Concerns over Park Hotel asylum seeker Covid-19 outbreak as numbers grow

A Covid-19 outbreak in a Melbourne hotel has nearly doubled in the last week and now officials say they hold serious concerns.

A Covid outbreak among asylum seekers in immigration detention in a Melbourne hotel is growing one week after advocates called it their “worst fears”.

Last Sunday, at least three people had tested positive to coronavirus at Melbourne’s Park Hotel in Carlton after reporting symptoms as early as the week prior. By today, almost half of all the refugees have now been infected with complaints over lack of ventilation and adequate care.

Three more asylum seekers were diagnosed with Covid-19 on Sunday, taking the total toll to 20, along with one staff member, according to the Australian Border Force. There are currently 46 detained at the hotel, located in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton.

A refugee held in Park Hotel said at the beginning of the outbreak: “The situation is very dangerous and very very bad. I think everyone can get Covid-19 in the Park Hotel, it is not safe?

“We have been here eight years for what? What can I say? The situation is very bad, no one has come to visit, despite Covid-19 no one has seen us.”

According to SBS, Border Force confirmed the rise in cases on Sunday, with refugee advocates fearing more cases expected. The publication says 55 per cent of detainees have been fully vaccinated and 62 per cent have had their first dose, with vaccinations available to them since August.

“The Covid outbreaks in detention centres is starting to look like carelessness,” Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, said on Saturday.

“The outbreaks are the inevitable result of a government and policies that are indifferent to the lives of refugees and others being held in immigration detention.”

One Park Hotel resident remains in hospital with Covid, while others with Covid at the hotel reportedly have worsening symptoms, according to advocates.

“We’re [in a] dangerous situation and unsafe,” one asylum seeker posted on social media.

“We’re hopeless and no future anxiety.

“This is not a hotel, just prisons.”

Protesters surrounded the hotel on Saturday but the ABF have assured their priority “is the health and safety of detainees and staff in immigration detention facilities”.

It told the ABC the detainees are being “closely monitored”.

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley saying the government was “concerned” over complaints the group aren’t receiving adequate care.

“We’re quite concerned about that facility, and the infection prevention and control team met and sought some assurances from the Commonwealth and operator, and we’re looking forward to those issues being addressed,” Mr Foley said.

“What we’re concerned about is the measures in place at the facility need to be the same, or at least the same kind of standard, that we would expect in other arrangements. We’re not saying that isn’t the case, but we just don’t have the clarity of oversight, and we’re seeking some assurances.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said: “In terms of vaccination of staff, that has been a fundamental focus of the states,” he said. “Secondly, we test those that are coming to Australia before they come, and we have a testing regimen while they are here … we have the ring of containment around in terms of the protections that are put in place.”

A spokesperson for the Australian Border Force said detainees had been “immediately placed into quarantine” when they presented with symptoms and “standard departmental protocols are being followed in relation to a positive diagnosis including contact tracing, quarantining, testing and cleaning, in conjunction with the Victorian public health unit”.

Speaking of their worst fears confirmed the Covid outbreak, Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns for ASRC, said last week: “The people held in Park Hotel and the refugees held in detention centres around Australia have been denied justice and freedom for over eight years.

“Kept in Australia’s overcrowded immigration detention centres the health risks have always been a serious concern, with Covid-19 they are critical.

“The reports of a Covid-19 case have confirmed our worst fears and the government has responded by providing next to no information or transparency.”

A protest at the hotel is planned for Monday “to demand the closure of refugee detention centre death-traps”.

Read related topics:ImmigrationMelbourne

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