Woman charged with arson in Covid-19 quarantine hotel fire in Australia

CAIRNS (NYTIMES) – A woman sent a Covid-19 quarantine hotel in Queensland, Australia, up in flames by lighting a fire under a bed in her room, according to police, triggering the evacuation of the building’s 163 occupants.

Police charged the 31-year-old woman, who was quarantining in the Pacific Hotel in the city of Cairns with her two children, with arson on Sunday (Nov 28).

The fire was started at about 7am on Sunday in the woman’s room on the top floor of the hotel in far north Queensland, police said. It then spread to neighbouring rooms.

The hotel was quickly evacuated and there were no injuries, said Mr Chris Hodgman, the Queensland Police acting chief superintendent, on Sunday afternoon.

But the hotel had suffered “significant damage”, he said, and the residents needed to be moved to another quarantine facility.

Photos and videos posted to social media showed flames and thick smoke pouring out of two rooms on the hotel’s 11th floor.

Her two children, with whom she had been occupying the room for a few days after arriving from another state in the country, were currently being looked after by police, he added.

The authorities charged the woman with one count of arson and another of wilful damage.

Anyone who arrives in Queensland from another state or overseas must quarantine for 14 days under the state’s pandemic border restrictions.

Those who have a house that fits government criteria around ventilation may undergo home quarantine, but those who do not must quarantine in a designated hotel and foot the bill themselves.

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The incident comes as rallies against pandemic measures continue to ramp up around Australia.

On Saturday, police estimated that 20,000 people took to the streets of Melbourne to protest against the state government’s plans to introduce a Bill that would extend its powers to impose pandemic restrictions. The previous weekend, thousands in the country’s state capitals rallied against vaccination requirements and coronavirus restrictions.

On Monday, Australia reported a third case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, in a traveller from South Africa quarantining in the Northern Territory. Two cases were discovered in travellers quarantining in New South Wales on Sunday.


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