‘Straightforward’ question Premier dodged
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews refused to delve into the "facts" or make "commentary" on reports that his government was warned months in advance of a hotel quarantine bungle behind a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The Age first reported on Tuesday that senior officials involved in the quarantining of overseas arrivals at both the Rydges Hotel and the Stamford Plaza Hotel in the Melbourne CBD raised concerns in emails to the Andrews Government's Department of Health and Human Services.
One of the leaked emails was sent by a government official March 28, less than 24 hours after the program started.
It reportedly read: "We request that Victoria Police is present 24/7 at each hotel starting from this evening. We ask that DHHS urgently make that request as the control agency."
But when the Premier was asked to comment on the matter at today's press conference, he baulked.
"That's not a matter for me to determine or to offer you an opinion," he told reporters.
"We've got a retired judge doing that work and that is the most appropriate way forward," Mr Andrews said.
The retired judge, Jennifer Coate, is overseeing a judicial inquiry into the hotel quarantine bungle that saw guards infected with COVID-19. It begins on Monday, July 20.
Mr Andrews was asked twice whether he was aware of concerns as early as March that security guards were ill-equipped to manage hotel quarantine.
"The facts of these matters and any other commentary around the adequacy of arrangements put in place is not a matter for me to determine or settle," he said.
"It's a matter that should be not so much politicians sitting in judgment of themselves, but an arm's-length inquiry that's been set up and that will do its important work and report."
Important back-and-forth with Dan Andrews and reporters this morning after reports the government was warned about security guards overseeing hotel quarantine as in March. @newscomauHQ pic.twitter.com/oeSfOJ9xpR— Rohan Smith (@Ro_Smith) July 14, 2020
Victoria recorded 270 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 242 cases which were shared by an unknown source.
There are 28 Victorians in intensive care, including 21 needing ventilators to breathe.
In total, there are 1803 active cases in Victoria.
Chief medical officer Professor Brett Sutton warned Victorians will die.
"That's a really significant number of people with coronavirus and it does mean that in the next fortnight, we're going to see a number of people who will require hospital," Prof Sutton said.
"There's often 10 per cent to 20 per cent of all coronavirus infections who require hospitalisation, so that's a couple of hundred individuals at least.
"They will require hospitalisation in the next couple of weeks."
Victoria's hotel quarantine cluster is not the only outbreak being monitored by authorities. There are 147 cases linked to Al-Taqwa College in Truganina, 28 cases linked to Menarock Aged Care home in Essendon, 14 cases linked to Somerville Village Meats and 14 cased linked to Brunswick Private Hospital.
The hotel quarantine blunder, first reported in late June, led to claims that some security guards were sleeping with guests in their care and that they had as little as five minutes' training before being assigned to cover guests.
Originally published as 'Straightforward' question Premier dodged