Be afraid. Last Thursday (8 April) the Victorian government restarted its Covid hotel quarantine program.
This is the fourth attempt. The first two attempts from March 2020 resulted in Covid being released into the community, months of lockdown and 801 deaths.
The third quarantine program attempt started on 7 December 2020. On that day Self-Employed Australia warned of problems. Our information was that basic, simple procedures were not in place and that quarantine ‘HQ’ was dysfunctional. By 12 February 2021 Victoria was back into lockdown.
Procedure breaches were simple. For example, staff who had close contact with quarantined travellers and who were supposed to work in isolated rooms were called into mass staff meetings. Just plain dumb.
Even if Covid-19 was ‘unprecedented’ (although on basic facts it was fully expected and known), the health and safety breaches were overwhelming of basic, common-sense things.
Let’s hope this fourth attempt will be more successful. Perhaps it might be better. Our information is that, sometime around early March 2021, WorkSafe inspectors ‘marched’ into Quarantine HQ asking specific questions. “Show us your policy on this?” “Where are the instructions for that?” and so on. This panicked bureaucrats who couldn’t supply immediate answers.
Since then, we believe that WorkSafe has essentially taken control oversight of the quarantine program. Take one example. All men working in quarantine must be clean-shaven. This is to ensure a proper seal when wearing face PPE.
Even with WorkSafe oversight there are big procedural gaps.
Some six weeks or so ago, when vaccination of quarantine staff started, the instruction was that vaccination was voluntary. Staff planning happened accordingly. But now vaccination of all quarantine staff is compulsory. It will take several weeks to get additional potential staff vaccinated. This is basic dysfunctional management.
But there’s more! Covid outbreaks from quarantine have a set pattern. The first line of infection is from infected travellers to quarantine staff. Then from quarantine to, most commonly, the staffs’ immediate family or house mates.
New South Wales has a program of vaccinating quarantine staff and the staffs’ immediate family/house contacts. That is, they’re vaccinating to create two lines of first-level defence. And Victoria? Nah! Quarantine staff are being vaccinated but there’s no reported intention to vaccinate quarantine staff family/house contacts.
Again, what’s being witnessed in Victoria is dysfunctional management. It’s not Covid itself that is the immediate problem. It’s the management of the quarantine system that is the threat to the health and safety of all Victorians. This is why we insist that WorkSafe must prosecute the Victorian government over the 801 deaths.
If prosecutions don’t occur, the full extent of the dangerous dysfunctionality will never be revealed and correction and improvement of the system will not occur. Victorians remain at risk!