The Victorian government has rejected help from the army for a second time as call centre workers from private companies have been enlisted to help with contact tracing.
Daniel Andrews refused several offers from Defence Force to use troops to help boost numbers for Victoria’s contact tracing program.
There are claims some of the more than 5,000 close contacts of the state’s 1,172 active coronavirus cases have not been contacted daily as required.
In other cases, it has taken days for people to be told they have potentially been infected, the Herald Sun reported.
ADF personnel are seen working at a COVID-19 testing centre in Melbourne (pictured on July 2)
The department contacted private companies on Friday afternoon to help with contact tracing instead of the ADF (pictured, ADF staff giving out coronavirus tests in Melbourne)
But instead of allowing ADF personnel to assist, the Victorian government turned to the private sector and enlisted the help of call centre workers.
Officials called Medibank, Telstra and the big banks on Friday afternoon to provide call centre workers to assist them instead.
This latest snub comes after Mr Andrews rejected an offer from 800 defence members to help run the state’s troubled hotel quarantine system, enlisting stood down Qantas staff instead.
But on Saturday, Mr Andrews denied that the ADF had offered to help at call centres, and claimed they wouldn’t have the appropriate skills.
‘The private sector has been part of our response and will continue to be,’ he said.
‘It is not accurate to say that there have been requests made to the ADF or offers made by them in relation to these specific skills.
‘I want to be crystal clear – the ADF are on the ground in unprecedented numbers, doing a fantastic job. Each and every request I made of the Prime Minister, the answer has been “yes”.
‘There’s been no sense that they would necessarily have the right skills to do that. This is a call centre job.
‘I don’t want to get into to any sort of sense of blame or any of that. That’s not relevant here. If I need something, I ring the Prime Minister, the answer is yes.’
This latest snub comes after Victoria rejected an offer of 800 defence members to help run the state’s troubled hotel quarantine (pictured, guests in masks at the Stamford Hotel in Melbourne on June 25)
A member of the Australian Defence Force carries a batch of swab samples at a drive-through COVID-19 coronavirus testing station in the Melbourne (pictured July 2)
An estimated 120 staff members from the National Australia Bank have already been enlisted to help call close contacts over the weekend.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 9,059
New South Wales: 3,474
Western Australia: 630
South Australia: 443
Australian Capital Territory: 113
Northern Territory: 30
TOTAL CASES: 9,549
CURRENT ACTIVE CASES: 1,285
The Commonwealth Bank and Medibank have not confirmed they will take up the offer as they may be limited in the amount of staff they can provide.
The two banks are considering other ways they could help.
Telstra told the department they were unable to provide call centre workers to assist with the state’s contact tracing initiative.
The Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt reminded the Victoria government the Defence Force is ready to be deployed and help curb the spread of coronavirus.
‘The ADF is capable and it’s I think a potentially important addition to assist with that contact tracing where the standard has to be every case, every day,’ Mr Hunt said.
A state government spokesperson said: ‘We continue to explore new ways to further expand our massive public health team, as we all work together to slow the spread.’
‘The national guidelines for public health units managing contact tracing are very clear about the daily monitoring of those infected and the people close to them.
‘Where feasible to do so, PHU should conduct active daily monitoring of close contacts for symptoms for 14 days after the last possible contact with a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case,’ the guidelines state.
‘Symptom screening should be conducted daily, for the negative (quarantined) cohort.’
The Department of Premier and Cabinet have been contacted in regards to claims these guidelines are not being followed by call centre staff.
A cleaner wipes down a rail outside the usually bustling Flinders Street station in Melbourne (pictured on July 10)
Police and medical workers stand outside an entrance to a public housing estate which is undergoing a forced lockdown in Melbourne (pictured July 10)
Corrections Victoria has taken over the management of hotel quarantine for returned travellers after private security guards allegedly breached protocols, contributing to the state’s latest coronavirus outbreak.
Support workers will be required to ensure social distancing measures and good hygiene practises are being adhered to at all times.
Mr Andrews said thanked other governments for their support but said ‘if we need more, I’ll certainly ask for more.’
The Victorian government came under fire over the program after it was hit with infection protocol breaches while hosting returned travellers.
Instead of preventing the spread of the virus, the program was found to be central to the rise of the state’s COVID-19 case numbers.