleared for coronavirus before boarding international flights
However, such a change would have to be approved by National Cabinet, Steven Marshall said.
The proposal was part of an eight-point plan outlined by Mr Marshall today, in response to a coronavirus cluster linked to one of Adelaide’s medi-hotels housing returned travellers.
“We will ask National Cabinet to consider testing all returning Australian citizens prior to their flight with a view that they must have negative test results before boarding,” Mr Marshall said this morning.
It was revealed yesterday that two people previously thought to have acquired COVID-19 overseas caught the virus while in quarantine at the Peppers Waymouth Hotel.
The push comes after comments from Qantas boss Alan Joyce, who yesterday indicated the airline would require international passengers to be vaccinated, once a vaccine becomes available.
There has also been a surge in domestic flight bookings within Australia in the past 24 hours, as Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced her state would reopen its borders to Victorians from next month.
Mr Marshall said a change in the system so that overseas arrivals were tested before getting on flights would have to happen nationally, rather than just for flights coming into Adelaide, since flights were often rerouted.
South Australia has cancelled all incoming flights until at least November 30 to sort out problems in the state’s medi-hotel system and allow space for locals associated with the Parafield cluster to quarantine.
Mr Marshall said he had written to the Commonwealth to ask that the pause be extended.
About 600 people had been arriving in Adelaide each week, with up to 1,200 in quarantine in CBD hotels.
“We are still committed to the repatriation of Australian citizens who are stranded overseas. We want to play our part,” Mr Marshall said.
“But we’re not going to rush into this. We’re going to gradually step back into receiving those people when we receive that advice from Health that it is safe to do so.”
Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas also wants South Australia’s intake of repatriated Australians suspended.
“We’ve got to put a hold on the medi-hotel program,” he said.
“The Premier has done that to the end of the week; by next week it’s due to recommence.
“I think it would be a borderline irrational thing to do when we haven’t even figured out what went wrong.”
SA Labor is also pushing for an independent review into how the outbreak started.
The federal Department of Health and Health Minister Greg Hunt have been contacted for comment.
UPDATED | Authorities are urgently testing staff and guests at a city medi-hotel after revealing a shock development in the Parafield coronavirus cluster late this afternoon – which emerged as the Spanish man who allegedly “lied” to authorities last week, sparking a statewide lockdown, today broke his silence.
In a dramatic afternoon, the mystery Spaniard, in SA on a graduate visa, released a statement through his lawyer – expressing remorse but claiming some of the information about him had been inaccurate and unfair – while authorities revealed the infections of two recently returned overseas travellers are linked to the cluster – and were picked up while they stayed in a city medi-hotel.
The travellers are a husband and wife – both aged in their 20s in quarantine at the Peppers hotel on Waymouth St since their arrival on November 11 – who up until now authorities believed acquired the disease overseas.
Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier told media at a hastily-assembled 5pm press conference that all staff and guests would be urgently tested, saying “we think this is being really abundantly cautious” and “we don’t expect to have any more positives”.
“It is very interesting information and of course my staff and I are working through the implications of this,” she said.
“I knew that COVID-19 was highly transmissible – it’s even more transmissible than what I had initially thought.”
She said even with the best PPE (personal protective equipment) and training “you can still transmit this virus”.
“It’s really sneaky,” she said.
Spurrier said she had details of the medi-hotel transmission chain but wouldn’t release that information to the public until a review had been finalised.
It comes amid another major development late today, as the Spaniard whose alleged “lie” sparked last week’s dramatic state lockdown expressed “extreme remorse” for his role in the drama, but declared, through his lawyer, that some information in the public debate “is not fair, accurate or complete, notwithstanding the State Government’s comments” about his alleged “lie”.
Professor Nicola Spurrier addresses media late today.
The male traveller’s case was announced today as SA’s only new reported COVID infection, with Spurrier earlier telling reporters it wasn’t linked to the cluster.
“We do have one new case in SA but it’s not part of the Parafield cluster,” she said this morning.
“It’s a close contact of a previously confirmed overseas arrival that we reported a couple of days ago.
“And this is a man in his 20s and he is in a medi-hotel, so it’s not associated with the Parafield cluster and it’s just that one case.”
But this afternoon, SA Health issued a press release saying genomic testing had now linked this case – as well as the woman’s infection – to the cluster, which now sits at 29 cases.
