LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Dear Professor Nicola Spurrier, Honourable Stephen Wade, Mr Leon Bignell, Mr Greg Georgopoulos, Mr Michael PengillyL
I, and the broader accommodation businesses on Kangaroo Island and the wider tourism businesses, would appreciate a plan of how positive Covid cases on KI will be managed, because we agree it's not a case of IF, but rather WHEN.
KI has been very lucky with only 3 positive cases during Covid right in the beginning. With the imminent opening up of borders, it appears that just living with Covid will be the expected norm.
In speaking to other accommodation owners another major issue at present is that with the promise of borders opening up, guests from NSW and Victoria are adamant in maintaining their bookings for December and January. Multiple South Australians are looking to #HolidayHereThisYear but there is no availability as it is blocked by interstate visitors, hoping that they will be able to travel.
Although high end accommodation has been struggling, the majority of mid range accommodation and other tourism businesses on Kangaroo Island have had a bumper year catering to mainly South Australians discovering their own backyard.
The average visitor to Kangaroo Island will stay between 2-4 nights and during their stay will travel the width and length of Kangaroo Island visiting it's many tourist attractions.
Here are two scenarios:
A) A guest has stayed for 2 nights. Day after departure they feel unwell, have a Covid test which is positive. it is highly likely to assume that during their 3 day visit they were positive and have created the following potential exposure sites. None of this was known during their time on KI.
From their accommodation business:
1) The unit they stayed in
2) The cleaners of their unit and with their potential contact with other cleaners from the same business, the whole business's workforce. In some instances, the same cleaners clean multiple accommodation units.
3) The owners of the business
4) Other workplaces of the owners - in our case, the medical clinic and the hospital.
5) Other places staff and owners often attend - Foodland, Gym, Post Office, Kindy, their extended families including ill partners and elderly parents.
6) The laundromat and its staff where the linen was dropped.
7) All other people that come to that laundromat for their linen and their businesses.
8) The new guests that have checked in to their accommodation. Even with a thorough cleaning protocol, I do not believe that a normal clean of a unit will wipe all traces of Covid.
Likely list of where guests would have visited during their stay:
9) The Sealink Ferry or Kangaroo Island Connect Ferry and all its staff on both trips.
10) Milly Mae's Pantry or The Fat Beagle in Penneshaw
11) The Information Centre in Penneshaw
12) The Penneshaw Hotel
13) Dudley Wines
14) False Cape Wines
15) The Oyster Farm or the Deck Cafe in American River
16) Clifford's Honey Farm
17) Eucalyptus Distillery
18) Drakes Foodland in Kingscote with all it's staff and patrons
19) Dining places in Kingscote - some or most over 3 days. Cactus, Bella's, Cafe Scrumptious, Ozone Hotel, Queenscliff Hotel, The Lighthouse Cafe, The Mulberry Tree, The Fish Shop and other takeaways, The Service Stations.
20) The 2 Art Galleries
21) Gift and other tourist shops in the main street
22) Fishing tackle and kitchen shop within Ingram's Home Hardware
23) The Opp Shop (run by elderly volunteers)
Places outside of Kingscote:
24) KI Brewery, Kangaroo Island Spirits, Bay of Shoals Wine, Springs Road Wine, The Islander Estate Wines, Lavender Farm.
19) Other likely attractions visited with groups of other visitors attending at the same time - The KI Wildlife Park, Raptor Domain, Seal Bay, Little Sahara, Vivonne Bay Shop.
How will this be managed and will all these businesses be closed down every time there is a Covid + case on KI?
B) A guest has checked in and has travelled across Kangaroo Island for 2 days. They feel unwell and are experiencing breathing difficulty and attend the hospital.
1) What is the medical plan for Covid+ patients on KI?
At present the plan is for all +Covid cases to be relocated to Adelaide. Will this be the same?
2) Transport of Covid+ patients: At present all medical transfers to Adelaide are done via the RFDS or Medstar.
- Will that be the mode of transport for Covid + patients from KI? I assume that a plane or chopper having transported a covid + patient will need to undergo deep cleaning which will take it out of action for some time impacting all urgent patient transfers in the state.
3) Close contact isolation of positive tourists and their contacts:
- Where will close contacts be required to isolate and for how long?
- What about cleaners and property owners of the accommodation business, laundry staff, staff and owners of visited businesses across the island and all other contacts like other guests exposed at different sites?
