NSW raiding ex-detainee’s bank accounts to recover COVID hotel-quarantine costs
The cost to quarantined detainees runs to $1500 per week. Photo: TND
NSW Premier Chris Minns has struck an unsympathetic tone as his state dips into the bank accounts of hotel quarantine visitors to square bills totalling nearly $40 million.
About one in 15 of those who quarantined in NSW hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic are yet to pay up, causing the state to resort to garnishee orders to recoup the funds.
Single travellers were charged $1500 per week, with each additional adult costing another $500 and children over three years $250 per week.
More than 17,000 people owe $40m in unpaid fees for using Sydney’s quarantine hotels.
“I don’t think it would slip anyone’s attention if they spent two weeks in hotel quarantine, even if it was two years ago that bill had to fall due,” Mr Minns told reporters on Sunday.
More than 17,750 people owe $39.3 million in unpaid fees for using Sydney’s quarantine hotels, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Sunday.
‘The government needs that money’
Revenue NSW has issued garnishee orders to 5190 bank accounts for outstanding hotel quarantine debts since July, the newspaper said.
Mr Minns disputed reports that some people had not received proper warnings about the unpaid bills before funds were withdrawn from their bank accounts.
In part to encourage people to come home during the harshest COVID-19 restrictions, hotel fees weren’t due on arrival and travellers were told payment would be sorted at a later date, Mr Minns said.
“Well, that date is today,” he said.
“And unfortunately, the government needs that money to run essential services.”
The last returning international traveller left hotel quarantine in April 2022.
Meanwhile, NSW is still in discussion about a nine-figure sum owed by Queensland under a hotel quarantine agreement struck in April 2020.
Victoria, South Australia, the ACT and Tasmania have squared their bills.
“We’ll pursue those funds … but we haven’t forgotten about that bill, we need the money,” Mr Minns said.
The Queensland bill was once estimated at $30 million but the NSW treasurer in August said it had ballooned to $105 million.
The last returning international traveller left hotel quarantine in April 2022, two years after the system was implemented in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first five months, NSW – mainly through Sydney Airport – took in 40 per cent of all passengers requiring hotel quarantine.