A leading epidemiologist has slammed Scott Morrison’s repeated justification for not building more purpose-built quarantine facilities.

A leading epidemiologist has criticised Australias insecure quarantine system and Scott Morrisons consistent claims that it has been 99.9 per cent effective during the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the PMs adamance, the countrys quarantine system for international travellers has led to 24 leaks and subsequent outbreaks across Australia, Mary-Louise McLaws, professor of epidemiology at the University of NSW and WHO adviser, told Yahoo News Australia.
Roughly 21,000 cases 70 per cent of total infections have been confirmed since Australia closed its border, she said. They are a direct result of hotel quarantine leaks.
When the authorities try to take credit for a 99.9 per cent safe quarantine system, what theyre failing to account for are all of the cases weve had since our borders have closed, Ms McLaws said.
An epidemiologist has criticised Australias insecure quarantine system and Scott Morrisons claims that it is 99.9 per cent effective. Source: AAP
And if you take away all international cases, youre left with just over 21,000 cases that have gotten into the community.
The only way theyve gotten through is the failures of the program. That does not tell me that its 99.9 per cent perfect at all.
Hotels are not built for infectious agents
The quarantine system would be more effective and save the government money if purpose-built facilities were constructed and rapid antigen tests were conducted, Ms McLaws said.
The epidemiologist said hotels are not built for an infectious agent due to the airflow being half of what is expected in a hospital 10 full clean air changes per hour, per person, per ward, she said.
Roughly 21,000 cases 70 per cent of total infections have been confirmed since Australia closed its border, Ms McLaws said. Source: Getty
When you have a couple in a room and theyre positive, their airflow change is not increased like at a hospital.
Particles build up fast and when you open the door it enters the corridor.
She said people should also not be given rooms across the hall from one another.
Spending hundreds of millions on a special facility would still cost less than the $1 billion a week Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it costs the economy when the borders are closed and Melbourne is in lockdown.
Rapid antigen testing would cost less
Another improvement would be performing rapid antigen tests, which take 15 to 20 minutes for a result, on travellers as soon as they land.
Those who return a positive result would then be taken to the prepared facility and those who did not would be taken to hotel quarantine, Ms McLaws said.
Both groups should be tested repeatedly during their stay.
Rapid antigen tests work well when people are pre-symptamatic, while the PCR tests currently used work well when they have symptoms, she added.
Purpose-built quarantine costs a fraction of economic cost of lockdowns from hotel quarantine breaches. Lockdown costs $1Billion/week for NSW or Vic. Cost 3000 bed quarantine facility range $500-700Million. 4 week Vic lockdown=17-24K beds in purpose-built quarantine facilities
Mary-Louise McLaws (@MarylouiseMcla1) May 29, 2021
The epidemiologist said hotels are not built for an infectious agent due to the airflow being half of what is expected in a hospital, she said. Source: AAP
While some pathologists have argued that the rapid antigen tests can produce false positives, that result is so much better than a false negative because it can be followed up with a PCR test, which can have false negative, the epidemiologist said.
Rapid antigen tests also cost between $15 and $30, while Medicare must rebate $110 for each PCR test, she added.
It can cost $100 million in testing every time theres a breach and an outbreak in the community, Ms McLaws said.
States should send Pfizer vaccines to Victoria
In an effort to help Melbourne squash the newest outbreak, all other states should donate their Pfizer vaccines to Victoria, the professor said.
Every person in Victoria who is 20 to 39 yeas of age should get it now, next should be 40s and 50s, she said.
Melbourne is at a disadvantage during the Covid pandemic because it is highly mobile, sociable and has a large young population, she added.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese on Saturday also condemned the government’s defence of hotel quarantine.
“Scott Morrison speaks about the success rate. What he doesn’t say is that with every failure, there are very serious consequences – for health, for our economy and for people being able to go about their lives,” he said.
Given they “failed dismally” to protect Victoria, Mr Albanese added, the government must introduce financial support for people during the lockdown.
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