Australia and New Zealand are among the countries that have succeeded in suppressing the transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the infection has now infected more than 111 million people worldwide.
In an effort to reduce transmission of the virus, hotel-based quarantine as part of the COVID-19 border control effort is implemented. Arriving tourists must undergo a 14-day quarantine period at the hotel facilities to ensure they do not carry the virus.
Although these countries managed to reduce the number of cases, researchers at the Department of Public Health, Otago Wellington University, New Zealand, and the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, wanted to measure the risk of failure when using hotel-based quarantine for COVID. -19.
Researchers found a significant risk of failure with hotel quarantines in Australia and New Zealand. The two countries collectively have 16 COVID-19 identified failures from hotel-based quarantine through January 31, 2021. The two countries also have a higher proportion of infected travelers, threatening the status of both countries in eliminating the disease.
The team recommends that immediate improvements to quarantine need to be implemented.
Many countries carry out hotel-based quarantine for incoming residents from other countries and travelers. New Zealand and Australia have succeeded in eliminating communities transmission of COVID-19. Although outbreaks occasionally occur, they are controllable.
In the hotel quarantine, passengers and travelers are required to undergo a quarantine period of 14 days at hotel facilities approved by the government. After a 14-day quarantine combined with a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for SARS-CoV-2, travelers are free to leave.
Changing hotels for quarantine purposes has the advantage of using resources that shouldn’t be used during a pandemic. There are international travel restrictions for both countries, so there are guest restrictions at hotels.
However, the hotel quarantine also has drawbacks. These include having to live in shared spaces, leakage of viruses from health facility personnel, and lack of proper ventilation.
Studies published on preprint servers medRxiv*, looked to determine whether hotel-based isolation facilities were effective and feasible in reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
To arrive at the study findings, researchers searched official websites in both countries and for eight regions in Australia. In this way, they can identify outbreaks and border control failures related to hotel quarantines.
The team identified failures using a common denominator, such as the estimated number of travelers passing through the facility and the number of SARS-CoV-2 positive people passing through the facility simultaneously.
What they found
Based on all testing, before 31 January 2021, Australia had seven failures, with one causing 800 deaths. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, there were nine failures, one leading to three deaths and lockdowns.
The team estimated that the overall risk for the two countries combined was one failure per 20,702 travelers. The researchers used two denominators – an estimate of the number of births per day and the number of COVID-19 cases.
“There appears to be a marked risk of failure with the use of hotel quarantines in these two countries. The large variation in infection control practices suggests opportunities for risk reduction,” the investigators concluded.
“Another risk reduction practice would be to use better facilities in rural locations as there is less risk of close contact in CBD hotels and spread within buildings from poor ventilation systems,” the team added.
The investigators concluded that to substantially reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 entry from quarantine, the most obvious course of action would be to reduce arrivals or even delay arrivals from sites of high infection.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit many countries, such as the US, UK, South Africa, India and Brazil. The US has the highest number of infections reported to date, with 28.18 million cases. Meanwhile, other countries reported skyrocketing cases, including India, with more than 11 million cases and Brazil, with more than 10 million.
* Important Notice
medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer reviewed and, therefore, should not be construed as conclusions, guidelines for health-related clinical / behavioral practice, or are treated as defined information.