Weeks of complaints led to evacuation


Nearly 400 returned travellers were evacuated from their hotel quarantine at a Sydney Travelodge on Tuesday evening after “days of complaints” about unclean rooms and guards not wearing masks.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told reporters on Thursday the decision was made after “an unusual volume of complaints” from guests.

“We have had around 2000 Australians return and go into the Travelodge,” he said of the Surry Hills hotel.

“However, the complaints over the past two weeks increased … certainly last week the volume of complaints was unusual … to a point where the commander, based on photographs and other evidence, decided to shut it down.”

Travellers were moved floor by floor on Tuesday to a Novotel hotel, the news spreading through the hotel via a WhatsApp group for returned travellers staying at the Travelodge.

Sydney woman Shannon Huntley-Wei and her partner were on day four of their quarantine stay when she got the message.

“I started packing so fast,” she said.

Ms Huntley-Wei said her heart sank when she first arrived at the Travelodge, and the feeling only got worse when she got into her room.

“The bathroom was dank and grimy, there were multiple random hairs on the blanket and the room was so tiny,” she said.

“We had so much luggage being a couple, so the floor space vanished. There was no room to do anything.”

Photographs shared by other returned travellers in the Travelodge show bugs in their rooms, inedible food and thick layers of grime in windows and bathrooms.

One traveller said there were “brown marks” left in her toilet that caused her to wipe down every surface in the room, not knowing what could be there.

The paramedic requested cleaning products to disinfect the room herself, knowing any request for someone to come and help would take hours if not longer.

During her stay, Ms Huntley-Wei said she opened the door to her room to get a food delivery and noticed the guard on her floor was sitting without a mask on.

She said she thought about filing a complaint “every day” and was planning on asking to speak to a psychologist about the deterioration of her mental health during her stay at the Travelodge when she got the news about the transfer.

She and her partner were moved to the Novotel about 7pm on a bus of only 13 people to ensure social distancing, a process that was at that point, the highlight of her stay.

“The police and army guys were super nice and helpful, the move was very smooth,” she said.

“When we got to the front of the Novotel, the GM gave us a personal welcome on the bus and it was really uplifting and just super lovely.”

The couple are now staying in a clean room they say is “easily more than twice as big”, with a large window that provides more sunlight than they had before, room to exercise and a couch so they do not have to sit on their bed all day.

Mr Fuller said 15 hotels were involved in the quarantine program, with more than 4000 people in those rooms.

A complaint has been made at every single hotel, though not to the extent of what was received from Travelodge guests.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said NSW was doing “the lion’s share” in terms of how many returned travellers it was accepting, noting it was “more than double of all the other states combined”.

“I wish other states would lift some of the burden,” she said.


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