“Genomics test results have returned this afternoon linking two people – one of which is today’s case – to the Parafield cluster,” the statement said.
“Both these people were previously believed to have overseas-acquired COVID-19 infections.”
The statement said there was “no additional risk to the public as the cases are linked to a medi-hotel staff member who has previously tested positive for COVID-19 and contact tracing has already been undertaken”.
“As a precaution, we are undertaking additional testing at one of our medi-hotels for all staff and guests today,” the statement said.
An SA Health spokeswoman said it was unclear exactly which staff member the cases were linked to.
Three staff have tested positive – a cleaner, who authorities have previously said they believe is the original source of the cluster – and two security guards.
Spurrier today rejected the need for an independent inquiry into the medi-hotel system, saying “what we want to do is have continuous quality improvement”.
Asked if this was more evidence of a potential breach in the medi-hotel, she said she was “pretty confident there hasn’t been someone in the wrong room at the wrong time”.
She said the shock result – linking the two hotel guests to the Parafield Cluster strain – was “a bit unexpected”.
“I thought it was more likely the genomics would show the travellers had brought it in from a another country or whatever, but this is what we found,” she said.
Police and SA Health are already reviewing nearly 500 hours of CCTV from Peppers to determine the movements of staff and guests, as part of their investigation into the movements of another man who worked at the Stamford medi-hotel – a 36 year old Spanish national – whose alleged “lie” about his work arrangements prompted the unnecessary statewide shutdown.
That Spanish national, whose alleged “lie” sparked last week’s dramatic state lockdown – later aborted after the Premier declared the man had misled contact tracers – today broke his silence.
Solicitor Scott Jelbert, Principal at Camena Legal and Migration, issued a statement declaring he was “acting for the person under investigation for his conduct concerning contact tracing information and connected with the Woodville Pizza Bar and the recent COVID-19 shutdown in South Australia”.
“My client is in quarantine and I make this brief statement on his behalf,” he said.
“He is extremely remorseful and deeply sorry for any part his conduct played in any unnecessary lock-down actions.
“He did not foresee or intend that things might unfold as they have.”
Jelbert said that since entering quarantine his client “has had limited information about government media releases, public opinion and social media”.
“I am however instructed that some information is not fair, accurate or complete notwithstanding the State Government’s comments, and he is concerned he has been all but publicly named,” Jelbert said.
“My client’s current focus is on cooperating with the authorities and completing quarantine.
“He is sincerely concerned about the impact of the lockdown on South Australians.
Get InDaily in your inbox. Daily. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
Thanks for signing up to the InDaily newsletter.
“My client has not been charged with any breach of the law but in the circumstances, including that such charges may emerge, no further comment about those matters is appropriate at this time.”
Spurrier was hesitant to respond to the man’s statement, but when asked if it was possible contact tracers might have misunderstood any information provided by him, she said: “We’ve got a range of staff, they are very well-trained. If we have problems and difficulties with language we do try and get an interpreter.
“There are sometimes language barriers, there are sometimes misunderstandings, we are talking about human beings here. But what I can say is that the contact tracers have done absolutely the very job that they can.”
Make your contribution to independent news
A donation of any size to InDaily goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. South Australia needs more than one voice to guide it forward, and we’d truly appreciate your contribution. Please click below to donate to InDaily.
Does a government have to pass a law to make something compulsory, or can businesses make it a must-have anyway?
The world is about to find out, after Qantas CEO Alan Joyce declared international travellers must have a COVID-19 vaccine to get on a flight.
It looks like the vaccine won’t be mandatory for Australians at home.
But whether people will have access to their favourite goods and services if they don’t get the vaccine is more complicated.
Will the vaccine be compulsory for Australians?
The short answer is no, but it’s clear the Government wants as many people as possible to have it.
In August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he expected the vaccine “to be as mandatory as you can possibly make it”.
But just hours later, Mr Morrison said that the Government would not make vaccination mandatory for anybody.
“It’s not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine,” he said.
Will it be mandatory for international travellers?
Although Australians won’t have to be vaccinated, it’s becoming more likely that international travellers will.
The Government’s own vaccination policy already notes it could be mandatory for international travellers.
“While the Australian Government strongly supports immunisation and will run a strong campaign to encourage vaccination, it is not mandatory and individuals may choose not to vaccinate,” it says.
