But Labor ministers, including Mr Pakula, are now under intense scrutiny after the government traced much of the fresh outbreak in Melbourne’s north and west back to the hotels and the security guards working there.
At least five state government departments were involved in the decision to deploy private security guards, instead of soldiers or police, to keep watch over returned travellers locked in hotel rooms.
The exact role of the departments and their ministers – Police Minister Lisa Neville, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, Mr Pakula and the Premier himself – remains unclear, but the whole scandal will be examined by former Supreme Court judge Jennifer Coate.
After his ministers declined to accept responsibility for the fiasco on Thursday, Mr Andrews fronted a press conference on Friday and said he understood why questions were being asked.
“I am the leader of this government and I take responsibility and have accountability for these and all matters,” rhe Premier said.
“I’ve never walked away from that, ever, nor would I.
“The best thing in my judgment is to focus on the things you can control and none of us can go back and change any of that.”
Ms Mikakos said the program had to be designed quickly after national cabinet decided on March 27 to quarantine returned travellers, who would begin to land at Tullamarine at midnight on March 28.
“It was a national cabinet decision and following that, there were arrangements put in place that were put up very, very quickly, involving many agencies,” the Health Minister said.
“So this is a multi-agency response that has been charged with the hotel quarantine program.
“My department … did not have, has never had, the contracts with the security companies. Its focus has been to provide a legal framework.”
Mr Pakula said in a statement that he would let Justice Coate’s inquiry do its work.
“A judicial inquiry has been established at arm’s length from government to examine issues relating to hotel quarantine,” he said.
“We will let the inquiry do its work. Our focus remains on containing this virus.”
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and Chief Police Commissioner Shane Patton have both distanced themselves from the decision to deploy private security and not police or soldiers to the quarantine hotels.
The secretaries of the departments of Jobs, Precincts and the Regions, Premier and Cabinet, Health and Human Services and the Emergency Services Commissioner have either declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
Noel Towell is State Political Editor for The Age
Michael is a state political reporter for The Age.