Quarantining Australians in Perth have been surprised to find themselves staying in the same hotel as normal guests.
ABC’s 7.30 program recently spoke to travellers staying at the Hyatt Regency Perth, some of whom are amazed this is being allowed to happen.
One of them, James Whitehouse, “returned from the UK after attending his father’s funeral and has nearly finished his mandatory stay on Level 2 of the Hyatt Regency,” (ABC).
He claims to have been alerted to the presence of ordinary guests when he saw patrons on the floor below him had access to a balcony and fresh air.
He told 7.30 he rang reception to ask why. He was told they were regular paying guests.
“If I was the paying customer I would not be taking that risk,” Mr Whitehouse told 7.30.
“I’m amazed the hotel’s been allowed to do that by the government.”
“I thought the whole idea was that we were in isolation.”
This is not the first time an Australian in quarantine has noticed this. “I noticed we had a view of the hotel pool, but doubted I would see any signs of life there. I was wrong,” The Age journalist Emily Woods wrote in an article published on February the 2nd, 2021, for the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The next morning the pool was full of families with kids diving into the pool, and couples sun-lounging. I couldn’t believe there were normal guests staying at our hotel. I went on the Hyatt website and found they were offering discounted packages for stays over Christmas and New Year’s Eve.”
“A few minutes to midnight on our last night, my partner and I became annoyed by loud, booming music, enough to vibrate the windows and floor of our room. We must have a new neighbour, I reasoned, and called guest services, hoping a quick word about the offending room would be the end of it. ‘I will speak to them,’ the person on the end of the phone said. Two minutes later, a call back from guest services: ‘It’s an event at the hotel, but it will be ending soon,’ the person told me. An event at a quarantine hotel?”
Martine J McCracken, whose family was in hotel quarantine in Perth in early January, told DMARGE, “We were there [in hotel quarantine, at Hyatt Regency Perth] from the 2nd of January to the 16th of January.”
“We had a room on a lower floor with not much of a view, but I remember being able to see the hotel pool in the reflection of an office building and people swimming around. It looked so nice and made us feel a little jealous. Also made us feel a little sorry for our kids.”
“One of the nights there was also an event on in the hotel where they played music until quite late. It didn’t bother us much, however, it actually felt more weird that people would be out in what we assumed was a large group as it’s been a long time since that was the case for us.”
Not everyone saw ‘normal’ guests during their stay, however. One guest, Sheridan Hepburn, told DMARGE she quarantined at the Hyatt Regency Perth in the last week of August and the first week of September 2020, “had a view of the pool” and “never saw any other guests.”
Perhaps it is a new phenomenon?
As of February the 9th, 2021, 7.30, the ABC reports, “understands Levels 1 and 9 of the Hyatt Regency are available to the public, while levels 2 through to 8 are for returned travellers.”
“Members of the public are also welcome to book rooms at the Pan Pacific Perth, another quarantine hotel.”
A WA Health spokesperson has confirmed two Perth quarantine hotels were open to the public, saying both were required to “meet strict requirements” (such as employing separate kitchen staff) and ensure that “the hotel is clearly divided into two very separate areas,” according to the ABC.
According to the ABC, WA Premier Mark McGowan said the use of quarantine hotels by members of the public had been “queried at length” with medical advisors, and the advice was that “it is not a risk.”
DMARGE also spoke with Lauren Wilson, a psychology student at UWA, who told us she was on “staycation” at the Hyatt Regency Perth from the 28th to the 30th of January, to get her take on what it was like being a regular guest at a hotel which is also being used for quarantine.
“My husband had credits to use so we decided to go to the Hyatt. He do [knew] ahead of time that it was a corentin [quarantine] hotel but we weren’t sure how it was actually gonna work out. We got there and the only levels that the public could stay on were the 1st level and the 9th level. The other levels in between were for people that were Quarantine. There are 4 guards on each level the way that the hotel is laid out made it so that there was one guard per hallway. They looked really bored.”
“When you got onto the Elevator you could only press level one and level 9 and all the other floors wouldn’t light up if you pressed those buttons. The pool was still open and they still had pool service for food and drinks but it was kind of weird because there would be people just staring down at you swimming wishing they were there.”
“Overall It was a great little staycation it was super quiet and it felt like we had the hotel to ourselves.”
Though Perth is now coming out of last week’s lockdown, various restrictions will remain in place until February the 14th.
“All residents must continue to wear masks while outside their homes except for during vigorous outdoor exercise,” PerthNow reports.
In addition, “A 20-person limit will be imposed on all private indoor gatherings, while a four square metre rule and a cap of 150 attendees will apply to hospitality and retail venues and weddings.”
“Restaurants, pubs and bars can only have seated service and only essential travel is permitted in and out of the combined restricted zone.”
Finally, “Western Australia will also keep its border restrictions in place for both NSW and Victoria,” and “travellers from those regions are required to isolate for 14 days and present for a coronavirus test on day 11.”
Health Minister Roger Cook said WA was in a good place after moving “quickly and decisively” to crush the outbreak.
this fried my brain so hard I couldn’t compose a tweet about it
— Adam (@kels_316) February 9, 2021
Cook said health officials were continuing to hunt for more contacts of the hotel security guard whose testing positive of Covid-19 prompted the lockdown, “with almost all of those identified so far returning negative COVID-19 results,” according to PerthNow.
“Authorities have identified 528 people linked in some way to the guard, who unwittingly roamed the streets of Perth while infectious,” PerthNow reported on Monday.
“So far 522 have tested negative with just six waiting on test results.”
However, as reports emerge of returning travellers staying in the same hotels as ordinary guests, some Western Australia residents (see above) remain concerned.