‘Every case’ could be linked to hotel bungle

 

The $3 million inquiry into Victoria's bungled coronavirus hotel quarantine program won't cross-examine witnesses for at least another fortnight.

The first public hearing got under way in Melbourne on Monday where it heard short opening statements from Jennifer Coate, AO, who is leading the inquiry, and senior counsel assisting the inquiry, Tony Neal, QC.

No witnesses were called on Monday, and Mr Neal told the inquiry the first evidentiary public hearing would start on August 6 when the examination of witnesses would commence.

He said evidence already available to the inquiry suggested the possibility of a link between many of the cases of coronavirus identified in the Victorian community in the past few weeks and people who were quarantined under the hotel program.

"Comments made by the chief health officer to the media have suggested that it may even be that every case of COVID-19 in Victoria in recent weeks could be sourced to the hotel quarantine program," Mr Neal said.

"Increasingly over recent weeks there has been growing and understandable community concern about transmission from that program into the general community."

 

Security guards at the Stanford Hotel, Melbourne, which has been linked to a COVID-19 cluster for quarantined international arrivals. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw
Security guards at the Stanford Hotel, Melbourne, which has been linked to a COVID-19 cluster for quarantined international arrivals. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Andrew Henshaw

 

Premier Daniel Andrews has repeatedly refused to answer questions about the hotel quarantine program at his daily media briefings since the inquiry was established on July 2, saying it would be inappropriate to comment while the review was ongoing.

The inquiry has been set up to examine the decisions and actions of government agencies, hotel operators and private contractors during the hotel quarantine program, the communication between the three parties, the contractual arrangements and the information, guidance, training and equipment provided to staff in hotels.

Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton has told the Government that several coronavirus cases in the community have been linked through genomic sequencing to an infection control breach in the hotel quarantine program.

Victoria's hotel quarantine program has been suspended since its failures were revealed, with flights carrying international returned travellers diverted to other cities across the country.

"It is abundantly clear that what has gone on here is completely unacceptable and we need to know exactly what has happened," Mr Andrews said at the time.

 

"Justice Coate is one of Australia's most experienced jurists - every Victorian can be confident that she will oversee a thorough and independent inquiry to deliver the answers that Victorians deserve."

Justice Coate was one of six royal commissioners appointed to lead the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and has served on the Magistrates' Court of Victoria, the Coroners Court of Victoria, the Federal Court and as president of the Children's Court of Victoria.

A report on the findings of the inquiry are expected to be delivered to the Governor of Victoria by September 25.

 

 

jack.paynter@news.com.au

Originally published as 'Every case' could be linked to hotel bungle

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has refused to answer questions about hotel quarantine since the inquiry was established. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Ian Currie
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has refused to answer questions about hotel quarantine since the inquiry was established. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Ian Currie

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