Australia will ban all hotel and restaurant travel wipes and disinfectant wipes from the country, following a report from the World Health Organization (WHO) that the products could cause infections and lead to disease transmission.
Australia’s travel and tourism minister, Michaelia Cash, said on Tuesday the ban was “based on a strong scientific and public health case” and would apply to all travel and dining services, including hotel rooms and restaurants, starting from September 1.
Australia is one of just four countries to have already banned all travel or hospitality wipes from all indoor and outdoor settings.
The WHO report said that travel wipes could be the most effective way to remove dust and contamination from indoor surfaces, but also that it was not clear how much the products would harm the environment.
It also recommended that people not use any travel or dining service unless they were prepared to be exposed to the risk of infection and to follow all precautions when using the services.
The ban, which will not apply to travel or eating services, will apply to hotel rooms, restaurants and other facilities used to accommodate tourists and other visitors, including the hospitality sector.
Cash said Australia would take further action in the coming weeks and months to ensure that travel and eating service disinfection products and wipes are not in use.
She said that if an outbreak of disease occurred, it would be the responsibility of all travellers and visitors to immediately contact their hostel, hotel, restaurant or other establishment to make sure that disinfection and cleaning of surfaces were up to standard.
The Australian Public Health Association said the ban could be a good idea because it would reduce the number of infections and deaths caused by the disease.
“It is a good precautionary measure to protect against outbreaks and to ensure health is protected when travelling to or dining at the country’s most popular destinations,” the association said in a statement.
However, the APHA said that the ban may not work because of the different types of cleaning and disinfection that would be needed to be effective in the workplace and home, and because some people would be less likely to use disinfection wipes than travel wipes.
Cash said on Twitter that she did not know if there would be a “generalised, nationwide travel ban” or whether some states had already banned the wipes.
“We are working to develop a national plan,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRFC) is investigating the countrys travel and hospitality industry for breaches of international human rights law.
In a statement on Tuesday, the watchdog said it was “appalled” by the “toxic and harmful” conditions that the travel and lodging industry was facing.
Under Australian law, employers and other individuals can only be held liable for human rights violations committed against people who are not employees.
Human rights commissioner Andrew Hodge said that in the past few months, AHRFC had seen an increase in complaints about mistreatment, unsafe working conditions and a lack of workplace health and safety policies.
But he said the organisation was “not prepared to take any action that would create a culture of fear or to penalise those who have done nothing wrong”.
He said it had been “surprising” to see such an increase, saying that the AHRCC would not take any actions that would put people at risk.
He added that the complaints that the organisation received were “not new”, but rather the result of a “new climate of fear”.
“We have seen this climate of hate, which has reached epidemic proportions, fuelled by a political agenda and by a fear of the unknown,” Hodge told reporters.
Some travel and food service workers have said that they do not want to go to Australia as they fear that they will be “banned from working in the country”. AAP/ABC