But the government hastily stood down privately contracted “floor monitors” at the last remaining “hot” quarantine site – the Novotel in Southbank – and sent in police on Wednesday after concerns were raised about poor infection control.
The floor monitors were also contracted by Spotless. Alfred Health has been running the quarantine program for the government since July and has hired services giant Spotless to provide workers for the Melbourne hotels.
Nine people working in hotel quarantine became infected with COVID-19 at the height of the second wave, including five Spotless cleaning contractors. Three of those cleaners live in one household, while the other two live together in another household.
Professor Sutton said genomic sequencing showed six of the nine infected workers acquired the virus in the community. Their virus was linked to the strain which originated at the Rydges on Swanston hotel in May, he said.
For the three people whose infection could not be genomically tested, one was a household member of one of the others, the second was linked to an aged care facility and the third, who worked at hotels, also had contact with a known case out in the community.
Two cleaning contractors worked while infectious, before they developed symptoms.
A Victoria Police officer and a Department of Health and Human Services staff member, who were also infected, were linked to positive cases in the community.
“The cases that occurred in these settings were absolutely a reflection of the very substantial community transmission in Melbourne at that time and, in fact, cleaning services are a vulnerable cohort for infection,” Professor Sutton said.
There are currently 55 people in Melbourne’s quarantine hotels, including a Frankston family linked to the latest outbreak at Chadstone shopping centre.
When asked if the state government was consulted about Alfred Health’s contracts with Spotless, Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said: “Alfred are world leaders around infection control. We have confidence in the relationships that they bring.”
Ms Hennessy said the overhauled program had “strong and accountable leadership” and cleaning and waste disposal, mental health support, infection control and welfare measures had been reviewed.
“[We are] making sure that we have got proper oversight, audit and proper checks and balances … [and] training and really making sure that we continue to keep very, very focused on our infection controls,” she said.
Corrections Victoria Commissioner Emma Cassar, who is overseeing the rebooted program, said all quarantine workers receive face-to-face infection control training. At the start of the program, private security guards and nurses were asked to complete online training modules.
“I think the one message is that we are really confident in the reset and when flights arrive, we certainly will be ready,” she said.
“Things like cleaning standards, waste standards, linen standards, food standards and all of the activities that are the foundation of how we can stop the virus spreading, have been reviewed.”
Premier Daniel Andrews has previously said international flights will not return to Melbourne until the state’s hotel quarantine inquiry hands down its report in November.
Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Marissa Calligeros is a journalist at The Age