As of Sunday afternoon, there were 1033 guests undergoing mandatory 14-day quarantine in Melbourne hotels. A further 148 passengers are scheduled to land at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport on Monday.
Both symptomatic passengers and complex care patients are being housed on separate floors at the Novotel ‘hot hotel’ in South Wharf while a ventilation issue is addressed at the CBD Holiday Inn.
The Holiday Inn was announced as one of the state’s two hotels for COVID-positive people or those with other health issues at the start of the rejigged program, but authorities are working to improve its ventilation system to ensure no air is circulated between rooms.
Once it is operational, people diagnosed with COVID-19 will be in a separate hotel to those with other health problems.
In recent months, the World Health Organisation, the United States’ Centres for Disease Control, the European Commission and Australia’s Infection Control Expert Group have argued airborne aerosols may play a role in the spread of COVID-19.
Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said there had been no proven cases of infection due to poor ventilation, but the state was leaving “no stone unturned”.
She said the Novotel had space to host COVID-positive patients and uninfected people until at least December 25.
Monday’s single new positive coronavirus case comes as the mental health care sector raised the alarm about a surge in psychological distress in aged care and health workers as a result of Victoria’s extended COVID-19 crisis.
With Christmas – always a bad time for mental health problems – less than a fortnight away, mental health professionals are seeing increasing numbers of people who were on the front line of Victoria’s deadly nursing home clusters looking for urgent support.
“A lot of them are just so overwhelmed and they’re really devastated by what they have seen and experienced,” said Jason Ray, a Melton-based mental health clinician and occupational therapist.
“I had one lady last week who worked in aged care in a facility where 18 people died. She was just so traumatised by it and it had reminded her of her own mother passing away. She couldn’t get any annual leave and has had to just keep going back to work, which has caused her a lot of mental health difficulties.”
The surge in aged care staff seeking support comes as a survey by the Health and Community Services Union of almost 400 Victorian mental health workers, including psychiatric nurses, psychologists and social workers, painted a grim picture of the sector, with workers noting high levels of stress, crushing fatigue and anxiety.
with Melissa Cunningham and Paul Sakkal
Rachael Dexter is a breaking news reporter at The Age.