Backpackers potentially exposed to a COVID-19 case were left locked up in two Brisbane hostels last night despite Queensland Health admitting the venues did not allow occupantsto quarantine properly.
- Contact tracers are looking for anybody who was at the Roma Street City Backpackers in Brisbane since July 22
- Dr Jeannette Young has expressed concern about the mounting number of COVID-positive people in the community
- The Prime Minister hopes a proposed quarantine hub at Pinkenba in Brisbane will be operational before the end of the year
The hostel guests were yesterday confined in Roma Street City Backpackers and neighbouring Joe's Place Backpackers hostelsin Brisbane's CBD after a patron at one of the venues tested positive to COVID-19 earlier in the week.
The backpackers have received letters from Queensland Health stating the department was "working to secure alternative accommodation" for them while they quarantined for two weeks.
The letter —obtained by the ABC — acknowledges hostel guests were "unable to successfully quarantine away from others" at the two venues.
Despite the correspondence highlighting the unsuitability of the venues for quarantine, backpackers said they were being led to believe they would be kept there during quarantine.
'Doing our best to keep spirits high'
A staffer at one of the hostels said about 60 people were locked down across the two lodges.
"Most guests are holding up very well," the staff member said.
"We do have a number of guests who have been through a number of lockdowns elsewhere so they are feeling very stressed.
"There are also a large number of guests who are unable to work at this stage and may not be entitled to any benefits.
"We are doing our best to keep the spirits high. However as you can imagine it has been a very stressful period.
"Metro North Health Unit, which has done an amazing job so far, have decided that due to the sheer size of the operation to create a bubble inside the twohostels. So no-one will be moved to hotel quarantine.
"This of course might change if we do get a positive result from one of the guests due to the shared facilities. At this stage we have had no new positive cases that I am aware of."
'Unclear what's going down'
English traveller Paddy Baxter, 25, who had been due to move out of the hostel today, said Queensland Health representatives had told the occupants they wanted to keep the backpackers in the hostel.
"It seemed to be that they thought it will cost them less money and it was sort of like 'as long as you play by the rules'," Mr Baxter said.
"We have all been given a letter saying we are entitled to $1,500 for the two weeks' quarantine, but we haven't been told if we have to pay for the hostel.
"It's all been unclear what's going down."
But Mr Baxter said the hostel staff had been excellent and many of the backpackers were quite happy to stay in quarantine in the venue.
He said initially they were told they could not leave their rooms but then police said it was OK to be in the open areas.
The ABC sought comment from Queensland Health about the backpackers' quarantine arrangements, but a spokesperson said they would not respond until today, due to the fact contact tracing was ongoing.
Queensland Health yesterday tested all of the approximately 50 occupants of both venues, which are located on the edge of Brisbane's CBD on Upper Roma Street.
Late yesterday, Mr Baxter said he received confirmation he had recorded a negative result to a COVID-19 test.
Joe's Place Backpackers advertises itself as a "clean and tidy hostel" offering the comfort of a home away from home, while City Backpackers promotes its venue with "all options for travellers, those on a shoestring budget, or those who want to splash the cash".
Yesterday, Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said a man who had been staying at City Backpackers had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and was possibly infectious at the backpackers hostel since July 22.
She said he had moved to the backpackers hostel after completing hotel quarantine at a Brisbane hotel.
Contact tracers are looking for anybody who was at the backpackers hostel since July 22.
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said onThursday morning genomesequencing confirmedthe man hadthe Alpha variant and did not contract COVID-19 while in hotel quarantine but while in transit from the Philippines.
On Wednesday, Dr Young expressed her concern about the mounting number of COVID-positive people in the community.
"This is the 13th incursion of the virus into the community over the last six weeks," Dr Young said.
Earlier in the week, Dr Young took the unusual step of writing to state parliamentarians to urge them to get vaccinated.
Predictions leaks will rise with Delta
Melbourne-based epidemiologist Dr Dris Ait Ouakrim, who has been part of a team tracking all of Australia and New Zealand's hotel quarantine outbreaks, said it was likely infections in hotel quarantine were only going to rise due to the Delta variant.
Dr Ait Ouakrim was part of the team whose research found there was likely to be one outbreak for every 204 infected travellers quarantined in Australia based on figures from April 2020 to June 15 this year.
But he said most of this research was based on the less infectious variants of the virus.
"If anything, our numbers are conservative,'' he said.
"There is emerging evidence that it [the Delta variant] can be caught by people just crossing each other's path — it's very worrying."
The research paper, called Estimating the Failure Risk of Hotel Based Quarantine for Preventing COVID-19 Outbreaks in Australia and New Zealand, found there had been 22 failures of hotel quarantine in Australia between April 2020 and June 15, 2021.
Three of the failures were in Queensland during the timeframe, according to the paper that was compiled by the researchers from the universities of Melbourne and Otago.
Dr Ait Ouakrim said it was "quite amazing" that a debate was still going on about setting up a purpose-built quarantine facility.
"Hotel quarantine was fine as a short-term quick and dirty solution but it's not the right system and with more evidence about COVID-19 and airborne infection coming in, there is a need to move to something more appropriate,'' he said.
Morrison flags movement on Pinkenba quarantine facility
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed a feasibility study was underway into setting up a purpose-built quarantine facility at Pinkenba in Brisbane's outer eastern suburbs.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister said he hoped a proposed quarantine hub at Damascus Barracks at Pinkenba in Brisbane would be operational before the end of the year.
"I hope so, but that is really a partnership arrangement," Mr Morrisonsaid.
"There are no hold-ups on the feasibility study that I am aware of. That is going ahead."
[Qld local edition teaser]
The federal government said the feasibility study was expected to be completed in the coming days.
"I would hope we can get going on Queensland soon," Mr Morrison said.
"There are a number of issues that have been raised in the process by the Queensland government, totally legitimate issues, we just have to work through those and hopefully we can proceed as soon as possible."
Last night, a state government spokesperson said the Queensland government confirmed they were working with the federal government in relation to the assessment of the Pinkenba site.