More bombshell quarantine hotel claims
A slew of bombshell allegations about conditions at Victoria's quarantine hotels have been made by security staff and union representatives amid a deepening scandal.
On Thusday Kazim Shah from the United Workers Union said the use of private subcontractors without medical training to run the system meant many saw it as a "moneymaking" exercise and staff were not propertly trained or given personal protective equipment (PPE).
"What happened was that the work was given to security companies which was then subleased to subcontractors where there was costcutting happening and they were making money out of this," he explained to the ABC.
"There was no training provided to these security guards which were placed in these hotels which have very highly infectious disease [in them].
He said some staff were given five minutes briefing and told their job was to simply stop people leaving the lobby. Others were given just one mask and a pair of gloves for the day.
Many of the guards were too inexperienced to know better.
"What I believe what should have been done is they have medical professionals on the sites where 24/7 they were giving medical advice and instructions," he said.
"If proper experienced guards were working, they would have flagged all these issues."
The comments come as another security guard known only as Sam, who had been working across the quarantine hotels for the past two months, told Nine staff were told to avoid self-isolating.
"When I knew that there was positive cases in the hotel I have asked them, do I need to go for a test or something? And they said no, no, no don't worry, don't stress because we need people, so if you (go) for a test they will ask you to self-isolate, so don't go, we will let you know when to go for a test," he told the outlet.
Sam said the guards came into frequent contact with those in quarantine and would regularly share lifts with groups of travellers.
Despite being exposed to potentially infectious people, the guards would reportedly head out to public places during their breaks.
"On their break, guards were going for a break, and they were going to 7 Eleven, McDonald's, KFC, everywhere, and they were exposing everyone to that," Sam said.
He claims that on the occasion that guards were asked to self-isolate, many completely ignored the orders and even went on to work other jobs.
"I know some guards were doing Uber and Taxi, obviously, it's obvious the virus is going to spread this way," he said.
Sam said instead of controlling the virus, he believes "we were spreading the virus".
"We were trying to control the virus, but the way they have done everything, I think we were spreading the virus, not controlling the virus," he said.
The comments come amid a host of allegations about behaviour in the quarantine sites, includingguards taking returned travellers to shopping centres and one even working as an Uber driver while employed at the hotel.
The Herald Sun reports one unnamed figure involved in the quarantine fiasco as saying the private contracts used to run hotels were effectively a recipe for disaster.
"The writing was on the wall from the word go," the figure said. "You pay peanuts, you get monkeys. You end up with a guy who's being paid no dough. You get the bottom of the barrel."
It recently emerged that a significant number of guests and guards have become infected with COVID-19 and that as many as 30 per cent of guests refused to be tested.
Another whistleblower who worked at the hotels said guards were given only "five minutes" training and were not given sufficient protective equipment.
He told Nine's Today that along with insufficient training, guards were handed just one glove and one mask before being sent to look after an entire level.
Claims that guards had sex with infected guests at either the Rydges Hotel or the Stamford Plaza were also aired on breakfast TV and in Victorian newspapers.
The Herald Sun reported allegations that hotel guards slept with guests staying at the hotels during quarantine.
It was also alleged guests were allowed to move between rooms under the watch of guards hired by private security firms.
A judicial inquiry will look into the claims and reported failings of Victoria's hotel quarantine system.
Health Minister Greg Hunt weighed in the on the accusations, urging authorities to "throw the book" at those responsible.
"I think overwhelmingly the states and territories have done an extraordinary job with their public health responses, including hotel quarantine," he said on Thursday.
"Clearly there have been breaches and on the allegations themselves, if they are correct, then Victoria should throw the book at them.
"I'm not here to judge or be critical because, as a country, we're in the position we're in because the Commonwealth, the states and the public have all worked together and I think it's very important to emphasise that, but there have been clear failures and they need to be investigated which Victoria is doing."
Victoria's Chief Health Officer attempted to distance himself from the quarantine saga when asked about the allegations on Thursday.
Professor Brett Sutton said the decision "wasn't mine" when asked today if he played any role in the hotel quarantine plan.
"I haven't been involved in the governance and operation, but it was, you know, jointly oversighted by emergency management within the Department of Health and Human Services, Emergency Management Victoria, the department of jobs, precincts and regions," he said.
He said at the moment he wasn't "specifically" involved in the management of the situation.
"It's a large logistics exercise. There are infection prevention and control staff in the broader division in which I sit, who are obviously advising very closely on those specific matters and are going out to provide training as well," he said.
But Victorian opposition leader Michael O'Brien called for Health Minister Jenny Mikakos to be sacked.
"This has been a complete and utter debacle," Mr O'Brien said. "It's time for the health minister who's responsible for this mess to pay the price, and she should pay the price by being sacked.
Originally published as More bombshell quarantine hotel claims