“We will again just double and triple check whether there is anything that is different between our response and the response in NSW.”
Professor Sutton said he did not agree with Mr Hunt that the state’s contact tracing system, which ultimately buckled under pressure, had allowed cases to escape from hotel quarantine undetected.
Mr Sutton said he believed all infected guards and hotel staff were contacted but that efforts failed to contain a “super-spreader” event.
“It’s pretty clear numbers got beyond Victoria’s capacity to deal with every case in a timely way,” Professor Sutton told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell. “I wish the system were as robust then as I know it is now. I can’t say it would have been stopped with a NSW system.”
Earlier, Mr Hunt said Victoria’s second wave “largely could have been avoided” with better tracing systems.
“The evidence is NSW had the equivalent of about six hotel quarantine breaches in terms of cases that have come from Victoria [and spread into the community] … The difference is they’ve been able to recognise them, chase them down, get on top of them early,” he said.
As part of the Andrews government’s efforts to boost confidence in the state’s contact tracing, the Premier announced the Department of Health and Human Services will begin publishing weekly contact tracing performance metrics online.
The number of infections in healthcare will also be reported weekly, following the launch of the government’s Protecting our Healthcare Workers plan on August 25 – more than five months after the pandemic began and as the number of cases among healthcare workers topped 2700.
In a significant shift from the centralised system that has been used so far to trace contacts, five suburban hubs will now be established across greater metropolitan Melbourne, emulating the state’s regional response units and NSW’s local public health districts, in order to speed up tracing using local knowledge and smaller caseloads.
Jeroen Weimar, the former head of Victoria’s Department of Transport who will now oversee the logistics of contact tracing, said the model had been successful in tracing the virus in the regional towns of Bendigo, Castlemaine, Geelong and Colac.
“It has enabled us to really get hold of those outbreaks very quickly,” Mr Weimar said. “And we’ve seen over the last four or five weeks some quite big outbreaks from Victoria, but [they were] brought to an end far more swiftly and that’s critical to our success.”
He said 11 rapid response teams had responded to about 70 complex outbreaks, including those at schools and seafood markets.
Mr Andrews said 90 per cent of positive cases were being interviewed within 24 hours of DHHS being notified of their test results, while 99 per cent of close contacts were being contacted within 48 hours.
However, some families are still reporting “unacceptable” delays.
Rowville mother Irene Anderson waited almost 60 hours to be contacted by DHHS after her 40-year-old son Sean’s disability support worker tested positive for coronavirus last week.
Ms Anderson said the worker “had done the right thing” and told the family he had contracted COVID-19, prompting her to quarantine everyone, including her husband who recently had prostate surgery for an aggressive cancer. All the family’s test results were negative.
“In reality, the 48-hour time frame is still too long,” Ms Anderson said. “The alerts to contacts need to go out much sooner, especially considering numbers are so much lower, and people are now having a much shorter list of contacts because of lockdown.”
The Victorian opposition’s David Davis said vulnerable members of the community, like Sean Anderson, were most at risk of the coronavirus and needed to be better protected.
“Daniel Andrews has not been honest with Victorians – our contact tracing system is still not fit for for purpose,” Mr Davis said.
Sumeyya is a state political reporter for The Age.