Shocking new details have emerged about security guards employed at Melbourne’s quarantine hotels.
Employees have been accused of spreading COVID-19 by going to McDonald’s during their lunch breaks and driving Ubers.
While others were taking JobKeeper while being paid cash-in-hand for lockdown work and many were spotted without PPE.
Some guards are also accused of walking returned travellers to 7-11 stores and to busy shopping centres.
One security guard, named only as Sam, has spent the past two months working as a quarantine hotel security guard in Melbourne.
Speaking anonymously to 9News, Sam said his colleagues would share lifts with groups of travellers, escort them for exercise and then go into the community as normal despite the risk of spreading the virus.
Pictured: Staff inside the Stamford Plaza in Melbourne are seen moving luggage for guests in hotel quarantine on June 25
Dozens of residents in Melbourne line up for a COVID-19 test on Thursday amid a second spike in cases
‘On their break, guards were going for a break, and they were going to 7-Eleven, McDonalds, KFC, everywhere, and they were exposing everyone to that,’ he told 9News.
‘We were trying to control the virus, but the way they have done everything, I think we were spreading the virus, not controlling the virus.’
The security guard also claims he was told not to take a test for COVID-19 in case he tested positive and wouldn’t be able to work.
‘When I knew that there was positive cases in the hotel I have asked them, do I need to go for a test or something? And they said no, no, no don’t worry, don’t stress because we need people, so if you (go) for a test they will ask you to self-isolate, so don’t go, we will let you know when to go for a test,’ he said.
Another anonymous security worker told Today he was given five minutes of training before beginning his first shift.
If the rate of coronavirus infections do not slow down Victoria could be heading towards 1,000 active cases by the end of next week.
There are currently 415 active cases but the state is seeing around 70 new cases a day.
On Thursday, the Victorian Government announced the state’s troubled hotel quarantine program would be probed by Justice Jennifer Coate amid a second spike in coronavirus infections.
Sam, a security guard who has been assigned to quarantine hotels in Melbourne for the past two months, said his fellow workers exposed the community to coronavirus by going for lunch at 7-Eleven and McDonalds on their breaks
‘This entry is closed’: Signs are seen in the windows of the Stamford Plaza in Melbourne
Pictured: Dumped shoes and a jacket are seen outside a closed St Vinnies de Paul in Glenroy, Melbourne on Thursday
Pictured: Quiet streets are seen in Glenroy, Melbourne on Thursday as 36 suburbs enter lockdown
There are allegations of under-trained staff, inadequate personal protective equipment, billing rorts by private security contractors and even claims that some hotel guards slept with guests.
A large proportion of recent coronavirus cases in Victoria have been traced to breaches in hotels hosting returned travellers for their government-enforced 14 days of quarantine.
The Herald Sun reported that industry insiders said some security guards were being paid cash in hand for their hotel quarantine shifts while receiving JobKeeper payments from the government.
A well-respected security subcontractor reportedly had their agreement terminated abruptly at a hotel where there is a coronavirus cluster and another business was given the job.
The Victorian Government on Thursday announced the state’s troubled hotel quarantine program would be probed by Justice Jennifer Coate amid a second spike in coronavirus infections. Pictured: A taxi driver outside the Stamford Plaza in Melbourne is seen wearing face mask
A large proportion of recent coronavirus cases in Victoria have been traced to breaches in hotels hosting the returned travellers for their government-enforced 14 days of quarantine. Pictured: Guests at the Stamford Plaza in Melbourne are seen wearing masks as they get into taxis
One senior industry figure told the publication some providers hired for the quarantine failed to use the ‘right procedures, the right people and, most importantly, the right supervision’.
‘The writing was on the wall from the word go,’ the figure said.
‘You pay peanuts, you get monkeys. You end up with a guy who’s being paid no dough. You get the bottom of the barrel.’
The figure claimed the hotels were working with subcontractors who emphasised money-making instead of safety.
A general view of the quiet shopping precinct in the locked down suburb of Dallas on Thursday
A member of the Australian Defence Force takes a swab sample at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Fawkner, Melbourne, on Thursday
A man walks along closed businesses in Glenroy, Melbourne on Thursday
Guests and healthcare workers who have been at Melbourne quarantine hotels throughout the week claim security guards have not been wearing protection gear, The Age reported.
A security source at Stamford Plaza said guards were seen assembled together without face masks.
At least 31 coronavirus cases are linked to an outbreak at the hotel.
Dr Vyom Sharma, who worked across quarantine hotels in Melbourne, said security guards had not received the same level of training as medical professionals.
‘Yes, it’s true, this is the second outbreak that’s associated with security/hotel staff,: he wrote on Twitter.
‘The hotel/security staff aren’t trained in the same way that nurses/doctors have been. I’m sure they were given intro training.
‘But medicos train over the span of a degree/career. We STILL make mistakes, frequently identified by infection control when we get audited.’
Pictured: A staff member inside the Stamford Hotel moves luggage. At least 31 coronavirus cases are linked to an outbreak at the hotel.
A general view of the Rydges on Swanston hotel in Melbourne. A coronavirus cluster was reported at the hotel between the end of May and beginning of June
Government staff go door-to-door in Brunswick West to explain testing procedures on Thursday
Justice Coate, one of the state’s most experienced judicial officers, will lead the inquiry into the coronavirus quarantine arrangements for returning travellers.
‘It is abundantly clear that what has gone on here is completely unacceptable and we need to know exactly what has happened,’ Premier Daniel Andrews said.
Justice Coate will look into allegations that infection control protocols were breached at the quarantine hotels.
The inquiry will probe decisions and actions by the government, hotel operators and private contractors, as well as the training of staff.
Opposition leader Michael O’Brien on Thursday told reporters the hotel quarantine program had been a complete and utter debacle, and demanded the sacking of Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.
‘The government decided to put in place poorly trained unqualified private security guards to look after hotel quarantine,’ he said.
Healthcare workers are seen at a COVID-19 drive-through testing facility in Keilor, Melbourne
The curve in Victoria has skyrocketed over the past couple of weeks as coronavirus infections continue to grow from within the suburbs of Melbourne
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 8,001
New South Wales: 3,211
Western Australia: 611
South Australia: 443
Australian Capital Territory: 108
Northern Territory: 30
TOTAL CASES: 8,001
He also showed concern the inquiry would be a ‘cover up’, rather than shining light into what had happened.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said the role of police in hotel quarantine was to provide assistance for returned travellers and help make sure they reached their accommodation, not to supervise the hotel security.
Police Minister Lisa Neville on Thursday added that government and agencies had little time to implement the quarantine program, saying the inquiry will scrutinise the decision-making during that process.
‘It was for agencies to work out the best system to do that, to get hotels who put their hands up at that time,’ she said.
‘We did it within 24 hours so quick decisions were made by various agencies and again I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus.’
All international flights are being diverted from the state for a fortnight as the program is put on hold.
Once it resumes, Corrections Victoria will have taken over the program’s operation from private security contractors.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Thursday he wasn’t aware of breaches by staff workers at the hotels, but hoped the inquiry would help reveal possible mistakes.
The Victorian government has provided $3 million for the inquiry, which will report by September 25.
Dozens of residents in Melbourne wait for a coronavirus test as 10 postcodes in the city are subject to stay at home orders from Thursday