News State Victoria News Virus hotel inquiry told returned travellers could leave unsupervised

Virus hotel inquiry told returned travellers could leave unsupervised

victoria hotel quarantine
Hotel quarantine was supposed to keep Victoria safe, not spawn hundreds of deaths and community infections. Photo: AAP
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Returned travellers could leave quarantine hotels unsupervised, some for several hours a day and multiple times a week, to visit sick relatives and attend funerals, an inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine program has heard.

Guests were placed “in transport” to go out into the community on compassionate grounds, or for medical treatment and emergencies, but there were no random audits to make sure people were going where they said they were, Department of Health and Human Services environmental health regulation and compliance manager Noel Cleaves told the inquiry.

He said most cases were not supervised after they left the hotels.

“There were occasions generally at the start of the program where we did provide supervision [of guests who left] but they were relatively rare,” he said on Friday.

“Predominately, the person was issued with temporary leave permission and were advised of the penalties that would apply [if they didn’t follow orders], given PPE [personal protective equipment] and given the advice to wear it.”

hotel inquiry
Mr Cleaves said there were no compliance checks for most people who left hotel quarantine. Photo: COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry

The inquiry into failures in Victoria’s hotel quarantine system, led by former judge Jennifer Coate, has previously heard more than 99 per cent of Victoria’s second wave is connected to returned travellers.

Under questioning from counsel assisting the inquiry, Rachel Ellyard, Mr Cleaves said there were no random audits of people’s activities to check they were actually doing the things they had been allowed leave to do.

“There were examples, people did check with funeral directors to make sure the person was happy for them to come to the funeral, or if the hospital was not willing to grant the person permission to visit the facility,” he said.

“But there was not close supervision of the person when they left the hotel.”