“There may however, be circumstances where the Australian Government and other governments may introduce border entry or re-entry requirements that are conditional on proof of vaccination.”
And travel to some countries already requires a vaccine.
For example, the Smart Traveller website tells Australians to carry their yellow fever vaccination certificate when travelling to Brazil, saying “you may need it to enter”.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said today that “early guidance” would be that international arrivals would be expected to be vaccinated or face quarantine.
Mr Hunt’s comments suggest those who can’t have the vaccine, for example those who are immunocompromised, will still be able to travel.
What is the air travel sector doing?
Qantas has declined to elaborate on the comments made by Mr Joyce yesterday.
But Mr Joyce isn’t the only one thinking about changes to international travel.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a group of 297 airlines including Qantas, is calling for systematic COVID-19 testing of all international travellers.
To help support this, it announced on Tuesday morning that it was in the final development phase of a new vaccine passport app.
This will record if someone has been vaccinated, and share the information with airlines and immigration authorities.
It’s due to be piloted later this year, ahead of a launch early in 2021.
Simon Westaway, the head of the Australian Tourism Industry Council, said requiring travellers to have a coronavirus vaccination could act as a “circuit breaker” for disruptions across the sector.
He argued Australia should also consider introducing rapid COVID-19 testing at airports, as used in a number of other countries.
“I think rapid testing is really starting to prove its worth, it’s important that authorities give that absolutely full berth,” he said.
“I do think you’re going to need a combination or a suite of really efficient, easy measures to give people confidence in travel, but importantly to have operators and authorities to have that confidence as well.”
What are businesses in Australia planning to do?
A vaccine is unlikely to be available until March, so it’s still too early for many businesses to be considering whether or not they will require customers to have it.
The National Retailers Association hasn’t received any feedback from members or had any discussions yet.
Coach operator Murrays said it was too soon to say if passengers would face vaccination rules.
But the Australian Dental Association said dentists would accept people without vaccinations.
“The fact is, visiting the dentist has always been safe to attend and there is no reason not to visit your dentist,” a spokesperson said.
“But we can understand why Qantas wants to introduce a system of proof, as they will have passengers huddled together for long periods of time on flights.”
The AFL and NRL did not respond to requests for comment when asked if fans would face vaccination requirements.
Can businesses discriminate based on the vaccine?
In May, then-chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said employers and workers should turn away sick employees and visitors, and said the Government would “protect” and “defend” them if they did so.
The Government has sought to increase the rate of vaccinations in the past.
When he was social services minister in 2015, Scott Morrison introduced the ‘no jab, no play’ scheme which withheld welfare payments from families who conscientiously objected to vaccinations.
On the other hand, it has shown respect to those reluctant to download the COVIDSafe app.
When legislating for the COVIDSafe app earlier this year, the Government included provisions that made it a crime to coerce someone to use the app by refusing entry.
But refusing someone a service because they do not have a vaccination due to medical reason could be illegal under the Disability Discrimination Act.
Paula O’Brien, senior lecturer at Melbourne Law School, is part of a group studying the legal implications of a vaccine for businesses.
“Anti-discrimination law and human rights law are two major areas for businesses to consider when working out a policy on mandatory COVID vaccination,” Dr O’Brien said.
She said hospitals, aged care and childcare facilities had already had to deal with employment issues around vaccination of employees, but COVID-19 was pushing these issues into new realms.
“While some businesses have navigated this around staff before, it’s new to be navigating it around customers,” she said.
Whatever has happened in the past, laws today are more fluid than they have been. An emergency period under the Biosecurity Act is still in place.
This has allowed the Government to overwrite other laws to prevent and control COVID-19, including restricting cruise ships and international travel.
The period was extended in September until December 17.
Will I have to pay for the vaccine?
No, the Government has promised the vaccine will be free and available to Australians in 2021.
But this will come at a cost to taxpayers.
The Government is spending more than $3.2 billion on COVID-19 vaccines.
Some travellers who have recently arrived in Tasmania from South Australia will be able to leave self-isolation early, Tasmania’s Public Health Director says.
