Villawood detention centre staff in isolation after attending Sydney party at coronavirus hotspot pub | Australia news

The Australian Border Force has confirmed reports that staff at Sydney’s Villawood immigration detention centre are self-isolating after attending the pub at the centre of a coronavirus outbreak.

“Staff employed at [Villawood] who have recently been to the Crossroads Hotel are following advice from NSW Health and all are currently self-quarantining,” a Border Force spokesperson told Guardian Australia.

The statement followed claims from the advocacy group Refugee Action Coalition that about 30 guards were self-isolating after attending a manager’s party at the hotel in Casula on the weekend of 4 July.

Twenty one coronavirus cases are linked to the outbreak at the Sydney pub. NSW Health has told anyone who visited it between 3 July and 10 July to immediately self-isolate for 14 days and be tested for Covid-19.

The Australian Border Force did not confirm the number of affected staff or other specifics.

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed earlier on Monday that someone working at the makeshift detention centre at Melbourne’s Mantra Bell City hotel had tested positive for Covid-19.

A guard at Brisbane’s Kangaroo Point Central hotel, which is also used as a detention centre to house refugees brought to Australia for medical care, tested positive in March.

Infectious diseases experts have raised concerns that detention centres could be dangerous outbreak sites in the pandemic, recommending that some detainees be released.

Instead, the detainee population has increased during the pandemic as deportations have been delayed.

John Webster, who has been detained at Villawood for six months, told the Guardian that medical and catering staff had started to wear masks on Sunday evening.

“We knew something was up,” he said, adding that he still did not feel safe.

Nauroze Anees, who has been held at Villawood for almost a year, said he felt like a sitting duck.

“This makes me very uneasy,” Anees said. “Just waiting to be transmitted with Covid-19 from one of the guards who are meant to be caring for us.”

At the end of March, the most recent date for which statistics are available, 427 people were detained at Villawood, making it the most highly populated immigration detention centre in the country.

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