Using ADF at Melbourne’s quarantine hotels may have made no difference, inquiry told


The state controller responsible for leading Victoria’s pandemic response has told the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry he did not believe outbreaks at hotels would have been avoided if ADF personnel were used instead of private security guards.Key points:State controller Jason Helps says most return travellers were compliantHe says using ADF officers or police may have intimidated themAndrea Spiteri — who shared the role — says police could have set an example for private securityGenomic data has revealed outbreaks at the Rydges and Stamford Plaza hotels were responsible for more than 99 per cent of Victoria’s second wave of infections, which has resulted in more than 700 deaths.Jason Helps, the state agency commander for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), told the inquiry his role was to lead and coordinate the public health decision-making, but denied he was in control of the response.He said he was not sure using police or the army in the hotels would have prevented the second wave.”I’m not sure we can be certain having them in the program wouldn’t have contributed to other issues we experienced,” Mr Helps said.”I’m not sure they would have made a difference but we will never know.”For the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic read our live blog.He said the Army and police officers may have intimidated travellers.”These are returning Australians that were by and large compliant,” he said. “With a uniform comes a visual impact to people.”Mr Helps told the inquiry he was not aware of any specific offers of ADF support to secure the quarantine hotels.Having police on site may have set an example for securityAndrea Spiteri, who shared the state controller role with Mr Helps, told the inquiry that a continuous police presence in the hotels could have helped.She said she told her colleagues a stronger police presence was needed at various times.Victoria’s road to recovery”A 24/7 police presence at quarantine hotels may have been helpful in setting an example for security staff as to appropriate behaviour, or potentially acting as a deterrent for inappropriate behaviour,” Ms Spiteri said in her statement.”I recollect expressing this view verbally on several occasions to other departmental executive staff.”However, it is my personal opinion as opposed to an evidence-based view.”The inquiry heard security guards working in hotel quarantine did not receive instructions on how to use personal protective equipment (PPE) until six weeks into the program.Ms Spiteri said there were briefings provided to workers, signs were put up and documents were available on how to use the protective equipment.She told the inquiry she was surprised that the Rydges Hotel outbreak occurred, even though she knew there were problems with the way guards were using PPE.”I think we had been aware that there had been issues with compliance,” she said.What you need to know about coronavirus:

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