Patient zero in Melbourne's second wave of coronavirus himself went successfully through hotel quarantine after contracting COVID-19, and his own family did not catch the virus, the hotel's management has said.
The Age and Sydney Morning Herald reported on Friday that leaked Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions emails reveal it was a hotel employee, and not security guards, who returned the first positive COVID-19 test at the hotel from where a substantial number of Victoria’s second wave of coronavirus are thought to have originated.
The Rydges on Swanston hotelCredit:Justin McManus
The hotel confirmed that its night manager at Rydges on Swanston came down with a fever on May 25 and returned a positive coronavirus test on May 26 before going into isolation two days after his last shift.
The emails reveal that security guards, health workers and hotel staff who had been in the vicinity of the night manager on his last shift were immediately stood down upon his reporting a fever.
Five of the seven security guards later returned positive tests for coronavirus and the Rydges outbreak has been nominated by top Victorian health officials as the source for Melbourne’s second wave of COVID-19.
There is no suggestion the night manager had engaged in any improper activity in contracting the virus. It has been presumed that returning travellers undergoing quarantine at Rydges were the most likely source for the outbreak at the hotel.
The Rydges spokesman said the hotel company was cooperating with the Victorian board of inquiry into hotel quarantine and looked forward to getting clarity on the source of infection that triggered the state’s second wave of COVID-19.
The inquiry headed by former state coroner Jennifer Coate begins hearing evidence next week.
Breaches in infection control at the hotel, the contracting and supervision of security guards and the roles of several government departments are among the key areas of interest at the inquiry.
With security guards on the receiving end of a series of media reports in recent months blaming them for quarantine breaches at the hotel, the Australian Security Industry Association hit back on Friday.
The association’s industry officer Steve Cropper said while there appeared to be evidence of inadequate procedures in Melbourne’s hotel quarantine, it was not the experience in other states which also used private security companies to guard returning travellers.
Mr Cropper said New South Wales used almost twice as many security guards across 22 quarantine hotels without the same problems that occurred at two of Melbourne’s hotels. He said the NSW program involved induction training for guards by the health department and supervision by NSW Police.
“So there is no inherent problem with using private security or even subcontractors provided it is done with proper training and supervision,” he said.
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