A security firm involved in Victoria’s hotel quarantine program didn’t know guests had COVID-19 until their subcontractors tested positive to the virus.
MSS Security general manager Jamie Adams says he was assured by Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions that returned overseas travellers with coronavirus symptoms would not be brought to quarantine hotels.
“My initial understanding was that there were to be no COVID-positive or symptomatic guests brought to those hotels at which we were going to be working,” Mr Adams told the state’s hotel quarantine inquiry on Thursday.
“Secondly to that, where in the event that a guest did test positive, that it would be medical staff, i.e. nurses and/or doctors, that would then escort that person out of the facility to another health facility.
“Those two factors in my mind significantly reduced the risk to our staff working at those hotels, given that the inference was that we wouldn’t have any direct or indirect contact with COVID-positive guests.”
Mr Adams said he only found out positive guests were staying at the hotels following an outbreak at the Stamford Plaza in mid-June.
Eight security guards from two different firms subcontracted by MSS Security contracted the virus at the hotel before it spread into the wider community.
It’s believed about 1 in 10 of the state’s second wave cases can be traced back to the Stamford Plaza outbreak.
“I wasn’t made personally aware that there were any COVID-positive cases in the hotels prior to that, that I can recall,” Mr Adams said.
Sam Krekelis, business manager for events at MSS Security, said procedures didn’t change at the hotel following the outbreak.
“We pushed again hard on the social distancing and the hand hygiene and those areas to try and make sure that everyone stays as healthy as possible, but nothing official, no,” he said.
Mr Krikelis said MSS Security was initially told guests would stay in their rooms for the duration of the 14-day quarantine and then leave.
The process changed about two weeks into the program.
“We undertook other tasks such as escorting guests for smoke breaks, for fresh air walks,” he said.
“Towards the end of our stay at the Stamford, we were asked if we could help deliver meals, breakfast, lunches and dinners. So it changed along the way and we were fluid with those changes, but it wasn’t what we initially thought our tasks would be.”
Both men complained management structures weren’t clear and communication was lacking.
“There was no clear demarcation of responsibility. There didn’t appear to be one person who was particularly in charge of all decisions that were made on each facility,” Mr Adams said.
Unified Security’s Nigel Coppick and Mo Nagi have begun giving evidence at the enquiry.
Unified security oversaw the most quarantine hotels in Victoria, despite not being on the government’s approved contractor list at the time.