How Julia Roberts, George Clooney and co skipped hotel quarantine

Over the past 18 months, the rich and famous enjoyed an A-list alternative to Australia’s quarantine system.

By Chris C., October 26 2021
How Julia Roberts, George Clooney and co skipped hotel quarantine

Quick quiz: what do Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Ed Sheeran, Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch, India’s cricket team and the New Zealand Warriors have in common?

Answer: after flying into Australia over the past 18 months, they’ve all managed to skip 14 days cooped in a Government-assigned quarantine hotel, escaping instead to plush penthouse apartments, sprawling private estates and luxury retreats.

Welcome to the rarified world of ‘alternative quarantine’.

While the Covid-19 pandemic decimated many businesses, it also created new opportunities – including five-star managed isolation for the rich, famous and influential who expect luxury and privacy in equal measure.

Quick off the mark was Australian firm 3rd Rock Ent, which provides private quarantine for high net-worth individuals as well as those in the film, television, media, festivals, and events industries.

3rd Rock Ent describes its services as being “a demonstrated turnkey solution that complies with the relevant state quarantine requirements, health directions, and international travel restrictions.”

“During Covid, we have been working with government agencies, key departments and the relevant decision makers in State Police on alternative quarantine solutions, to ensure zero risk, fully compliant operations,” the company promotes on its website.

Isolation for the A-listers

One of the first notable Australians to arrange alternative quarantine was Dannii Minogue.

Travelling from the United States to Brisbane in July 2020, Minogue and her son sequestered at a palatial Gold Coast home instead of a hotel room.

After some community backlash, it was revealed that Minogue had obtained an exemption from hotel quarantine on medical grounds.

The singer cited “crippling claustrophobia”, with medical professionals supporting this diagnosis as part of her home quarantine request to the Queensland Government.

“I took a lot of time to pull the whole thing together so that the Queensland Government were happy, the Queensland Health officials were happy, and that I’m happy,” Minogue commented at the time.

“I added extra things into (the quarantine plan) so I know that I can sleep at night. I wouldn't ask for ‘celebrity’ treatment or to have anything special granted.”

Minogue also stressed that she was subject to the same conditions as hotel quarantine, with no visitors permitted and multiple Covid tests taken across the fortnight.

The case for private quarantine

As you’d expect, private quarantine doesn’t come cheap – in fact, it’s many times the $2,500+ which returning travellers were charged for their 14-day stay at a hotel or dedicated quarantine facility.

Roberts, Clooney, Kidman, Minogue and co must cover the cost of on-site, round-the-clock security for 14 days: easily the biggest part of that expense, at a five-figure sum when using contracted staff.

In states where regulations require police to fill that role, costs can climb far higher: reportedly $100,000 in New South Wales for a typical two-week presence.

There’s also the bill for specialist cleaning and on-location Covid-19 testing.

In fact, a case can be made that selective private quarantine was better than shunting everybody into the hotel system.

Not only did it free up capacity in the public quarantine system, but people with the resources for private quarantine typically arrived into Australia on a private VIP jet, which also meant they weren’t taking up scarce seats on commercial or chartered repatriation flights which were subject to strict caps on the number of passengers.

So the outrage over celebs skipping hotel quarantine may well have been misplaced: after all, if money was no object, who wouldn’t want to swap the cramped confines of a hotel room for a sprawling villa with plenty of fresh air, a private gym and a swimming pool?

Reporting by Chris Chamberlin; editing by David Flynn

Also read: Expert tips to speed up your Australian passport renewal

28 Aug 2019

Total posts 34

It really pisses me off each time I hear that people with money get treated differently, when so-called restrictions that apply to the not so rich and famous, do not apply to the rich and famous.  I often wonder how much money is being passed under the table to get the luxury benefits.

What part of this article did you not read? Because it very clearly explains how much this private quarantine costs and that it has to comply with government regulations including security, in some cases that's supplied by state police and billed to the quarantine provider, so not really much to say there's " money under the table" here, it's being put on the table by these people to pay for those 'luxury benefits'. If I had their money I'd do the same thing!

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 496

Am I surprised? No. When money is no object, anything goes.

Qantas

22 Oct 2012

Total posts 306

Dartpro, as a reader of Executive Traveller, we can assume that you sometimes enjoy travelling in a premium cabin.   And you would also get the benefit of using some airport lounges.  Correct?  And you or your business pays for that?

Do you realize how much that pisses off the ordinary person travelling in the Economy cabin?  Think about it.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1409

Dartpro, you can do the same with the same agency and fees.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 154

Thanks for the insightful article, certainly cleared the air a bit. Personally I don't have an issue with people paying for their privileges, as long as the option is open to everyone and anyone who can afford it. It's just like paying to fly first/business instead of economy, the extra space and treatments come at a significant cost.

