States have power to keep people in quarantine if they refuse tests, CMO says

States have power to keep people in quarantine if they refuse tests, CMO says

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy has hinted people could be kept in hotel quarantine unless they agree to take COVID-19 tests.

Key points:

  • Testing at hotel quarantine will now be offered on arrival and before people leave
  • Professor Brendan Murphy says states have the power to keep people quarantined until they submit to a test
  • More than 60,000 people have gone through hotel quarantine since it was introduced.

Emphasising the risk coronavirus could still be imported into Australia, Professor Murphy said reports that 30 per cent of people who have gone through hotel quarantine in Victoria had declined to take a test were higher than other parts of the country.

Given the rate of new cases across the world was close to 1 million per week, Professor Murphy said hotel quarantine remained essential.

Speaking after today’s meeting of National Cabinet, he said testing of people in hotel quarantine would be ramped up.

But he also indicated that could lead to quarantine being changed in some circumstances.

“We’re seeing imported cases in hotel quarantine from a different range of countries now,” he said.

“We are going to start testing people on entry to quarantine and testing people before they leave quarantine to see whether a testing regimen might help in the future to modify that quarantine in certain circumstances.”

But he implied people may be required to undertake tests while being kept in hotels.

“I think most people, when they understand … that this is a requirement, I think most people will cooperate with that arrangement.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision on how to administer the tests would ultimately be up to the states.

“It is a matter for the states in terms of what’s done within their borders, within their jurisdictions, in terms of complying with requests,” he said.

Mr Morrison said state and territory leaders had reaffirmed their support for the 14-day hotel quarantine program for at the National Cabinet meeting today.

This morning Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer said of the 18,000 people to have gone through hotel quarantine, 30 per cent had declined a test for the virus.

Professor Murphy, whose last day in the role is today, said that seemed particularly high, and that he expected as testing ramped up more people would volunteer for tests.

“30 per cent is quite a high rate, other states haven’t seen the same rate of refusal,” he said.

Around the country more than 60,000 people have undergone hotel quarantine after returning to Australia.

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