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Remember those in permanent quarantine

  • 15 December 2020
With all the congratulations that have been going around following Melbourne achieving zero COVID-19 cases there is one group that has been entirely overlooked. They have done it tough, perhaps tougher even than elderly in nursing homes. They have been kept in hotels under the watch of security guards, the same scenario that led to Melbourne’s second outbreak of COVID-19 and to our prolonged lockdown. Yet not one of these people came down with COVID.

These particular people remain in a prolonged form of hotel quarantine, unable to mix with the general public. They are refugees and asylum seekers brought to Australia under the now defunct Medevac legislation from Nauru and Manus Island. Around 200 of them are held — in some cases for nearly two years at the Mantra hotel in Preston, and the Kangaroo Point hotel in Brisbane.

There have been no congratulations for them despite the superhuman effort they must have had to make to avoid contracting the virus, especially when at the onset of the pandemic, two security guards tested positive to the virus, one at the Mantra, and the other at the Kangaroo Point Hotel.

When the pandemic first took hold in Melbourne, these refugees and asylum seekers were already more vulnerable than many in general population. They have faced delays in receiving treatment for conditions that prompted their transfer to Australia. It is known that anyone with existing medical conditions can be more susceptible to COVID. It has also been harder for them to observe recommended precautions for guarding against an outbreak of COVID — keeping a social safe distance from others and regularly sanitising hands.

At his daily press conferences monitoring COVID numbers in the community, there was one factor Premier Dan Andrews constantly stressed when assessing the risk at nursing homes: that was if bathrooms were shared.

At the Mantra hotel there are some single rooms, but two to three refugees share in other rooms. Each room has a bathroom. They are supplied with hand sanitizer but the refugees say the containers are not filled regularly.

'Victorians locked up for nearly five months now have some insight into what must be like to be locked up like these refugees are, with no release in sight.'

At the Kangaroo Point hotel in Brisbane, refugees report up to six men share a room. Shared bathrooms were only cleaned at certain times, leaving the refugees to clean them at other times. The