by Peter Westmore
The second wave of covid19 infections in Victoria, alone among the states of Australia, is a direct consequence of the Victorian Government’s failure to administer hotel quarantine properly, which allowed the disease to spread into the community and spiral out of control.
This failure led directly to the number of cases in Victoria increasing at the highest rate since the pandemic started, before Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews implemented a wide lockdown on high-rise public housing and over 30 Melbourne suburbs. When that failed to stop the second wave, he imposed a six-week lockdown on the five million people living in the Melbourne area.
Andrews claimed that the second wave was caused by lockdown fatigue.
He said: “I think a sense of complacency has crept into us as we let our frustrations get the better of us. I think that each of us knows someone who has not been following the rules as well as they should have.”
However the spread of covid19 infections was not the result of community frustration but of the continuing spread of infection from the quarantine hotels, which were supposed to separate incoming airline passengers from the rest of the community.
When it became apparent weeks ago that covid19 was spreading in the community, the Federal Government offered Andrews up to 1,000 experienced defence force personnel to oversee the arrival of travellers from overseas, and their enforced isolation for 14 days in assigned hotel quarantine.
After initially accepting the offer, the Victorian Premier mysteriously withdrew from it, leaving quarantine in the hands of private contractors, paid by the Victorian Government.
At the time, he blamed the spread on extended family groups, ethnic communities that did not understand the controls the Government had put in place, and community impatience with the lockdown.
However, other cities including Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Darwin have substantially the same demographics, so Andrews’ explanation lacked credibility. However, he constantly repeated the same themes.
It now transpires that the spread of covid19 was due to the failure of hotel quarantine, with security staff spreading the virus into the community. The private security contractors employed to oversee international arrivals were clearly not subject to effective supervision by the Victorian Health Department, and Commonwealth authorities were excluded from any role.
The full details of the appalling quarantine breaches were published in the Melbourne Herald Sun. Workers employed at the quarantine hotels told the Herald Sun (July 2, 2020) that there had been systematic violations of quarantine by security contractors, including:
- Hotel guards sleeping with guests.
- Guards shaking hands and sharing lifts with people in quarantine.
- Quarantined families moving between rooms.
- Security guards not complying with protective equipment directions.
- Security sub-contractors making cash payments to workers, allowing them to undercut agreed wage levels and pocket the difference.
- Security contractors providing fewer security guards than contracted, and pocketing the difference, a practice known in the industry as “ghosting”.
The Victorian Premier responded to the allegations by appointing a little-known judge, formerly of the Children’s Court, to conduct an inquiry into the spread of the disease in Victoria.
Unlike the public inquiry into the Ruby Princess fiasco in Sydney, which the NSW Government appointed, the report of the Andrews Government’s inquiry into the hotel quarantine fiasco will remain relatively restricted.
When announcing the inquiry, Andrews admitted that there had been faults with hotel quarantine but, when asked whether he accepted any responsibility, he said it would be inappropriate to comment as the inquiry had been appointed to look into it.
When asked at a press conference whether he was considering resigning in light of the fiasco, Andrews said: “No, I’m not considering that. What I’m delivering – not just considering – is the appropriate response to this pandemic and seeing it through. That’s what’s most important.”
When the state’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, was asked when he was informed about the failures of hotel quarantine, he said he was unable to comment as the matters were the subject to a judicial inquiry.
If Andrews cannot bring himself to step down, the Victorian people will hold him to account at the next election.