Hotels to stop being used for quarantine within days, but staff will keep their jobs

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Seven Melbourne hotels will cease operating as quarantine facilities before the end of the year, as Victoria enters a new era with most COVID-19 restrictions lifted for the vaccinated.

The move is anticipated to save the Andrews government more than $100 million this financial year, and will allow laid-off international airline workers staffing the hotels to return to the aviation industry.

From next week, the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport will stop hosting quaranting travellers.Credit:Getty

The Mantra Tullamarine, Four Points, Holiday Inn Airport, Novotel South Wharf and Intercontinental hotels will cease operating for COVID-19 quarantine on Tuesday. The Novotel on Collins and Stamford Plaza will follow suit on December 27.

COVID Quarantine Victoria Commissioner Emma Cassar said the earlier-than-expected closure of hotels was prompted by a drop in demand following changes to international border arrangements.

“CQV has always adapted to changing needs as the pandemic has evolved, and we thank all our staff for their continued dedication to keeping our state safe,” Ms Cassar said.

“This is part of the transition to living with COVID-19 and is a good outcome for Victoria.”

COVID Quarantine Victoria Commissioner Emma Cassar.Credit:Justin McManus

The government plans to continue to use the Element Hotel in Richmond, Holiday Inn Flinders Street, Pullman Albert Park, Mercure Welcome, Novotel Ibis, Pullman on Swanston and Mantra Epping to quarantine international arrivals until February next year.

CQV said staff at the hotels would keep their jobs until the state’s $200 million purpose-built quarantine facility at Mickleham opened later next year. The agency initially planned to keep all the quarantine hotels open until the first beds came online at Mickleham.

Some will be redeployed to other hotels.

From November 1, vaccinated Australians, permanent residents and their families returning to Victoria from overseas no longer needed to quarantine for two weeks at a designated hotel.

Earlier this year, The Age revealed hotel quarantine cost Victorian taxpayers about $1.6 million a day, but no money for it was included in next year’s state budget.

The government cited uncertainty on quarantine arrangements as the reason for the decision, adding any forecast provided would be “highly uncertain”.

The changes came after the Victorian government confirmed on Thursday it would begin to wind back vaccination hubs in a bid to fill staff shortages in the state’s struggling hospitals.

More than 100 nurses returned to Western Health in the past three weeks, with other healthcare workers deployed to the 74 immunisation clinics to follow.

“A greater uptake of primary care, including community pharmacies will ease pressure on state sites which may lead to some scaling back – allowing this workforce to support other areas of the health system that are under pressure,” the spokesman said.

From midnight on Thursday, most of Victoria’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be eased, including attendance caps for venues, mask mandates and isolation requirements, as the state achieves 90 per cent vaccination coverage for people aged 12 and above.

Some restrictions will remain for events where the vaccination status of attendees can’t be checked and visitors to hospital will continue to be restricted.

With Timna Jacks and Michael Fowler

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