Australians cooped up in a Sydney hotel for 14 days of isolation after returning from the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship say they have no fresh air or sunlight and cannot receive food deliveries.
And while NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian admits the situation isn’t ideal, she’s relying on the hotel guests to think of the common good.
The Swissotel on Market Street in the Sydney CBD is currently hosting 292 Australians who on Thursday arrived home by plane after disembarking the cruise ship in Hawaii.
They had been escorted to the hotel by border authorities upon arrival under tough new rules.
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Five Norwegian Jewel passengers with respiratory symptoms were taken to hospital but all have since tested negative to COVID-19.
The measures related to cruise ship passengers were put in place before the Federal Government on Friday announced all international arrivals would from midnight on Sunday be forced to spend their isolation in hotels.
In a Facebook group of the quarantined Swissotel guests, many Australians have complained about their plight at the venue including a lack of opportunity for fresh air or sunlight.
Others described cases in which their individual requirements – such as age, parental status or disability – were not taken into account.
Group member Melissa Ball said her Deliveroo meal order had been turned away from the hotel as it was deemed a health risk by authorities, while the hotel-issued food was poor.
“There are three security guards on each floor, police guarding the entrance to the hotel and NOW (sic) we are not allowed to have anything delivered,” Ms Ball wrote on Friday. “Prisoners get treated better than we do.”
Another Swissotel resident, Mark de Berg, said the 292 arrivals were “prisoners and refugees within our own country” and had been stripped of their “human right and constitutional rights”.
Photographer Tom Huntley said they were being treated like “guinea pigs showing the government what not to do in the future when everyone else returns from overseas and will be self isolating in hotels”.
“Last night my wife had a panic attack as she was so desperate for air,” he said.
“If they have enough staff to have three guards at our door, surely they have enough staff to rotate us access to the rooftop for a breath of fresh air?
“Or at the least come to our rooms and unlock the windows! If we are all supposed to have respiratory problems is being stuck in a room with no fresh air their best medical advice?”
Some guests labelled their hotel isolation a knee-jerk reaction to NSW Health’s failures on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which was allowed to disembark without adequate checks on March 19.
More than 170 Ruby Princess passengers now have COVID-19.
In a letter to guests on Saturday, Swissotel management promised everyone could access three meals per day, some shopping requests, medical services and rubbish and linen collection.
All arrivals must wear masks and gloves when interacting with hotel staff and room doors must be left closed.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Saturday admitted hotel-quarantined arrivals would likely experience a frustrating fortnight, but made no apologies for government policy.
Swissotel for the next three months has been deemed a “human health response zone” with heavy restrictions on entry.
“It will not be perfect and foolproof,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters. “We understand some people have had a very stressful time trying to get back home and we want to consider their position, but we also need to consider the health and safety of eight million residents in NSW and also more broadly, 25 million people in Australia.”
A NSW Police spokeswoman on Saturday said police had not yet been required to deal with any rule-breaking at Swissotel, but have helped transport guests for medical services where required.