An insider has blasted Western Australia’s hotel quarantine system and accused security companies of hiring and exploiting foreign students.
The source claimed guards were paid minimum wage in cash and off the books so they could work double the 20 hours allowed under their visa arrangements.
It was also alleged that hotel security guards were sharing IDs so they could get away with working a second job such as driving for Uber.
The insider told The West the security services in the state were run by a ‘bunch of cowboys’.
The explosive allegations com after a security guard at the Sheraton Four Points hotel in the CBD contracted the highly-contagious UK variant of the virus.
The guard, who also worked as a ride-share driver, then attended more than a dozen venues over several days while infectious.
Authorities are still not sure how the Maylands man in his 20s contracted the disease and have traced 66 people he was in contact with while contagious.
The next 48 hours will be crucial for how the state contains the outbreak, as coronavirus has an incubation period of five to seven days.
It resulted in Metropolitan Perth, the Peel region and South West being placed in a five-day lockdown until 6pm on Friday.
The source said the Health Department have been ‘bending over backwards trying to fix things’.
The revelations come after a returned traveller at the Sheraton Four Points hotel claimed guards weren’t wearing PPE for most of his stay there.
Ben Grimshaw, 49, told Daily Mail Australia he was concerned by the ‘slack demeanour’ among the sub-contracted security at the hotel.
Mr Grimshaw, who is on day 13 of mandatory quarantine, said he was worried even before hearing a guard had tested positive with Covid over the weekend.
‘When I opened the hotel room door to collect meals or put out rubbish I could see them sitting in the corridors looking at their phones, with no masks or any other PPE,’ he said.
‘I had the impression they were so bored and were feeling complacent about the risks.’
The guards seemed to be mostly young workers and international students, he added.
On Monday Premier Mark McGowan said the state has recorded no further Covid-19 cases after 3,171 tests on Sunday.
He also announced that a G2G pass was being prepared for people entering the regions under lockdown.
Mr McGowan had announced the drastic lockdown on Sunday afternoon and it came into affect at 6pm Perth time.
Mr McGowan said the guard did not enter a hotel room but did patrol the same floor as an infected guest in quarantine.
Some 66 contacts of the guard have tested negative or will be tested later on Monday. Some ‘high-risk’ close contacts have been take into hotel quarantine as a precaution.
The lockdown, affecting 80 per cent of the state’s population, sparked a wave of panic buying across packed supermarkets.
The news prompted South Australia to close its borders to WA without warning, along with Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory, and later the ACT.
The infected guard worked two 12-hour shifts on both January 26 and 27 while there were four cases at the hotel, including two with the highly-infectious UK variant and one confirmed to have the South African strain.
The news ended Western Australia’s 10-month coronavirus-free streak, sending the entire Perth metropolitan area, the Peel region and the South West region into a snap five-day lockdown.
A second suspected case has come forward in WA but the Health Department says the case is believed to be historic and not a risk.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the infected security guard ‘would have’ been wearing PPE while on shift at the hotel.
However, the only time the guards at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel seemed to be appropriately attired was only when guests first arrived or when they left and they needed to be escorted through the hotel, Mr Grimshaw claimed.
When the guards were simply guarding the rooms in the corridors on long shifts, the PPE was apparently missing, or masks were seen around necks instead of faces.
‘I was already worried, as obviously I’d read all about how this same sort of mistake had occurred in Melbourne and caused a second lockdown and hundreds of deaths,’ Mr Grimshaw said.
‘I just can’t believe nothing was learnt from that and these guards were hired, clearly without any proper supervision.’
There are fears the guard may have infected thousands after 16 locations he visited were put on alert.
They were mostly in the Marylands suburb where he lives but also included the Perth Convention Centre and a GP practice in Nedlands, which the man attended between January 25 and January 30.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE INFECTED SECURITY GUARD
The security guard, who is aged in his 20s and from Maylands, inner Perth, tested positive to coronavirus on Saturday night – but may have been infectious five days earlier.
He was working at the Sheraton Four Points hotel, on the same floor as returned Australians confirmed to have the highly-infectious UK Covid strain.
The man worked 12-hour shifts on both January 26 and 27 while there were four active cases at the hotel, including two with the UK variant and one confirmed to have the South African strain.
Authorities are adamant the security guard did not enter any hotel rooms.
The man returned negative results as part of routine testing on January 15, 17 and 23 but started to become unwell last Thursday – January 28.
He was most likely infectious from January 26 but only tested positive on Saturday, causing concern to health authorities due to the extensive number of venues he visited while potentially infectious over a five-day period.
The man had a second job as a ride share driver but authorities said he had not worked in that role since January 22.
The man has three housemates who have all tested negative to Covid-19. They have all been placed in hotel quarantine for 14 days.
The security guard visited 15 venues, which have been listed as potential exposure sites. This includes a Coles, KFC, halal grocery store, an Indian consulate and a hair salon.
