Emergency plans are being drawn up to turn hotels into quarantine zones and possibly hospital wards in the event the coronavirus pandemic causes the nation’s hospitals to be overrun.
NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have opened up talks with hotels about how they can help with individual self-isolation following a sharp fall in hotel occupancy.
To facilitate this, the industry needed to be added to the essential services list for many accommodation venues to continue to trade, according to the Australian Hotels Association (AHA).
“A number of our members have made it clear they are willing to help, especially to provide a place for people who need to self-isolate and, because of their family at home, need an alternative place,” said AHA chief executive Steve Ferguson.
“At this time of need, we are looking to provide as many services as we can to assist people.”
It is estimated that Australia would run out of capacity in its intensive care wards when the country has about 45,000 infections. The infection rate currently stands at just over 1700.
The West Australian government was talking to hotel operators to use their rooms for individuals who needed to be quarantined.
“In addition to that, we’re now actively investigating using Rottnest for this purpose – taking Rottnest Island and turning it into a quarantine zone for Western Australia,” said WA Premier Mark McGowan.
Speaking to The Australian Financial Review, Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive Michael Johnson said it was “an opportunity to get some people back to work”.
“These are not hospitals but this is where people can recover,” he said.
Accommodation Association of Australia chief Dean Long said there were about 300,000 hotels beds around the country.
“Hotels do have an essential role to play but you can’t keep every hotel open,” he said.
“If we continue to go down the path we are without being able to stand down staff, no one will keep their job.”