• Home
  • |
  • The inside story of how celebrities organise alternative quarantine – Sydney Morning Herald

 March 20

by Carolina

The NSW government has approved 21 proposals from arriving celebrities, sporting teams and wealthy individuals to complete their COVID-19 quarantine independently and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the privilege.

Documents obtained from NSW Police under freedom of information laws show the government received 18 proposals for alternatives to hotel quarantine between March 29 last year and January 21, of which 16 were successful.

Ed Sheeran, Zac Efron and Julia Roberts are among the 21 people to be approved for independent quarantine in NSW.

Ed Sheeran, Zac Efron and Julia Roberts are among the 21 people to be approved for independent quarantine in NSW.Credit:SMH

A spokesperson said police approved five additional proposals in the two months since January 21. The recent approvals include singer Ed Sheeran, Hollywood actor Zac Efron for the second time and actress Julia Roberts, who is shooting a movie in Australia with George Clooney later this year.

Roberts arrived in Sydney by private jet earlier this month and The Sun-Herald can reveal she spent her quarantine at an estate north-west of Sydney, perhaps as far as the Hunter Valley, with assistance from Nicole Kidman’s security team.

Sheeran is staying at a resort near the Hawkesbury for his 14 days’ isolation before travelling to Melbourne for the state memorial for Michael Gudinski on March 24, while Efron recently finished his second stint at a private residence in Bellevue Hill after a quick trip to Dubai, having previously quarantined when he first arrived last year.

Meanwhile, The Voice judge Rita Ora recently stayed in regular hotel quarantine at the Meriton Suites Sussex Street, though she organised a separate room within the hotel so she wouldn’t take up space that could be used by returning travellers.

Rita Ora leaves hotel quarantine at the Meriton Suites on Sussex Street.

Rita Ora leaves hotel quarantine at the Meriton Suites on Sussex Street.Credit:Media Mode

The closure of international borders to fight the COVID-19 pandemic means most international arrivals go into government-run quarantine, including several hotels around the Sydney CBD.

Under alternative quarantine, the applicant proposes to designate an independent location as a quarantine facility and pay for a round-the-clock police presence for 14 days, which can cost $100,000 alone. It is separate to the exemption program run by NSW Health and the automatic exemptions for people such as diplomats to isolate at home.

There are several agencies helping broker alternative quarantine or manage various aspects, including Concierge Doctors and 3rd Rock Ent, a sister company to McCormicks Law.

Concierge Doctors founder Zac Turner said private quarantine was not his core business but he had helped with several proposals in Sydney and northern NSW, making sure clients were vetted and could pre-pay for the police presence.

He said alternative quarantine had advantages for the public because it freed up places in the hotel quarantine system, created direct employment such as private security jobs, and could help Australia and especially NSW position itself as a “massive hub” for film production.

“If you get enough international talent moving here then it makes it easy for the whole movie to be done here and the rest of the cast and production crew also have to be here and can be local,” Dr Turner said.

“We wanted this pathway to have no burden on Australians at all, to take up no extra seats, so all these patients are coming in on private planes. They’ve got the financial means obviously … but they also have to show that they’ve got a valid reason for being in the country.”

Nicole Kidman, photographed in November, undertook private quarantine before heading to Ballina to film Nine Perfect Strangers.

Nicole Kidman, photographed in November, undertook private quarantine before heading to Ballina to film Nine Perfect Strangers.Credit:Media Mode

Dr Turner said alternative quarantine was not used only by celebrities but also high-net worth individuals with lesser profiles, including returning Australians and international billionaires.

3rd Rock Ent did not respond to a request for comment but its website states the company offers a “turnkey solution” for private quarantine in NSW, Queensland and Victoria specialising in the film, television and music industries.

The website says it has been working with government agencies, key ministers and the relevant decision makers in the state police forces throughout the pandemic to deliver the “largest COVID PRIVATE QUARANTINE operation ever conducted”.

The FOI revealed the total amount recovered for police presence as of March 10 was $1.36 million. But NSW Police would not answer questions about how people apply and the criteria used to judge applications or reveal sample proposals with redacted personal information. It said doing so would make it difficult to determine which proposals were genuine and which were copied.

Some estimates put the total cost of alternative quarantine as high as $500,000 depending on the number of people in the group, including accommodation, food, security and mandatory police presence and medical treatment such as COVID-19 testing.

A NSW Health spokesperson said there had been no cases of transmission resulting from alternative quarantine arrangements and all proposals were “subject to significant scrutiny and strict compliance”.

Labor’s police spokeswoman Lynda Voltz said it was unclear how the government was deciding who could self-isolate.

“I have had extremely wealthy Australians with genuine medical conditions who the NSW government point blank refused to allow to self-isolate even though they arrived on private jet, yet others, such as Alan Sugar and Mark Wahlberg were allowed,” Ms Voltz said.

“How is this a fair and transparent process and is it being undertaken in the national interest or simply on who has the ear of government at that given time?”

The FOI revealed seven approved proposals were in hotels not participating in the regular hotel quarantine scheme, while seven were for private residences and two were sporting facilities.

Loading

International sporting teams that flew into NSW during the pandemic included the New Zealand and Argentine rugby union teams, the Indian cricket team and the New Zealand Warriors rugby league team. The All Blacks arrived during the period when New Zealanders did not have to quarantine in Australia, while the other teams had alternative hotels and training grounds designated as quarantine facilities. Last year the Argentines stayed at Rydges Norwest in Baulkham Hills and the Indian cricket team near Sydney Olympic Park, while in January Warriors quarantined at Mercure Hotel Tamworth.

The FOI also revealed half the proposals were for Greater Sydney and half for regional NSW.

A number of celebrities, including Hollywood actors Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon (who was travelling with his wife and children and two American philanthropists) have quarantined on private properties in the Byron Bay area.

Loading

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban and their family were given permission to quarantine at their $6.5 million estate in the Southern Highlands last July. Lord and Lady Sugar rented a private residence in or near Double Bay and stayed there during filming of Celebrity Apprentice.

Sacha Baron Cohen and his Australian wife Isla Fisher and their three children recently relocated from Los Angeles and quarantined privately in Sydney. Natalie Portman and her family, who now live in Vaucluse, arrived early in the pandemic and are thought to have quarantined in a Sydney hotel but paid extra for security.

Interstate, Dannii Minogue quarantined at a private home in Queensland and Tom Hanks at a hotel of his choosing on the Gold Coast. Kylie Minogue stayed in regular hotel quarantine in Melbourne and Rachel Griffiths stayed in the federally run Howard Springs camp in the Northern Territory.

Start your day informed

Our Morning Edition newsletter is a curated guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here, The Age’s here, Brisbane Timeshere, and WAtoday’s here.

Most Viewed in National

Loading

Original posted at www.smh.com.au

share this

Related Posts

Legendary Hip Hop Icon and Rapper, Biz Markie Has Died – Black Enterprise

Celebrities Who Have Had Their Own Reality Shows | TheThings – TheThings