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Hotels may become hospitals under radical response to COVID-19

Hotels could be turned into isolation centres and even hospital wards if New Zealand’s lockdown fails to contain the spread of coronavirus.

In Australia, where cases exceed 1000 and the virus is spreading rapidly, predictions of public and private hospitals being inundated within weeks have prompted accom providers to offer their properties as serviced quarantine and treatment centres.

Among those responding to the threat is Quest Apartment Hotels, the company offering 80 of its serviced apartment properties to the government as temporary quarantine and isolation facilities.

MediStays, a booking platform which specialises in connecting patients and carers with hotels close to hospitals, has announced it will be supporting Australian COVID-19 patients, families and health workers by finding them accom and coordinating access to community nurses.

Patients who are immuno-compromised and elect to self-isolate, those with confirmed or suspected cases with mild or no symptoms and healthcare workers who choose to stay away from loved ones are among those it is looking to accommodate. The service includes ensuring hotel rooms have wifi for telehealth appointments, delivery of meals and groceries and coordinating care workers and nurses.

This side of the Tasman, hoteliers remain confused as lockdown looms about whether their properties are considered essential service providers for guests still travelling the country, or those in quarantine or self-isolation.

While accommodation services for essential workers and people who need to be isolated/quarantined are on the government’s list of essential businesses, it’s not clear whether this applies to a proportion or the whole of the industry.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has stipulated: “Essential businesses, and those that support them, will continue to provide the necessities of life for everyone in New Zealand.”

The government says more specific information for each sector will follow.

New Zealand Hotel Owners Association (NZHOA) executive director Amy Robens has confirmed her organisation is working with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on how hotels might become isolation centres.

“The Ministry of Health has the power to seize hotels; they’re not looking at doing that, they want to work with us to see if hotels could be used for quarantine,” she told Stuff earlier this week.

Australian Hotels Association chief executive Stephen Ferguson says his organisation is working with the Morrison government to ensure the industry is added to the essential services list.

“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,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“At this time of need, we are looking to provide as many services as we can to assist people.”

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Kate Jackson

Kate Jackson is the editor of Accomnews. You can reach her at any time with questions or submissions: editorial@accomnews.co.nz

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