The quarantine requirement for some people coming to Tasmania from SA has been lifted
Those who arrived before 5:30pm on November 16 no longer need to isolate
Anyone who has arrived in Tasmania from SA since then must remain in quarantine for 14 days from the day they arrived
Mark Veitch said extensive testing in South Australia during the past week had not found any wider COVID-19 transmission in the community in the week before November 16.
“Accordingly, anyone who arrived in Tasmania before 5:30pm on November 16, and who spent time in South Australia in the previous 14 days, will no longer be required to self-isolate — except if they are waiting on a coronavirus test result or are experiencing symptoms,” Dr Veitch said.
There are 27 coronavirus cases associated with South Australia’s Parafield cluster.
Dr Veitch said Tasmanian health authorities were continuing to monitor the outbreak in South Australia.
“A significant amount of contact tracing and testing is proceeding in South Australia,” he said.
“[Tasmania’s] Public Health Services will continue to review this situation and provide further advice in coming days.”
More than 11,000 visitors have arrived in Tasmania since border restrictions were eased on October 26, but some travellers who came from South Australia have had to swap holiday plans for isolation because of the latest coronavirus outbreak.
Hotels are reporting an increase in bookings from interstate travellers
Four travellers who flew via Adelaide were forced to abandon their bushwalking plans and are isolating
Quarantine rules for Victorian travellers are expected to ease later this month
Hotel operators are expecting a busier period in December and January, but have already been welcoming interstate guests, mostly from New South Wales and Queensland.
Kate Murray, co-owner of Launceston hotel, The Florance, said the number of bookings was continuing to increase.
“The bookings after Christmas are pretty good; we have nights of a full house already,” she said.
According to State Control Centre figures, 11,014 non-Tasmanian residents have arrived in the island state from COVID-19 low risk areas.
A further 211 non-Tasmanian residents have arrived from other areas.
The figures do not include those who are classified as essential workers.
Ben Targett is the chief executive of two hotels in Hobart — Hadley’s Orient Hotel and the Old Woolstore.
He said while intrastate business travel has kept the Woolstore ticking over, Hadley’s, which appeals more to the leisure travel market, had been “on bread and water” until the border restrictions started to ease.
Now, the situation is changing.
“It would be true to say that interest in staying with us from December onwards is quite strong,” Mr Targett said.
He said it seemed that most of the people travelling to Tasmania before Christmas were visiting friends and family, or were taking the first opportunity to get away.
Swapping wilderness for a hotel room
Not everyone coming to Tasmania for a change of scenery is getting quite what they hoped for.
Chris Raleigh and three travel companions were about to start walking the Three Capes Track on the Tasman Peninsula on Monday when their holiday plans were interrupted.
Mr Raleigh got a message telling him that anyone who had been in South Australia recently should go into isolation.
So he and three others in his group swapped the spectacular coastal track for two rooms at the Hobart Airport Travelodge Hotel and a daily walk around a fenced off area in the hotel carpark.
“It would be great to leave the hotel room, although I’m trying to keep a positive mindset,” he said.
Mr Raleigh and his group travelled from Brisbane to Tasmania, with an overnight stop in Adelaide on the way.
Anyone who has arrived in Tasmania from South Australia since November 7 is required to self-isolate until they have been in the state for 14 days.
People who have arrived from South Australia since November 7 can, however, leave Tasmania, provided they are well, wear a mask and have a flight booked.
But Mr Raleigh and his travel companions can not return to Queensland until 14 days after they left South Australia.
“It’s all very complicated but if anything, 2020 has taught us all that you need to be resilient, so I’m just going to chalk this up to 2020 resilience,” he said.
People travelling to Tasmania from Western Australia, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory have not been required to quarantine on arrival since October 26.
South Australia was included in this group, but people coming from that state now need to quarantine for two weeks, either at a suitable residence or a Government-run hotel because of a COVID-19 cluster in Adelaide.
The quarantine requirement was dropped for people coming from New South Wales on November 2.
Border rules requiring people coming from Victoria to quarantine are expected to be dropped from November 27.
Travellers from South Australia have expressed their relief and frustration as they were released from quarantine in the Northern Territory this morning.
Travellers were en route to the NT when the hotspot status was declared on Monday
One traveller moving to the NT flew to Darwin rather than driving to get there quicker and now has fees for putting his car on a truck and boarding his dog
There have been 47 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the NT
The NT Government revoked Adelaide’s status as a coronavirus hotspot on Friday, after SA health authorities discovered a pizza shop worker at the centre of the hotspot had lied to contact tracers.