4) Deep cleaning of accommodation and other tourist sites:
I HAVE BEEN ADVISED THE COST OF THIS IS FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL BUSINESS.
- Who will be performing the deep cleaning of the affected sites?
- Are there any businesses on KI trained to do this with the appropriate equipment?
- How soon after a deep clean would the unit/business be deemed safe to receive guests again?
- Would a +Covid case in one unit, close the whole property and would all units need to be deep cleaned?
- What happens with other guests that are currently within an accommodation business after an exposure becomes known?
(The reason for this is that with very strong forward bookings for multiple accommodation owners, one Covid + case can have serious far reaching effects.)
A guest stayed for 3 nights. They depart and the unit gets cleaned through our enhanced covid cleaning methods to the best of our ability. Day after departure they are unwell and test positive. The new guests have now already stayed for one or two nights by the time results are known.
- How do we handle that current guest without severe negative impact/reviews on our business?
- The new guest that is elderly with comorbidities now also contracts Covid and becomes very ill and dies. Can they now sue us and would my current insurance cover that? Imagine the impact of such an event on a business.
Additional Background Info:
A shortage of doctors on Kangaroo Island is well known, with 2 more departing by the end of the year and one nearing imminent retirement leaving only one senior dr to supervise junior trainee dr's which is not physically possible. With not enough senior Dr's available to supervise, KI will lose its ability to host junior doctors and thereby lose its workforce. They are already stretched beyond their abilities, and are struggling to cope with present demands in a Covid Free environment.
South Australian hospitals are under strain without having to cope with an Covid outbreak. How are they going to be able to support country hospitals?
I would like to liken a Covid Plan to a Bushfire Plan as the effects will be felt in all businesses and industries across the island.
An effective Bushfire plan has three parts. KI having first hand experience has discovered some of the flaws in not having an effective plan.
Let's use the
SURVIVE from what we have learnt from the devastating bushfires on KI.
In the PLAN one needs to look at:
- How can those risks be decreased
- If the event still happens, is KI properly equipped to manage it
- What equipment do you need to have
- Who is trained to used the equipment effectively
- Do you have the supporting facilities to cope eg: where guests will be evacuated to, isolation for guests and islanders who have contracted Covid
- What are the rules and action plans for those facilities including the hospital and staffing of medical facilities on KI
- How are other businesses affected eg: if Sealink is out of action due to deep cleaning and staff shortages due to quarantining after exposure how does livestock and other farming commodities, essential goods, logs etc etc come on and off the Island
- How is this plan going to be communicated effectively to all businesses involved
In your ACT planning
- Who is responsible for what - eg: deep cleaning the multitude of businesses all exposed from just 1 guest travelling an island for 3 days while Covid positive, now all requiring deep cleaning
- Clear guidelines about how each business should manage an outbreak - eg: accommodation, tourist attraction business, dining facilities
SURVIVAL of businesses coming up to their peak season depends on how well your plans are made and how well you are able to execute them.
Failure to have a plan to act on will have the same, if not worse catastrophic effects on Kangaroo Island, it's community and it's economy.
As in the bushfires the majority of homes were saved by the farm fire units with KI residents looking out for each other.
With a government that is intent on re-opening without proper PLAN, ACT, SURVIVE strategies in place for Kangaroo Island, KI businesses will need to unite together with the relevant authorities to create a UNIQUE Kangaroo Island Covid Plan that will help us survive the real threats of living in a Covid Open World.
Vaccination Travel Pass with a No Vax No Visit policy for KI - checked at the ferry ports and airport, or on booking ferry tickets and flights.
Rapid testing at Cape Jervis and at the Adelaide Airport for all passengers.
Much can be learnt from other island communities around the world and the plans they have made to use the water that separates them to their advantage. Look at the plans that have been successfully implemented to protect their islands, for example Prince Edward Island in Canada.
As mentioned, I am fully aware that businesses depending on interstate and overseas visitation are craving the opening up, but I hope that these scenarios and questions for current plans have given you some insight into the effects that increasing the risk to an island community can have on multiple well operating businesses during their peak season.
Kangaroo Island with its protective water border and unique challenges due to remoteness, needs a different set of rules applied, other than just opening borders and telling the community that they will just have to cope with Covid being brought in.
We look forward to your guidance and collaborative planning for a safe and fair opening to all businesses on Kangaroo Island.
Renè Steyn, owner,
Emu Bay Holiday Homes