More shocking details have emerged over the Victorian Government’s hotel quarantine failures, with ABC’s 7.30 Report revealing that private security guards were employed without training over WhatsApp and told to bring their own personal protective equipment (PPE):
Shayla Shakshi was one of the guards who received a WhatsApp message offering her work as a quarantine security guard in a Melbourne hotel.
“They actually contacted me and they’re like, ‘Would you like to work at this place?” she told 7.30.
“And I’m like, I don’t know what you guys are, what company, nothing.
“I just got told that you need to be here at a certain time and you’re going to dress in a certain way and this is your pay rate. That’s it”…
Ms Shakshi also claimed there were no infection-control protocols at the Stamford Plaza when she worked there in May.
“We didn’t get any training when I got there,” she said.
“They just didn’t tell us what training we had to do, we just had to put a mask on, put gloves on, and that’s it.
“They had no training of how to use PPE (personal protective equipment), how to sanitise hands, nothing. No training at all”.
“Then some levels didn’t have sanitisers, so it was really tricky…
Within weeks of Ms Shakshi cancelling the rest of her shifts, an outbreak linked to security guards at the hotel was confirmed.
“I just knew something would happen,” Ms Shakshi said.
“Guards were hitting each other. They’re hugging each other. They were touching each other.
“They weren’t actually serious about how serious this COVID is.
“They were taking it as a joke, like, oh, it’s just some virus that anyone can get. You know, we’re not going to get it.”
Ms Shakshi watched, horrified, as that initial COVID-19 outbreak spread.
And she is just glad she didn’t stay.
“It was just really scary working there because they didn’t care,” she said.
“It was really horrible.”
Bryan Goudsblom is the CEO of a Melbourne-based security company [said]… “I’m not surprised that the hotel quarantine situation’s occurred given that a number of these situations and practices have occurred for many, many years”…
Recall the long list of failures already reported by the media:
- Security companies were being paid for workers that didn’t exist.
- Lack of guards to properly secure the hotels due to these “phantom” people.
- Guards were given minimal training (six hours of infection control training, some had only 5 mins).
- Guards not following proper procedure – shaking hands, sharing lifts, sharing lighters, not wearing masks.
- Guards wore personal protective equipment for up to eight hours without changing it.
- Some guards let families go between rooms to play cards and games with others.
- Some guards were sleeping on the job.
- Some guards slept with guests.
- Subcontracting guards at cheaper rate instead of standard guards.
- Subcontracting guards switching shifts between hotels.
Also recall the leaked emails revealing that the Victorian Government knew of problems surrounding hotel quarantine in March, but failed to take corrective action:
Top bureaucrats warned senior health officials at the beginning of the Andrews government’s botched hotel quarantine scheme that security guards were ill-equipped for the work and demanded police be called in to take control…
The first email raising concerns was sent by a senior bureaucrat at the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions within 24 hours of the March 28 launch of the program.
It was addressed to several senior officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which was the leading agency for the day-to-day management of hotel quarantine…
“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,” the email read…
Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions official sent a second email on March 30 demanding that DHHS request police support, suggesting private security companies were “not adequate” to guard the hotels.
The email recommended DHHS ban quarantined travellers from leaving their rooms for any reason, including exercise.
A top official from Emergency Management Victoria responded to the request by saying police were not required because guards could call triple zero if a situation warranted police involvement…
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald revealed on July 3 that the Chief Health Officer was told of similar problems with the hotel quarantine system in mid-April…
Police Minister Lisa Neville said police were not the default agency for the management of the pandemic response in Victoria, as they were in other states…
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald reported earlier this month that at least five agencies were involved in the decision to deploy private security guards, instead of soldiers or police, at quarantine hotels: Health; Jobs; Premier and Cabinet; Emergency Management Victoria; and Victoria Police…
To summarise, the Victorian Government contracted-out biosecurity to dodgy private security firms, rather than the Victorian Police or the Department of Corrections. These firms then used cheap untrained labour hire, resulting in widespread breaches, virus infections and community transmission.
The result is that Melbourne has been shutdown for six weeks, with infections also spreading into regional Victoria and New South Wales.
History may look back on this debacle as one of Australia’s biggest and most costly public health disasters.