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Fire escape used in Tas quarantine breach

A coronavirus-infected NSW man who escaped hotel quarantine in Tasmania, sparking a three-day lockdown, likely left via a fire escape when guards were changing their personal protective equipment.

The 31-year-old flew into Hobart via Melbourne on October 11 without a valid border pass.

He was ordered to stay at the Hobart Travelodge but absconded that night, spending 18 hours in the community before being arrested in the city’s northern suburbs the next day.

The breach prompted a snap lockdown across southern Tasmania last weekend but didn’t result in any community virus transmission.

A review by the state’s COVID-19 Coordination Centre released on Friday determined it was unlikely the man escaped out a window, given he was staying on level four.

“The guest likely absconded from the facility via a fire escape, during the short period of time that security staff were not present due to changing their PPE and briefly attending reception,” it reads.

The man was checked-in at 10:35pm on Monday and there was a 10 to 20 minute period when access points to the floor were not visually monitored.

A physical check of his room was conducted at 1pm on Tuesday after attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.

It was at this point Tasmania Police was notified he was gone.

The man returned a positive COVID-19 test after being returned to hotel quarantine.

He subsequently claimed in a television interview he “walked out” of the Travelodge.

Premier Peter Gutwein previously described the man as being very uncooperative and said he refused to provide information to contact tracers about his movements.

He has been fined more than $3000 and is subject to a further police investigation.

The state government has tightened security measures at the Travelodge as a result and enhanced surveillance of quarantining arrivals from high-risk areas.

“This incident is similar to the experience of most other jurisdictions which have had instances of guests absconding or attempting to abscond from government-managed quarantine facilities,” the report notes.

More than 13,000 people have stayed in state government-run quarantine facilities, which are described in the report as “very safe”.

The man twice had an application to enter Tasmania rejected because he had visited high-risk areas.

Tasmania, which on Friday announced a plan to reopen borders to all fully vaccinated travellers on December 15, has recorded just three cases this year.

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