Frank Boross, Australia’s apartment block “cleaning king” has called on the government to rethink its attitude in allowing apartment residents infected with coronavirus (Covid-19), or suspected of having it, to self-isolate in unit blocks.
The CEO of Havencab Property Group – multiple award-winning building management and cleaning specialists – says it should be compulsory for apartment residents to notify building management if they are infected or self-isolating because they are at risk.
And those who have contracted the virus but don’t have serious symptoms should stay elsewhere, such as in hotels, until they are clear, says Frank, who describes himself as “a humble cleaner.” He feels apartment blocks are no place for residents who are sick or suspect they might be infected.
His views on that are echoed by Jane Hearn, deputy chair of the Owners Corporation Network who is furious that Airbnb is claiming that their pitches to travellers to self-isolate in short-term holiday flats doesn’t breach the government’s request to limit non-essential travel.
Frank Boross sees his cleaning crews and building management teams being on the front line of protecting apartment residents from the spread of coronavirus.
“As one of the prominent property service companies in the strata sector our facility management and cleaning teams are playing a crucial role in attempts to contain the spread of COVID-19 through the apartment buildings we maintain,” he says in a press release issued this week
“I am not trying to be an alarmist but our teams are at the forefront of protecting residents at these buildings. We are dealing with many self-isolation cases and a confirmed case.
“Over the weekend, reporting of self-isolation numbers increased significantly because people have been responsible and notified our Facility Managers. However, what about the people that haven’t?
“Government agencies should have information on who has returned from overseas and they should get this information out to the relevant building management bodies so no one falls through the cracks. Facility managers can then implement procedures and take the necessary steps to protect the residents, cleaning teams, contractors and so on.
“This would also apply to people self-isolating because they feel sick and think they have the virus,” he adds.
“I also have serious concerns over whether people self-isolating will follow correct procedures or worse, people who are a confirmed case. You only have to look at human behaviour and what happened in Bondi.
“These buildings are an eco-system, a multiculturally diverse group of people, different age groups with different belief systems and cultures. They house newborn and elderly, those who are most vulnerable.
“There is also a crucial shortage of masks and gloves so how can a person in isolation obtain such protection for when they leave their apartment and visit an outdoor garden for example, which the health department recommends?”
Mr Boross says typical larger apartment schemes have several common “touch” points where an infected person could leave traces of the bug to be picked up by another resident, such as entry areas and elevator buttons.
“Assuming a building with 200 residential apartments, there would be approximately 500 residents living within a common wall or floor between them, let’s assume out of the 500, just 3 decide to go out … and touch these points which have been infected by someone that has self-isolated and did not know they had the virus, the ramifications are severe.
“The government should review its policy around confirmed Covid-19 cases and self-isolation. Without appropriate procedures in place, particularly for infected cases living in apartment buildings, this could have a dramatic impact on the wellbeing of the whole eco-system and the community at large.
“They should consider using hotels for all infected cases and possibly relocating self-isolation cases if outbreaks occur. Hotels have been hit hard and they could continue to employ their staff, they have the appropriate infrastructure for food and laundry, and they can re-train their cleaning staff around disinfection and sanitisation cleaning procedures.
“Once the person is all clear, they can return to their apartment. This will reduce panic within buildings and the community will be much safer with the potential spread of the virus significantly reduced.”
Those views are echoed by the Owners Corporation Network which has called on on the Premier and the Minister for Health to exercise their “extraordinary powers” under the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW), to stop “quarantine letting” in residential apartment buildings.
“The alternative is to enable Strata Committees to adopt resolutions to stop short term letting during the period of the pandemic,” says Jane Hearn of OCN, the “independent peak consumer body representing apartment owners in NSW.”
“The ‘home quarantine’ letting business is a very high-risk development. It increases the viral load on apartment owners and tenants,” she says.
“We live in close proximity. We do not have “onsite management” or protocols for control of infectious diseases during an epidemic. It is not even possible to stop potential carriers going into the gym,” she says.
“Genuine residents returning home need assistance”, she says. “We are home to families and the elderly. More people are working from home. Doctors, nurses and other essential workers live apartments in dense urban areas to be close to their place of work. Kids will soon be home, or on holiday”.
“It is outrageous that Airbnb would dump potentially contagious people in unrelated, unprotected communities while they might be infected. In some buildings, a third of apartments have been converted to Airbnb scattered among residents, despite development conditions that say ‘no short term letting’,” she says.
Contacted about the issue for this story which appeared in this website and in the Australian Financial Review, a government spokesman said they had no plans to vary the general advice offered in their web page.