South Australia is about to resume taking in repatriated Australians, despite having no dedicated quarantine facility for positive cases.
The first plane since the temporary freeze on international flights will land in Adelaide from Singapore on Tuesday with 72 passengers disembarking.
More flights are expected later in the week but health authorities are in discussions with the Federal Government to determine how many passengers SA’s medi-hotel system can take.
It was only last month that staff members from a quarantine hotel, Peppers Waymouth, tested positive to COVID-19, with genomic testing revealing they contracted it from a returned traveller who was isolating at the facility.
The staff members then unknowingly passed on the virus, which was how the Parafield cluster began.
The state government then announced an eight-point plan to strengthen its medi-hotel system, which included having a dedicated health facility to accommodate all positive COVID-19 cases.
At the time, the old Wakefield Hospital was listed as an option.
However, it was revealed on Monday that site would not be used because it did not meet airflow and ventilation requirements.
Instead, two floors of the Pullman Adelaide Hotel — which has been used as a medi-hotel since April — will be utilised as an interim facility.
Health Minister Stephen Wade said there were many other sites being considered but could not comment on what they were.
He said the state government’s eight-point plan had not failed and was confident it would deliver a dedicated facility.
“It is clearly something that was going to be implemented over time,” Mr Wade said.
“I am very proud of the fact that South Australia is stepping up and playing its part in the international repatriation effort.
“I do not want to be looking back in decades to come, ashamed of the fact that we left thousands of Australians stranded in COVID-infested countries.”
SA Health’s deputy chief public health officer Emily Kirkpatrick said the Pullman had a good working relationship with health authorities and had high infectious control measures in place.
“It is really important to understand the air flow and how that works, particularly as many hotels have different air flow in the corridor than in the rooms, and how that mixes together,” Ms Kirkpatrick said.
“It has been very insightful undertaking this review but we are not yet … able to confidently say how transmission occurred (at the Peppers Waymouth Hotel).
“When we look back on the Peppers cluster, it’s really important for us to understand the airflow, both in the room but also in the corridor as well where we have our workers … sitting or walking past or collecting food and rubbish.
“All of those things that are important in hotel operations.”