Hotel quarantine guests with coronavirus allowed to leave, inquiry told

The Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer has admitted some quarantined hotel guests were allowed out into the community while awaiting their coronavirus test results.Key points:Annaliese van Dieman said a risk assessment had been done on anyone who left hotel quarantine while waiting for a test resultShe said some people were allowed to leave quarantine even if they were COVID positive at the end of their stay Dr van Dieman said the focus of the program was on logistics rather than healthAnnaliese van Diemen made the revelation while giving evidence at the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry on Wednesday, where she admitted there were a number of potential weaknesses in the bungled scheme.Dr van Diemen said people who did not show symptoms were allowed to leave the hotel even if they were awaiting a coronavirus test result.”I’m aware that there were perhaps a small number of instances where people may have been released whilst they were waiting for a test result,” she said.”That was a risk assessment that was undertaken to determine that there was still quite a low likelihood that they would come back positive.”Catch up on the main COVID-19 news from September 17 with our coronavirus blog.Dr van Diemen also said that even guests who were COVID-positive at the end of their stay could leave if they said they would self-isolate.”If they were not able to proceed directly to a place in which they could safely isolate, that meant that they required to continue safely isolating in their hotel room,” she said. Dr van Diemen said the focus of hotel quarantine need to be on health rather than logistics.(AAP: Scott Barbour)Dr van Diemen was asked if there was a “potential” for the COVID-positive patients to then breach their isolation at home.”I believe that people’s behaviour shifts significantly when they know that they have an infectious disease that is causing a worldwide pandemic,” she said.Testing at the hotels was never made mandatory, but in late June, when the program was on the brink of ending, the Victorian Government threatened to slap returned travellers with an extra 10 days of quarantine if they refused a test.Hotel quarantine more ‘logistics than public health’Dr van Diemen and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton had no direct oversight on the hotel quarantine program but endorsed concerns expressed by another senior health official in April.The program was run by an array of senior public servants.Victoria’s road to recoveryIn a statement tendered to the inquiry, Dr van Diemen noted that the focus on health was not strong enough. “I think we all could have treated the hotel quarantine program more as a health program than a logistics or compliance exercise and viewed the overarching principles more from a health lens,” she said.She also said that she would have liked to have seen Professor Sutton installed as the state controller, a senior position in the hotel quarantine scheme, which would have given him oversight of the program.Dr van Diemen said this may have led to a focus that was more strongly on logistics.’No one individual is responsible’Dr van Diemen also wrote in the statement that she “advocated with the state control centre to have a clinical lead or liaison appointed” to oversee the standards in the program, but she was unsure if the position was ever created. She said the massive size of the operation meant the blame for the overall failure of hotel quarantine should not fall on one individual or department.”I don’t believe that any one individual is responsible for what occurred,” she said.What you need to know about coronavirus:

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