28 Aug 2019

Total posts 34

To Phil Young :  My wife and I have worked hard all our lives, and are now reaping the benefits of our hard work.  Once upon a time we travelled economy class like most people who could not afford to travel otherwise.  Now we travel business class and enjoy the extras attached to it.  All of this has absolutely nothing to do with the current topic of the rich and famous getting special treatment over those that are less fortunate.  Under these circumstances we should all be treated the same during covid.   I would not grudge anyone who has worked hard and can afford to enjoy their wealth now.  But please do not confuse it with the current topic.  All this chatter back and forth would not have happened if it were not for the covid situation that we are under currently.

28 Aug 2019

Total posts 34

Looks like you have been totally LostInTransit :  I read carefully the written words, which I can assume you certainly do not, to make such a stupid remark.  It pisses me off that special conditions are made for the rich and famous during these times.  Any othe time I would not bother what the rich and famous bought with their money, as I would do the same, but certainly not under the current conditions that we are all facing with covid.

There are NO 'special conditions' here, it's simply that if you have the money, and these celebs etc do, then you can make arrangements to enter private quarantine. There's no reason you could not get the exact same treatment if you had their money and contacted an agency like 3rd Rock listed in the article.

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 106

Which is a shame really. The point is that there are many citizens stuck overseas while certain non-citizens are being allowed in, regardless of their quarantine arrangements. That's the part that sticks in people's throats.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 107

This is the first article I've read on 'alternative quarantine' (a.k.a. Hollywood treatment) that provides the full back story and lets the reader make up their own mind instead of automatically beating the populist drum of outrage and 'elite privilege' (I'm looking at you Channel 7 news). When you lay it out methodically and dispassionately like this, I don't think any reasonable person would have problem with the well-heeled paying for this service. As (self-funded) premium cabin pax, some of us do it regularly on our own coin!

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 509

Equality is for people who believe in it.

Those who think they require special treatment will seek to have different rules apply to them; plenty of people with no specific celebrity or influential status will do that (just look at the numbers of quarantine breakers and border crossing “refugees”), so it’s not just the rich and famous who think like that

If you are poor or unknown or not in the right circle, that will be a big “no way “ to you

If you are not, then you simply have a fixer to sort out these arrangement. like someone wrote in another thread, if you have to ask how, you probably don’t qualify.

This happens before COVID-19 hits so not surprising that it still applies during pandemic. 

Screaming equality won’t change anything. All these special privileges costs in some way, either in pure monetary terms or a favour that you have to return (and stick you neck out for).

The only people who would try to stick to the rules are the politicians who are vulnerable to voting patterns 

28 Aug 2019

Total posts 34

To LostInTransit :  You seem to be constantly missing the point.  Here we are discussing what's fair or what is not fair treatment during COVID .  During covid everyone should be treated the same whether you have money or not.  Why not go and kill someone, and apply for freedom just because you have the money.  That's what this topic is all about.  JUSTICE is all we seek, money or no money. If covid did not happen we would not be getting into this sort of discussion.  Your reasons would be justified if covid did not exist, and I would be the first one to give you the thumbs up.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jun 2016

Total posts 44

There really is no issue. It’s about what someone is willing to pay in a (relatively) free, aka liberal, economy.  When I came home in January this year I paid for a first class seat to be as sure as I could in uncertain times and moving goalposts that I would not be bumped from the flight and stuck homeless overseas. That was 100% my choice and no regrets. If I had the wealth of celebs etc I’d happily have paid the cost for luxury private quarantine - again a choice. After 14 days in one room with no fresh air, and crap food, freedom day was indeed special. 

Let’s not forget that these celebs are spending money here in Australia - during and after quarantine -far more so than the average person does. 

The point made in the article that the rich and famous who did this were not taking space away from returning aussies and PRs is valid and important.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 238

As long as they completed quarantine and abided by the rules who really cares whether it's in a luxurious setting or a simple Hotel.

They have NOT dodged quarantine!!!! They have Just done it where they chose to. As the article said they have  " skipped Hotel Quarantine " but done it elsewhere that is fully compliant.

It would appear they have paid for all of the extra staff and supervision required so they are/ have  quarantined albeit in a rather nice spot.

This would probably be available to anyone who would want to fork out the many thousands of $'s extra but few would be able to do so.

If you've got the funds to do it then what's the big issue? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2018

Total posts 17

Gee Dartpro I still cannot see what your issue is here.   The celebs - clearly explained here FOR THE FIRST TIME - are being treated EXACTLY the same as us plebs ... except they can AFFORD TO PAY for the elite treatment which STILL MEETS all of the demanded quarantine requirements ... I know I would not hesitate to pay the same if I could but I cannot so cop it sweet!!


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