The cluster as of Friday included a man who later travelled to Queensland.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said the department had issued a full review of health protocols at all quarantine hotels in response to the outbreak.
Andrew Buntine, a supervising guard who was contracted to work at Rydges through security firm Elite Protection Services, said health department officers who managed the hotel’s quarantine operation did not appear to have been properly briefed, and hygiene protocols were not clear.
“Every day things were changing,” Mr Buntine said. “The [department] officers really struggled to know what was going on and they were out of their depth.”
He said department staff told guards to use each mask for four hours and only use six pairs of gloves per day. They said the rationing was designed to ensure nurses and other essential staff had enough personal protection equipment when supplies were dwindling.
A worker at another quarantine hotel, who asked not to be named, said she saw security guards wearing the same pair of gloves while touching detainees’ belongings, trolleys and lifts and accompanying them throughout the building.
“It’s the security staff that are causing all the issues,” she said. “They’re not taught and trained in sanitation properly.
“They are walking around with the same gloves on, touching everything. They cross-contaminate everything.”
However, the worker, who rotated between different quarantine hotels, said the problems were wider than security guards.
She said surfaces that had come into contact with infected detainees were often not thoroughly cleaned or cleaned at all, and paperwork was passed between staff who had been in contact with detainees and those who had not.
“[DHHS] have built the plan, they’re the ones that are managing the whole deal,” she said.
“They hired the hotels, they need to train the staff … whether it be their own staff or hotels’ staff or security staff.”
Security guards are not provided with full personal protective equipment, including gowns, goggles and shoe covers.
Professor Sutton said the hotels review would examine policies on staff use of personal protective equipment, contaminated PPE disposal, cleaning and the enforcement of physical distancing.
“There will be further digging into what might have happened [at Rydges] to see if there are further recommendations to make,” he said on Thursday.
“We don’t know exactly what’s occurred but it seems they’ve acquired it around the same time.
“So people working on the same shift or around the same time period appear to have been exposed to the virus.”
Mr Buntine said security workers at Rydges raised concerns about accompanying infected detainees in the hotel’s lift in daily meetings with DHHS officials, a directive some guards refused.
Some returned travellers who had tested positive were mistakenly let out of their rooms to get fresh air and at least one shared an elevator with a guard, he said.
The hotel was also used to quarantine people who could not isolate at home, including infected Cedar Meats workers who were not subject to the same strict detention rules as returned travellers, and were permitted to leave their room for exercise and fresh air.
Mr Buntine said security workers told department officials they were concerned about Cedar Meats workers leaving their rooms and using shared areas.
Elite’s contract was terminated on May 11. The department said Elite’s guards were not among the positive cases.
It has refused to respond to questions about how many of the contractors who tested positive for COVID-19 were security guards, and what roles the remaining contractors performed at the hotel.
A second guard, who asked not to be named, confirmed concerns were raised by guards over PPE use and sharing elevators and spaces with infected detainees.
A DHHS spokeswoman said it had strict measures in place to manage positive cases and control outbreaks, including thorough cleaning, infection control training and advice for all staff and contractors, including security guards.
The spokeswoman said all staff and contractors were aware they might interact with infected detainees and were required to comply with physical distancing rules and PPE use guidelines.
She said a contracted security company provided an adequate level of PPE to guards, which the government paid for.
“All security staff should have access to enough equipment to change each time there is a potential exposure without cost being a barrier,” she said.
She said hotels and contractors were responsible for providing safe workplaces for their staff and were bound by the service standard in their contract with the department.
Chloe Booker is a reporter at The Age.
Paul is a reporter for The Age.