December 4, 2023

Queensland woman who stayed in hotel quarantine raises concerns over staff not wearing masks

A Queensland woman who was quarantined at a Gold Coast hotel in December has questioned…

Queensland woman who stayed in hotel quarantine raises concerns over staff not wearing masks

A Queensland woman who was quarantined at a Gold Coast hotel in December has questioned the protocols in place, saying she witnessed staff not wearing masks.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said she saw cleaners and other staff who delivered food and items to quarantining guests not wearing masks during her 15-day stay.

Her comments come as Queensland Health and police investigate how a cleaner who has tested positive for the UK strain of COVID-19 contracted the virus from a returned traveller who was in quarantine at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane.

The case prompted Brisbane’s snap three-day lockdown.

Yesterday, Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said investigators would have to search through four days’ worth of CCTV footage and reconstruct the hotel quarantine process.

However, he said they may never get to the bottom of what happened.

A hotel corridor with a sign pointing to rooms.
The case of a hotel cleaner whose positive COVID-19 test plunged Brisbane into lockdown is under investigation.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

‘Nobody was wearing masks’

The woman who questioned the behaviour of hotel staff on the Gold Coast, said she was concerned, particularly after a passenger on her flight tested positive for COVID-19.

“The protocol seemed quite good [on the plane] getting off at the airport everyone was in masks, standard procedure,” she said.

“But we did notice during our stay there, because there’s a little peep hole in the door, that the people delivering our food and the cleaners who were cleaning opposite us, once quarantine people were leaving, nobody was wearing masks.

“And you can’t guarantee that people who quarantine will have their door closed, you open it to receive laundry, to receive meals, you can order anything from outside and have it delivered by hotel staff.

“So it was a bit concerning.”

‘Low to zero risk of workers contracting COVID’

The woman said she questioned the behaviour multiple times via phone while in quarantine, and then emailed Queensland Health to raise her concerns.

Towels on the bed of a hotel room.
The woman says she questioned the behaviour multiple times via phone before emailing Queensland Health.(ABC Ballarat: Charlotte King)

“We got an email saying that our stay would be extended 24 hours due to somebody on our flight testing positive to COVID,” she said.

“I said, ‘You’re probably best to take a precautionary approach rather than react to something that happened,’ … and now that’s what we’ve seen happen in Brisbane.

“I just don’t think there were sensible precautions in place to stop the transmission and we weren’t listened to when we raised it.”

When questioned about the matter at a press conference yesterday, Chief Health Officer Jeanette Young said staff in quarantine hotels had been wearing masks and were still required to.

“Yes, PPE appropriate for the role they’re in, not necessarily back-of-house staff in kitchens,” she said.

“But any people who have any interaction with quarantine quests or they’re involved in cleaning the areas, yes [they must wear masks].”

When asked whether staff found not wearing masks while working directly with or on the same floor as quarantining guests would be in breach of the rules, Ms Young said Queensland Health would have to investigate the matter first.

“I think we need to do the investigation and find out what’s happened there before we make any decisions on whether it is a breach or criminal breach,” she said.

A Queensland Health spokesperson said hotel staff did not enter rooms while quarantined guests were present, so meals, fresh linen and cleaning products were left at the door.

“All hotel quarantine workers, including cleaners, wear appropriate PPE during their shifts,” they said.