A senior Victorian public servant in charge of infection control at the state’s quarantine hotels has been stood down after reportedly committing multiple compliance breaches.
Matiu Bush, general manager of infection prevention and control at COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria, was stood down overnight.
Mr Bush, who has been involved in the program since June, uses the pronouns they/them.
“Last night I become aware of reports in relation to Mr Bush and I formed the conclusion overnight that it would be appropriate Mr Bush stood down pending a review in relation to his conduct and behaviour,” Danny Pearson, the minister responsible for hotel quarantine, said outside state parliament on Wednesday.
Mr Bush is one of 15 CQV leaders approved to work across several the state’s hotel quarantine sites.
According to reports published in The Australian on Wednesday, they had to be counselled for initially refusing to undergo a mandatory test after visiting one of the hotels.
“I’m the head of IPC and I override that protocol,” Mr Bush reportedly told an Australian Defence Force member working at the hotel.
Emma Cassar, head of CQV, said Bush was tested at another location on the same day.
Mr Bush was also accused of breaching infection controls after visiting another quarantine hotel.
They reportedly left the hotel, which was not hosting returned travellers at the time, to get a coffee and returned without changing their mask or sanitising.
“From an IPC perspective, the risk was minimal, if not zero,” Ms Cassar said, though she conceded the behaviour was not befitting of a leader.
“I don’t think the public would want to see someone in a senior leadership role continue to behave in this way,” Mr Pearson said.
He said Victorians expected hotel quarantine to work as efficiently and safely as possible.
“I want the best team in hotel quarantine keeping us all safe,” Mr Pearson said.
“Everyone in hotel quarantine has got to take this seriously.”
The same secret report quoted by The Australian also alleges the Holiday Inn Covid-19 outbreak that sparked Victoria’s third lockdown in February was caused by the lengthy swabbing of an unmasked woman in an open doorway – not from the room of a man using a nebuliser, as authorities have long claimed.
Ms Cassar maintained on Wednesday morning the nebuliser was still the “working hypothesis” for the outbreak. But the man at the centre of the allegations has told Melbourne’s 3AW radio that he is grateful for the allegations in the confidential report.
“I am very glad this has come out, though it continues to show there’s systemic problems that need to be resolved,” he said in a statement.
Other incidents reported by The Australian include contractors and bureaucrats being allowed to enter or trying to enter hotel sites in Melbourne despite not being vaccinated, as is required.
While nearly all were told to leave once their vaccination status was known, in some cases it was not checked when they entered.
The incidents reportedly occurred at the Holiday Inn Airport, Novotel IBIS, InterContinental Melbourne and Four Points Hotel.
Victoria’s second wave of the virus, which led to more than 18,000 new infections, 800 deaths and an 112-day lockdown in 2020, leaked from hotel quarantine.
The program was overhauled after a judicial inquiry.
State Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the government had failed to learn from its mistakes.
“Every single day we see new evidence that this government still hasn’t got hotel quarantine right,” he said on Wednesday.
“Now all Victorians are at risk, every Victorian is exposed because this government is just incompetent, they can’t do the basics right.”