The entire state of South Australia was declared a hotspot on Monday, and many passengers found out mid-flight that they would have to go into two weeks’ quarantine upon arrival in the Northern Territory.
Traveller David Parker was in the process of relocating to the Northern Territory when the quarantine rules were put in place.
“I’m mega, mega, mega annoyed at the pizza boy, because it’s become a very expensive trip for me,” Mr Parker said.
“I was going to drive up and instead I’ve had to fly via Canberra and Brisbane to Darwin. I’ve had to put my car on a truck, my dog was coming up with me so it’s in a kennel and I’m paying for kennel fees down there and so I’ve got to fly the dog up as well.
Many expressed their relief to finally to be able to return to their homes in the Northern Territory.
“I’m ecstatic, it’s great to be getting home,” NT resident Geoffrey Watson said.
“It hasn’t been too bad overall, the meals were decent.”
Darwinite resident Ella Worthington has been in the Howard Springs quarantine facility with friends Clara Muir and Joe Edwards.
“It’s been madness, we’re just happy to be out,” Ms Worthington said.
Others expressed their frustration at the management of quarantine in the Northern Territory after a “chaotic” week.
Quarantine facilities in Alice Springs were quickly overwhelmed by an influx of arrivals on Tuesday, with some waiting for hours to find out if they would be sent to quarantine at home or flown to the Howard Springs facility in Darwin.
“I’m annoyed, really annoyed. It should never have happened,” a traveller named Chris said.
“The fact that we were 30 minutes out from landing we get told we were going into detention, that’s very annoying. They could have done it much better — home isolation would’ve been much better.
“He’s got a lot to answer for, that fella.”
The NT Government confirmed 347 people were released from the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility this morning as a result of all South Australian hotspots being revoked.
In Alice Springs, 151 left the Todd facility and 136 from alternative arrangements.
On Wednesday, 71 were flown up to Darwin after the quarantine facility in Central Australia reached capacity, and a NT Health spokeswoman said 58 people were repatriated back to Alice Springs today — with all costs covered by the NT Government.
To date, there have been 47 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Territory, all of which are related to overseas or interstate travel.
Eight cases are currently active and 1,340 people are in quarantine in the NT.
Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng say health authorities are taking extra precautionary steps to contain COVID-19 outbreaks in the state as Victoria records its nineteenth day of no cases. Professor Cheng also said the state will be assisting South Australia with border operations and contact tracing.
The Northern Territory Government will charter a flight from Alice Springs to Darwin tonight as the quarantine facility in Central Australia nears capacity.
SA health authorities have linked 34 cases to Adelaide’s coronavirus cluster
From midnight, people arriving in the NT from SA will have to pay $2,500 to quarantine
Currently, 990 people are in quarantine in the NT
About 75 people are expected to be aboard the plane, which will bring people to the NT capital to do their 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
The Alice Springs quarantine facility has room for just 139 families, whereas the Howard Springs Facility has 3,000 beds — although its surge capacity under COVID-19 is much less.
On Monday, Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner announced all arrivals from South Australia would have to undergo mandatory supervised quarantine in response to the growing coronavirus cluster in Adelaide.
The hotspot status took effect immediately, but Mr Gunner said people who arrived in the Territory from the SA on Monday or Tuesday would not have to pay for quarantine.
From midnight, anyone entering the NT from South Australia will have to pay a $2,500 fee to cover the cost themselves.
To date, SA health authorities have linked 34 cases to Adelaide’s coronavirus cluster — a positive sign given 11,300 South Australians have since been tested.
The Howard Springs Facility is also housing Australians from eight Commonwealth flights transporting repatriated Australians stuck in Europe, India and South Africa back to Darwin.
Since repatriation flights to the NT began on October 23, a total of 13 people have tested positive to coronavirus while in quarantine in the Territory.
International arrivals stay in a different section of the facility to domestic arrivals and are afforded slightly less freedoms.
Repatriated residents are required to remain on their balcony, whereas domestic travellers can step off their verandah as long as they maintain a physical distance of 1.5m from others and keep facemasks on.
Currently, 990 people are in quarantine in the Northern Territory.
There’s been 47 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the NT, eight of which are currently active.