Quarantine guests removed from hotel cross infection risk – call for more transparency

This week hundreds of quarantined travellers were urgently moved from an alleged dirty Sydney hotel in a matter of hours by NSW Police after the facility was deemed not up to health and hygiene standards. However, Travelodge the hotel chain concerned deny they are aware of any COVID-19 related concerns.

366 travellers were removed from the Travelodge Sydney on Wentworth Avenue on Tuesday after police reviewed infection control protocols for hotel quarantine and found the Travelodge Sydney did not meet the standards. It has consequently been removed from the list of 16 quarantine hotels.

Sydney Travelodge guest Lauren Farmer appeared via video on ABC and admitted that her mental health had deteriorated during her time at the hotel in quarantine. She said that she was aware it was a budget hotel but did not imagine that it would be dirty.

She described entering the room where she alleged finding disgusting conditions, she said the bathroom floor and shower were covered in filth and she found clumps of hair in the room. She shared images of the state of the guest room and said even after the room was cleaned hours later, it was still a small and dark room with no natural light and no fresh air.

A Travelodge spokesperson told Accom News: “Since March, Travelodge Sydney has continuously hosted around 2000 rooms as part of the NSW Government’s mandated hotel isolation program, and has received thanks from many guests who have appreciated the care and service from our team.

We can confirm that last night 366 guests were relocated from our hotel to other accommodation. Our most recent site inspection with police and health authorities was conducted on July 28, and we were deemed compliant and retained on the isolation program. We are not aware of any subsequent audit, nor are we aware of any COVID-19 related concerns.

“The Travelodge Sydney has strict protocols in place around COVID-19 cleaning and these have not been brought into question by the NSW authorities. All hotel rooms are deep cleaned thoroughly before and after guest use.

“We respect the decisions that authorities need to make in these times and remain committed to supporting them.”

NSW Public Health Orders state that travellers from overseas or Victoria in the last 14 days must enter quarantine for 14 days and must be housed in designated accommodation to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community. They state quarantine necessary for the safety and health of all NSW citizens.

However, travellers do not get to choose the “quarantine facility” hotel or even get advanced warning because the facility is only determined on the day of arrival. The NSW Government now charge international travellers for their 14 day enforced stay in quarantine accommodation unless flights were purchased before 11:59pm 12 July AEST.

Dean Long CEO of the Accommodation Association of Australia today reinforced the commitment of Australia’s hotels including those supporting the Government’s mandatory Isolation Program to the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene.
He called  for greater transparency from Government and authorities to assist participating hotels continue to safely accommodate guests and keep team members safe.

Talking about the Travelodge Sydney on Wentworth Avenue the association confirmed: “There has been not one safety breach that the hotel has been notified of. If there has been an issue which resulted in the decision to rotate the hotel out of the Isolation Program, the hotel needs to know so that it can make sure its frontline team members are safe.”

Also, according to Accommodation Australia, the hotel was one of the first hotels to step up and volunteer to support the Government’s mandatory Isolation Program. Since March, it has hosted around 2000 rooms. During that time there has been a mountain of compliments and just a handful of complaints which, when bought to the hotel’s attention have been dealt swiftly and in a safe manner.

During that time there have been a number of audits on security personnel which the hotel has not been involved in. A hotel site inspection with police and health authorities was conducted on July 28, and the hotel was deemed compliant and retained on the isolation program.

Where guests have raised concerns upon check-in, the hotel has immediately addressed them; while the property is an older property, standard rooms are 20-22sqm, which is standard for a four-star hotel room.

Mr Long outlined the logistics and responsibilities of the quarantine program: “A combination of 4 star and 5 star properties volunteered to participate in the program to support returning travellers – isolation stays are not a hotel stay. Participating hotels are vetted by the NSW Government and must maintain a minimum standard. Wearing of PPE including by security guards is overseen by police. Catering is provided by an external company that is contracted by the NSW Government ie complaints about food should not be directed to or at the participating hotels. Rooms are rotated, rested and cleaned to an enhanced protocol between stays. Where there is a positive case, the room is cleaned by a specialist cleaning contractor to a mandated NSW Health protocol.

Hotel staff have and will continue to go above and beyond to make these mandatory stays as comfortable as possible however in order to keep both guests and staff safe, hoteliers are not able to deliver their normal hospitality

We understand that people don’t like being forced to isolate for two weeks on returning to Australia but we also need everyone to recognise the tremendous effort and commitment of hotel staff who are also on the frontline, supporting returning travellers, as well as medical professionals choosing to isolate in hotels to keep their families safe, plus the most vulnerable in our community;

The level of consumer acceptance has changed noticeably since the introduction of the requirement that consumers must self-fund their two-week isolation stay.

Of the $3000 that consumers pay, the participating hotels receive an agreed nightly rate of around $120. The rest is used by Government to cover the costs of isolation including catering, security and medical staff.

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