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‘Not eating or staying well,’ say many returned Indian-Australians paying for hotel quarantine

Lovejot Kaur and her two children (Left); their room at Pullman, Adelaide. Source: Supplied

The first batch of Indian-Australians in self-financed hotel quarantine say they are “not eating or staying well,” despite paying thousands of dollars. Authorities say they're trying to meet the requests of returned travellers but it's not always possible.

The first group of passengers who arrived from India over the weekend have started their self-financed hotel quarantine at the Pullman Hotel in Adelaide.

Having paid $3,000 per person for their 14-day stay at this five-star hotel, many in this group of 170 believe they are not getting their money’s worth.


Highlights:

  • The first batch of returned Australians from India in paid hotel quarantine is at Adelaide
  • Many have no access to fresh air or vegetarian food
  • SA Health says they are trying to provide options, but limited by the availability of facilities

“A large number in our group is made up of vegetarians. The hotel provides non-vegetarian food at all mealtimes, which is inedible for most of us. The other big problem is that many of us have been put up in rooms with windows that can’t be opened, which is making us very uncomfortable,” says Navneet Choujar, who is staying at the Pullman.

The Sydney-based filmmaker was informed by SA Health that he had tested positive for COVID-19 a day after he landed in Australia.

I have asthma, diabetes and hypertension. I have tested positive for coronavirus. I have requested SA health and Pullman Hotel to shift me to a room with access to fresh air but they have still not done so.

“The hotel says that SA Health allocates rooms, while SA Health says it is the hotel’s prerogative,” he adds.

SA Health says it is “endeavouring to meet the requests of returned travellers in hotel quarantine by providing a range of options covering accommodation, amenities and food”.

“Due to facility limitations, it is not always possible to fulfil all requests, however, we will continue to work alongside each hotel to make time in quarantine as comfortable as possible,” SA Health added.

SBS Punjabi has contacted the Pullman Hotel on multiple occasions, but has so far received no response.

Lovejot Kaur and her two young children are sharing what she describes as a “small room” with windows that can't be opened.

“It is very difficult to remain confined with two young and energetic children in a room meant for two people. We hardly have any space to walk about. While playing, my son has injured himself with the bed because the place is so congested,” she adds.

Ms Kaur believes if rooms had been allocated based on the needs of the guests, this self-financed quarantine would have been easier to tide over.  She also claims that when she asked to move rooms, she was told it would cost an extra $350.

“Families like ours should have been given rooms with balconies instead of single occupants or adults who can adjust to closed rooms better than young children,” she says.

Food for thought?

Arranging food that the guests in the hotel can eat has been “quite an exercise,” Mr Choujar says.

The Pullman is a five-star hotel, but they said they can’t supply vegetarian food. The hotel bluntly told us to order food from outside via Uber Eats if we don’t like their food.

"But we insisted that if we are paying for our stay, we deserve to get food. Buying food will be an added expense,” he adds.

chahat
Food packets with Pullman's room numbers ready for delivery by Australian Sikh Support's Mayank Anand, Daljeet Bakshi and Chahat's Satinder Singh.
Supplied

"If somebody were to go down the corridor," says Mr Choujar, "nine out of 10 rooms had their food kept back at the door for collection,' Mr Choujar laments.

“The hotel provides food made with bacon, ham, fish etc at all mealtimes. I contacted some members of Adelaide’s Indian community on Facebook after they sent me their wishes for recovery, to help with arranging vegetarian food from the local gurdwara,” he adds.

However, Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar at Allenby Gardens was not permitted to supply langar (free vegetarian community food) at the Pullman.

“We went with around 15 boxes of food a couple of days ago but after that, we haven’t been able to cater to the people there,” says Manpreet Singh, who serves at the gurdwara.

Mr Choujar says they were advised that food from a licenced kitchen only will be permitted into the hotel.

Daljeet Bakshi, a local journalist and South Australia coordinator with Australian Sikh Support, says that out of this 170-strong group at Pullman, 55 adults and 19 children have requested his help to provide food.

"We didn't get permission from the hotel to supply vegetarian meals till August 4. Today, we are all set to serve them. We are grateful to the local Indian restaurant, Chahat, for helping us in this service," says Mr Bakshi.  

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