World News – UA – Damaging emails contradict Melbourne hotel quarantine claims


Posted: 3:25 PM EDT October 17, 2020 | Updated: 4:17 p.m. EDT October 17, 2020

Leaked emails suggest Victoria’s top doctor knew in March that private security guards would be used in failed hotel quarantine program

Chief Medical Officer of Health Brett Sutton told inquest he had no idea contractors were being used until May

But leaked emails published by Age newspaper between him and staff at the end of March contradict these claims

The chain of emails dates back to the day the hotel quarantine arrangements were made, particularly in response to a question about how to ensure quarantine compliance

Damning emails reveal Victoria’s health director Brett Sutton (pictured) learned months ago that private security would be used in failed hotel quarantine program

Correspondence from a colleague at the Ministry of Health dated March 27 clearly stated his intention to bring in private contractors

Instructions will be provided to passengers upon disembarking and will be handled by Victoria Police at the airport Private security is contracted to provide security in hotels with escalation arrangements at VicPol if required ‘ ‘, we read in the email

But during the investigation into the state’s hotel quarantine program, he said he was not aware of this fact after Rydges’ outbreak on Swanston

Since the emails leaked, Professor Sutton has doubled down on his testimony during the investigation, ABC news reported

Private security guards were removed from a Melbourne quarantine hotel and replaced by police in September Pictured: cleaning staff at a Melbourne CBD quarantine hotel

The disastrous hotel quarantine error sparked a second wave in Victoria in which more than 700 people lost their lives (pictured: new arrivals are introduced to the Crown Promenade Hotel in Melbourne)

« I saw that they were responding to the Commonwealth and I thanked them for the answers given to them, but I clearly did not register that anything was said about private security, » said declared Professor Sutton

Professor Sutton has said he is ready for reconsideration and officials will provide ‘whatever is requested’

Pictured: A baby girl wearing a face mask is quarantined at the Crown Promenade hotel by private security guards wearing high visibility gloves and masks

Investigation into Victoria’s hotel quarantine program is set to reopen at 2 p.m. on Tuesday

On Friday, the commission of inquiry, chaired by retired judge Jennifer Coate, announced it would hold a session next week

Council reportedly received new phone logs from Premier Daniel Andrews and his staff as well as unpublished documents from the Department of Health and Human Services which justified reopening the investigation

The investigation into Melbourne’s hotel quarantine program is set to be reopened after the board received new phone logs from Prime Minister Daniel Andrews (pictured) and his staff and unpublished documents from the Ministry of Health and Social Services

The investigation ended on September 28 after hearing 63 witnesses, including Mr. Andrews, senior government ministers and officials

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and Prime Minister and Cabinet Minister (DPC) Secretary Chris Eccles both resigned after appearing before the inquiry

In a statement, M Eccles acknowledged that records show he spoke to former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton at 117:00 a.m. on March 27, when it was ruled that private security officers were going to quarantine the hotels

« Phone records in no way demonstrate that I, or even anyone within DPC, made the decision to use private security in the hotel’s quarantine program, » Mr. Eccles

The board reportedly received new telephone logs from Premier Daniel Andrews and his staff as well as unpublished documents from the Department of Health and Human Services which justified the reopening of the investigation (Photo: staff of the hotel in Melbourne)

Guards employed by service company Spotless were fired from the Novotel (pictured) in Southbank halfway through their shift in September

‘I am absolutely certain that I did not communicate to M Ashton’s decision regarding the use of private security as I was not aware that such a decision had been made and I certainly had not made such a decision myself’

The two-minute phone call between M Ashton and M Eccles took place in a critical six-minute window when, according to messages from the former police chief under investigation, the decision to use guards was made

In her response to the concluding observations, Ms. Mikakos said that Ms. Andrews on private security should be ‘treated with caution’

She said it was ‘implausible’ to suggest that no one had made the decision to use private security guards in the botched program

Pictured: The Pan Pacific Hotel in Melbourne, which was used during Victoria’s failed hotel quarantine program

Lawyers involved in the investigation had previously argued that the decision was not made by one person or a department

Instead, it was a « creeping hypothesis that came true » after a 4:30 pm meeting at the state control center on March 27

« Such a submission does not sufficiently take into account the realities of government functioning and decision-making, » says Mikakos

‘Council must treat with caution the Prime Minister’s testimony in which it sought to explain the reference to the use of private security in the hotel quarantine program’

Victoria’s second wave of coronavirus, which has resulted in over 18,000 new infections and over 750 deaths, can be attributed to outbreaks at two Melbourne hotels used in the quarantine program

Police and protection officers are seen in the lobby of the Novotel Melbourne South Wharf hotel in Melbourne in September

Lawyers Tony Neal QC, Rachel Ellyard and Ben Ihle have submitted their suggested findings to the Victoria Hotel Quarantine Inquiry They are as follows:

* There has been no suggestion that those who set up the program worked other than « with the best of intentions and to the best of their ability »

* The Department of Employment, Constituencies and Regions played an important role, but the Department of Health and Social Services was the controlling body responsible for the program

* It was wrong to appoint people with no public health expertise as state monitors of the pandemic in February, as this «  influenced how the DHHS subsequently understood and fulfilled its responsibilities  »

* ‘Had the director of health or someone else with public health expertise been appointed state comptroller they would have had direct oversight of the hotel quarantine program and could have directly influenced the model of that program ‘

* ‘This can best be understood as a creeping assumption or default consensus reached in state control center after Victoria Police preference was known’

* ‘This was not the decision of the Victoria Police, but the clear stance of the Victoria Police that security would be preferable was a substantial contributing factor to the consensus’

* The Ministry of Prime Minister and Secretary to Cabinet Chris Eccles should have informed Prime Minister Daniel Andrews that his federal counterpart had offered support to the Australian Defense Force in an exchange of emails on April 8

* But the initial decision not to have ADF boots on the ground was « reasonable and open – and no criticism should be directed at those who made those operational decisions »

* « The supervision of these contracts was insufficient to ensure compliance with contractual clauses, including with regard to subcontracting »

* ‘Contracts with hotels and security companies should not have left the responsibility for PPE and infection control education to these contractors’

* 90% of second wave COVID-19 cases attributed to the Rydges on Swanston outbreak in mid-May Just under 10% were attributable to the outbreak at the Stamford Hotel in the mid-June

* ‘Hotel quarantine program in Victoria fell short of main goal The program which aimed to contain the disease was rather a seedbed for the spread of COVID-19 in the wider community’

* ‘The failure of the hotel quarantine program to contain this virus is, as of today, responsible for the deaths of 768 people and the infection of some 18,418 others’

* ‘The program did not always function in a way that met the needs of those who were detained, especially those who had specific needs or vulnerabilities’

* ‘Very early on, the probable psychosocial impact of detention should have been taken better into account and expert advice should have been sought’

* ‘There were important issues that should have been brought to the attention of the respective ministers Departmental secretaries were required to ensure that these obligations were met’

* ‘They probably contributed to a loss of opportunities to identify and solve problems that could have prompted better, more comprehensive and faster action’

Briefs may form the recommendations of the chair of the inquiry, retired judge Jennifer Coate She must submit her final report to the governor of Victoria, Linda Dessau by November 6

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Victoria, Daniel Andrews, Quarantine, Investigation, Coronavirus, Jenny Mikakos

News from around the world – AU – Damning emails contradict Melbourne hotel quarantine claims


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