Australia’s Strict Hotel Quarantine System Is Unsustainable And In Dire Need Of Change
Amongst the multitude of positions that have been adopted by nations all around the world in handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Australia has by far adopted the firmest approach. Over 25,000 stranded Australians overseas are struggling to reach their homeland, with caps placed on international arrivals and a mandatory hotel quarantine system in place. It is time for Australia to investigate and adopt more humane and sustainable solutions.
All returned travellers to Australia must quarantine at a designated facility for 14 days. The traveller wears the expense of hotel quarantine, which exceeds what would be defined as reasonable. In New South Wales, it costs individuals $3,000 AUD for a 14-day hotel quarantine stay. The idea of a solo-returned-traveller or a family remaining confined in a hotel room for 2 whole weeks is unfathomable. Few individuals are exempt from this form of quarantine and may secure the right to quarantine at home. It seems that such an exemption to the rule would be allowed for those in possession of great amounts of money or with a status of fame. In addition to the high cost, the cap placed on citizens allowed to return and the scarcity of repatriation flights have left thousands stranded and without hope.
It is time for Australia to, after months of rigidity, seek inspiration from other nations and adapt its policies. There are other options. Taiwan allows for self-quarantine at home, apart from for those who live with individuals that have compromised immune systems. This is the only instance where mandatory hotel quarantine would apply. In Hong Kong, the location of quarantine (home or in a hotel) will depend on the country that the individual is returning from. Returning residents from the United States, for example, conduct their quarantine in a hotel. Other countries have employed a safe countries list, for which travellers returning from these countries do not need to quarantine at all.
Home quarantine is supposedly on the horizon for returned travellers to Australia, and so it should be. This may be implemented with the requirement of wearing an electronic monitoring device for the 14 days at home, which is highly questionable. However I still believe that this option is better than the hotel alternative. Returned travellers would be able to enjoy the comfort of their residence, enjoy any fresh air that surrounds it and embrace a smoother transition to normality.
Declining mental health problems, silent suicides and unnecessary pain that has been caused must be eliminated to the highest degree possible with Australia’s new approach. An approach that would allow for flexibility with a heavier emphasis placed on safe and high-risk countries, coupled with home quarantine and only necessary hotel quarantine, would be more sustainable heading into the future. Adaptability, learnings and credibility are critical for supportable, working solutions. Greater trust and faith from the government must be placed in returning travellers to Australia, in that they will not abuse their conditions of quarantining at home.