Mr Grimshaw, a British citizen with Australian permanent residency, has spent 13 days in his room on the 5th floor at the hotel, after waiting nearly a year to return to Perth to work as a sustainability manager.
He said he felt ‘angry and upset’ that the first he and other travellers in the hotel heard about the outbreak was on the news.
‘We have been met with a wall of silence. I asked the manager of the hotel where in the hotel this outbreak is and on what floor,’ he said.
‘But he said he was being kept in the dark himself by WA Health. I feel very disappointed and let down by the whole situation.’
Mr Grimshaw said he didn’t yet know if he and others staying at the hotel would be released as planned tomorrow.
‘I’ve had my second test already and even the nurse didn’t know what floor this all occurred on, we are all very much in the dark,’ he said.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted the WA Department of Health for comment.
Another woman staying at the hotel also spoke out about the facility’s ‘poor’ Covid protocols.
Arsiyanti Ardie, who suffers from a life-threatening autoimmune disease, arrived at the Four Points from Jakarta on January 21 and said she immediately noticed some of the guards were wearing their masks hanging below their nose.
‘If I get Covid, I die. Period. I cut medical treatment in Jakarta short because COVID is the greater risk there and I simply have to be in a safe place,’ she told the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘Turns out I jumped from the frying pan into the fire. I have a pretty chipper outlook on life but I’m pretty distressed.’
Ms Ardie said she’s also worried about the poor ventilation and recirculated air.
‘If the hall or other rooms are being cleaned, the odour of cleaning products is strong in my room,’ she said.
Queensland Health speculated the air conditioning in the Grand Chancellor hotel in Brisbane may have been a factor in an outbreak that sparked a three-day lockdown at the beginning of January.
‘If you want a Victoria-style recipe for disaster, this is it,’ Ms Ardie said.
Australian Medical Association WA president Dr Andrew Miller said hotels are not designed to be quarantine facilities.
‘If you’re going to have a quarantine facility, get rid of the word hotel, convert the air conditioning so they’re pumping fresh air through the place, redesign the administration of it and employ people who simply work in quarantine facilities who are trained quarantine professionals, anything short of that is a ridiculous idea,’ he he told WA Today two weeks ago.
‘It’s incredibly disappointing that we are still running what we would describe as an amateurish quarantine system, these are not quarantine facilities, these are hotels.’
BORDER RESTRICTIONS FOR WA
Queensland: Queensland has declared Perth, Peel and the South West a coronavirus hotspot, meaning anyone arriving from the area must go into 14-day hotel quarantine. Queensland Health also announced that anyone who had travelled from those WA areas since January 26 should be tested and isolate until they receive their result.
Victoria: From 9pm Victorian time on January 31, the Perth metropolitan area, the Peel region and the South West region of Western Australia will move from a green zone to a red zone under Victoria’s ‘traffic light’ travel permit system. If you have been in one of these currently listed red zones since January 25, you will not be allowed to enter Victoria without an exception, exemption or permitted worker permit.
New South Wales: A public health order places travellers who have arrived from Western Australia since January 25 under the same stay at home restrictions they would have faced had they not flown over east. New arrivals must complete an interstate traveller declaration and anyone who has been at a venue identified as a potential exposure site must get tested and isolate for 14 days. Anyone who has been in the Perth, Peel and the South West areas since January 25 must get tested within 48 hours of their arrival into New South Wales.
South Australia: Authorities are monitoring the situation but have not announced border restrictions as of Sunday night. However, residents are warned to delay any non-essential travel to Western Australia and South Australian residents are advised to return as soon as possible. South Australia Police will have a presence at the airport to ensure all people entering the state from interstate have submitted a cross border travel application.
ACT: If you have been in the Perth metropolitan area or the Peel and South West regions of WA since 25 January, you should self-quarantine and get tested for COVID-19. In line with the lockdown in WA, you must stay in self-quarantine until 9pm on Friday, even if you get a negative test result. This applies to passengers on the Qantas flight from Perth that arrived in Canberra Sunday evening. Non-ACT residents in WA are advised to not travel to the ACT at this time.
Northern Territory: From 7:30PM Sunday (NT time), the Perth, South West and Peel regions in WA will be declared hot spots for the purposes of travel to the Northern Territory. Anyone who arrives after this time will be directed into mandatory supervised quarantine. Anyone who has arrived in the NT from these regions between January 25 and 31 are directed to self-quarantine immediately, get tested, and remain in self-quarantine until returning a negative test.
Tasmania: Perth, Peel and the South West have been classified as high-risk areas. Travellers who have spent time in a high-risk area or premise in the 14 days before arriving in Tasmania are not permitted to enter Tasmania, unless approved as an essential traveller. If entry is approved, there may be a quarantine requirement in government-designated accommodation (fees can apply).