Security guards could not chase guests who ‘did a runner’


Security guards had no authority to chase down guests who "did a runner'' from hotel quarantine, and were unable to confiscate contraband such as alcohol from their bags.

Gregory Watson, the Victorian general manager of Wilson Security, told the quarantine inquiry he was concerned guards were being asked to perform duties for which they had no legal authority.

An agreement was struck where guards would instead do a "footy bag check'' - like at the MCG - when guests voluntarily opened their bags for a visual inspection.

They would then report any contraband to authorised officers from the DHHS.

Security guards outside the Crown Promenade Hotel. Picture: AAP
Security guards outside the Crown Promenade Hotel. Picture: AAP

"And if anybody was to do a runner or abscond, we were to let them go, and then it would be advised to the police, whose job it would be then to follow up,'' Mr Watson said.

Wilson Security was the only one of the big three head-contractor firms whose had no staff or sub-contractors infected with COVID-19, but was labelled "difficult'' and "hard to work with'' by Department of Jobs, Regions and Precincts bureaucrats.

"I thought it was all fairly amicable and sensible,'' Mr Watson said.

"I didn't realise that we had won the reputation of being difficult to deal with at that point in time, so it was a little bit disappointing to learn that, because I think what we were pointing out was fair and reasonable in relation to infection control measures and indeed the powers of a security officer.''

He said the department had threatened the company with $20,000 fines if they didn't accompany guests on a fresh-air break.

The inquiry has previously heard some DJPR bureaucrats tried to get Wilson sacked after complaints about guards behaviour, including of inappropriate behaviour.

Mr Watson listed eight security guards sacked by Wilson for issues, including sleeping on the job, being rude, abandoning their posts and one who made an inappropriate advances towards a hotel guest.

Overseas travellers arriving back in Melbourne. Picture: AAP
Overseas travellers arriving back in Melbourne. Picture: AAP

The Andrews Government last night released genomic data showing the impact of the hotel quarantine outbreaks, with the Rydges hotel quarantine breach seeding 90 per cent of Victoria's deadly second wave, and the Stamford Plaza another 9 per cent.

The details revealed that the Rydges outbreak evolved into 10 genomic clusters "following a super spreading event.''

Of 5395 coronavirus samples which provided genomic data to August 14, 3594 were linked to the Rydges cluster, while another 110 could be traced to the Stamford.

In the month from mid-July to mid-August, all cases sequenced came originally from the two hotels - 1577 from Rydges, and 12 from the Stamford outbreak.

The inquiry also heard the former employer of the potential patient zero security guard rejected claims guards did not have enough personal protective equipment, and were told to hide masks in their pockets and reuse them after breaks.

Security guards at the Stamford Hotel, Melbourne. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw
Security guards at the Stamford Hotel, Melbourne. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

Sam Aggarwal, director of Sterling Security or SSG, denied claims by the guard, who is known only as "Security 16'' and who caught COVD-19 after working at Rydges.

Mr Aggarwal said Security 16 had completed an online-COVID training course and been issued with a certificate, but that he could not provide this to the inquiry because Security 16 had not returned calls and provided the certificate to him.

Six guards from SSG contracted COVID-19.

Guards from United Risk Management and The Security Hub, who were working for head-contractor MSS at the Stamford Plaza, were also infected.

The inquiry, chaired by retired judge Jennifer Coate, heard that United learned a Security Hub guard had tested positive after a guard saw a Facebook post from a guard who was being treated in hospital.

Security Hub managing director Ishu Gupta said he was disappointed that the security industry had been painted in a "bad light'' over the quarantine breaches.

"The intent was always to protect Victorians from the spread of the virus, never was there a case where somebody went in to do a shift …with the intent that 'I will catch the virus today and I will spread it into the community','' he said.






Originally published as Security guards could not chase guests who 'did a runner'