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Inside Melbourne’s ‘COVID hotel’

1 month ago 21

A security guard working at a hotel where at least one person in every room had tested positive for coronavirus has lifted the lid on working inside.

The man, who can only be referred to as ‘Security 2’ for legal reasons, told the inquiry into Melbourne’s hotel quarantine program he had worked at the Pullman Hotel before moving to the ‘covid hotel’, which was staffed by a private security provider who worked with The Alfred Hospital.

The guard said he was a supervisor at the hotel, and while the job description for the guards was similar to the Pullman, in that they each guarded one floor for 12-hour shifts, workers were not allowed to move around.

“They had to sit in front of the lifts in a little hallway, they weren’t allowed to walk on the carpet leading to the rooms, they just had an 8x2m space on a chair,” he said.

“They had to wear their masks and goggles the whole time they were on the floor.”

Security 2 said while things were more “authoritarian” at the Pullman, which was secured by Wilson Security, the covid hospital was “run more like a hospital ward” and more focused on teaching in the event of a mistake, not punishing.

Guards at the covid hotel were asked to complete a two-hour online course before their first shift, and were quizzed on their knowledge when they arrived.

If they were unable to answer the questions, they were directed to another 30-minute course, run by either a supervisor or a nurse.

In his submission to the inquiry, Security 2 said guards were chosen to watch different floors “based on their experience and personality”.

“There were some floors that were not considered “active” as they had no patients staying on that floor,” the submission read.

“We put the less experienced guards in these areas. In contrast, some floors had guests who were quite challenging to work with or were quite emotionally distressed given the situation.

“We would put a guard with a stronger personality on these floors, who could handle these types of situations.”

The hotel was divided into red zones and green zones, with red zones considered the “dirty” areas where covid positive patients had moved – specific lifts and hallways, while green zones had not been used by infected patients.

Guards could move around green zones freely but must have disposed of their PPE from red zones first.

A transfer of a patient into the hotel would trigger a “code red” for the foyer area, which meant nobody was able to walk outside the hotel on that side of the street and nobody was allowed to enter the area while the transfer was taking place.

“Once a person had been transferred, the cleaners would, in full PPE, complete a thorough cleaning procedure in the foyer and on the floor that the patient was transferred from or to,” he said.

“The full cleaning procedure included cleaning all touch points and the floors. No-one was allowed into the foyer until the clean was completed.”

This process took about half an hour each time.


A couple in hotel quarantine at Melbourne’s Pan Pacific Hotel were forced to call “three times a day” for more food, until they realised on day 10 of their stay only one of them was listed as staying in the room.

Kaan Ofli and his partner returned to Melbourne on April 9 and the couple were shuttled to their hotel and placed in the one room.

For 10 days, they received only one meal between them for breakfast lunch and dinner, and would have to call reception and then the Department of Health to beg for more.

“It was one meal we were receiving, one piece of fruit,” he said.

“We weren’t getting bottles of water or anything like that, we were told to drink from the basin.”

Mr Ofli said he and his partner would take turns calling to ask for more, and said they were “embarrassed” to ask.

“We found it humiliating to have to call and plead for the basics,” he said.

“It was really disheartening.”

Each morning, the couple received a call from one of the nurses working in the hotel to check if they had been experiencing symptoms of coronavirus.

The couple took turns answering, so nurses had spoken to both Mr Ofli and his partner.

“On the 10th day it was the same call asking for symptoms, and it was my partner who answered the call,” he told the inquiry.

“She said ‘no we don’t have any symptoms’, and the nurse said ‘what do you mean by we?’.”

“(My partner) was like ‘well there’s two of us in here’, and the nurse said ‘I’ve only got you in the system’.

Mr Ofli told the inquiry everyone was asked to fill out a dietary form upon arriving at the hotel. He had requested halal food for religious reasons, and his partner had indicated she was allergic to peanuts and dairy.

Upon realising he had not been registered to his room, Mr Ofli said he also realised the meat he had eaten while in quarantine was not halal.

In his submission to the inquiry, he said the couple had initially thought there was a food shortage at the hotel, so it was “a shock” to realise he had not been eating what he thought he was eating.

On his third day in hotel quarantine, occupants at the Pan Pacific were given access to fresh air walks.

Mr Ofli told the inquiry he had asked a guard what had changed, and was advised these breaks had been made allowed after a hotel guest committed suicide.

More to come

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