The Novotel will be used to house both positive and suspected cases of COVID-19, as well as overseas arrivals with complex health needs, while extra ventilation is installed at the city’s second “hot hotel” – the Holiday Inn on Flinders.
There are multiple floors between the two cohorts, with separate workforces looking after them, the government says.
All other arrivals were transferred to the Pan Pacific hotel, also at South Wharf, or the Park Royal at Melbourne Airport.
Six international flights carrying about 155 passengers from countries including Singapore, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand are scheduled to arrive in Melbourne on Tuesday.
One passenger in quarantine with his family at the Park Royal Airport hotel said the screening process at Tullamarine was relatively smooth.
“Obviously there are a few steps to go through … but it was pretty quick,” the man, identified only as Michael, told ABC Radio on Tuesday morning.
Michael said he and his family of four, which includes a two-year-old toddler, chose to get tested for COVID-19 before they boarded their flight from the UK as a precaution and said he noticed a big difference in the rigour of virus protocols between Australia and the UK.
“It’s very thorough [here]… coming from the UK there’s a huge difference in the thoroughness in precautions being taken,” he said.
“Coming through [the airport] everyone was in full PPE…. and [there was] a real effort to do social distancing as well.”
Michael and his family, who are returning home to Melbourne after spending many years in the UK, will be tested on day three of their stay at the hotel, and again on day 11.
In some of the first descriptions of the revamped scheme, Michael said the food provided so far – a curry on Monday night and granola for breakfast Tuesday – was good and that his family had been able to secure two adjoining rooms for extra space.
He said they had the “best amount of space that you could hope for”, but was slightly concerned about keeping his young toddler occupied.
“[The] only issue for us is the kids – how do you tell a two-year-old you can’t leave the hotel room?” he said. “We’re a bit concerned about that.”
“[But] we’ve come with a lot of activities and things.”
Doctors pushed back against state government demands that they work exclusively in the hotels to reduce the risk of COVID-19 seeping into the community, with some not given enough work within the revamped system to warrant quitting their existing employment.
The doctors contracted by Healthcare Australia will work in the nine hotels designated to house people who have not tested positive for the coronavirus.
with Paul Sakkal
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Rachael Dexter is a breaking news reporter at The Age.