COVID-19

What really sparked third Melbourne lockdown

Senior Andrews government bureaucrat Matiu Bush has also been stood down in the wake of the documents obtained by The Australian, which also revealed the Holiday Inn outbreak in February first escaped into a corridor during an open-door swabbing of an unmasked woman at the hotel. The report found the virus was blown down the corridor by airconditioning before “pooling outside the door” of the room where the man with the nebuliser was staying with his partner and infant, according to The Australian.The man who used the nebuliser gave a statement to 3AW, saying: “I am very glad this has come out, though it continues to show there’s systemic problems that need to be resolved.”— Read full story and view the documents here.Dozens of daily confidential ­reports spanning January to April also documented an array of breaches and incidents, including a nurse trying to give a returned traveller a banned nebuliser and a frontline medical officer defiantly vaping inside a quarantine hotel despite being warned by health staff the e-cigarette mist could promote “viral spread”.An investigation by The Australian also revealed:• Outside air running into the Park Royal Hotel at Melbourne Airport — hit by an outbreak in January — was switched off every night for 10 to 14 hours to “save ­energy”, leading to stuffy ­conditions and a build-up of ­contaminants, including viral particles, in rooms overnight. When uncovered by government investigators in February, they recommended the shutdowns “cease immediately”, warning that turning off airflow systems overnight “may pose a transmission hazard” when quarantine residents opened their doors to collect breakfast.• The provision of general ­infection prevention and control training was limited. IPC officers interviewed by government ­investigators had a health background but not necessarily any practical infection prevention experience or postgraduate qualifications. At the Park Royal, processes to manage IPC risks were not well developed.• Dirty crockery, bags of rubbish, and “visibly unclean” carpet were found in a hotel corridor by government officials during the Park Royal site visit. Workers told them there was often a delay in rubbish being collected, leading to smells from dirty nappies and food waste.• Residential support officers stationed on hotel floors complained of boredom and sleepiness, with the government report finding the corridors were warm “amplifying their sleepiness”.• Quarantine staff in hotel red zones were required to follow a complex personal protective equipment “matrix” in conflict with Health Department guidance, leading to staff repeatedly walking between red and green zones. Transferring a quarantine resident to a health hotel or hospital could involve up to 17 roles across six agencies while crossover of staff increased the risk that “movement of air, people and objects may result in cross-contamination or transmission through proximity or contact”.• Hotel quarantine staff rated the Victorian Health Department’s response following COVID outbreaks at three Melbourne hotels this year as a fail.SENIOR BUREAUCRAT STOOD DOWNCOVID-19 Victoria’s head of infection control Matiu Bush has been stood down after concerns were raised about two incidents in which he refused coronavirus tests.He defied a Defence Force request for a mandatory COVID-19 test and breaching infection-control protocols.Emergency Services Minister Danny Pearson, who is responsible for the program, said Mr Bush’s conduct was concerning.It comes after reports in The Australian that he had refused to be tested while visiting quarantine sites, despite being required to do so, and told staff he would not do so.Mr Pearson said the incidents did not have serious risks of infection but the concerns with the worker related to his “attitude and behaviour”.“I don’t think the public would want to see someone in a senior leadership role continue to behave in this way,” he said.But opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said standing down Mr Bush was not enough.“He needs to go. You cannot have someone without any infection control experience running such an important program in hotel quarantine,” she said.“We need somebody with health advice for heaven’s sake. We need people who understand infection control. Quarantine is around infection control measures to keep the virus out of our community.“It’s pretty basic. I just think it’s an utter disgrace and I think every Victorian will be absolutely furious.”ONGOING CHALLENGES REVEALEDThe incident reports are from Melbourne hotels including the Pan Pacific, Four Points, Intercontinental, Mantra, Novotel, Holiday Inn, Pullman, Park Royal and Stamford Plaza.They reveal that one of the most serious ongoing challenges for the hotel quarantine program is the number of unvaccinated contractors and tradies who are allowed onsite for maintenance and other work.Despite the Andrews government signalling that all staff with direct or indirect contact with returned travellers must be vaccinated, the logs show that hotel managers are allowing unvaccinated workers onsite in what are described as “breach of mandatory vaccination” rules.Government minister Jacinta Allan on Wednesday morning said she had not seen the contents of the COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria Infection Prevention and Control report, or the article by The Australian. She said the Minister responsible for COVID Quarantine Victoria, Danny Pearson, would address “these matters” later on Wednesday morning. “What I can say is our hotel quarantine system has undergone a massive reset over recent months following the Board of Inquiry Report and the reset of the program,” Ms Allan said. “There’s also an extensive amount of work that was undertaken, following the incidents in February to look at the ventilation systems of the hotels that were in operation.” But Ms Allan shifted focus to instead ramp up calls for an alternative quarantine location in a Victoria. “We are seeing the same sorts of issues hotel quarantine have right around the country,” she added. “That’s why all state governments are engaging in these conversations with each other about how we can continue to live with the reality of COVID, the realities of infectious disease, and that we need to have appropriate quarantine arrangements in place.” Read full story and view the documents here.

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