Infection Disease Expert Tells Victorian Inquiry of ‘Inappropriate’ COVID-19 Training

August 19, 2020 Updated: August 19, 2020

Health experts have told Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry on Aug. 17 that “misleading” and confusing” COVID-19 training and PPE advice was given to private security guards to use in Melbourne’s hotel.

Head of Infectious Diseases at Austin Heath, Lindsay Grayson told the inquiry that the 30-minute training module provided by the Australian Department of Health for private security guards contained inadequate advice on personal protective equipment usage creating a considerable risk of COVID-19 transmission from returnees.

“It was reliable for the general community but completely inaccurate for anyone undertaking health care or potentially at risk with — you
know, quarantine staff, with an infectious patient. It was the complete opposite of what we teach regarding PPE,” Grayson noted.

“I would describe this document as confused in its target audience,” he said.

Grayson was also asked to comment on the training manual assertion that not everyone should wear a mask.

Grayson said, “clearly this is misleading for health care workers or quarantine staff if they thought they didn’t need to wear a mask when I would consider it crucial if they were in likely contact with a potentially infectious patient.”

Before July 19, the public health advice issued by the Victorian government was that masks only needed to be worn by symptomatic people. Since then, the Victorian government has made it mandatory to wear a mask everywhere in public.

Inappropriate PPE Advice

Grayson was also questioned by lawyer Arthur Moses who represented the Unified Security Group (Australia) Pty Ltd.

Moses explicitly asked Grayson’s opinion on advice provided by Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in the “PPE Advice for Hotel Security Staff and AO’s in Contact with Quarantined Individuals”.

Identifying four sections from the PPE Advice where the DHHS had stated that the security staff did not need to wear PPE, Moses established with Grayson that the advice was “inappropriate” for the situation.

Previously, Grayson had stated that PPE used by staff in hotel quarantine settings should be similar to that used in hospitals as they are both infection control environments.

Codenamed Operation Soteria—after the Greek goddess of rescue and safety—the hotel quarantine program has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks for their choice to use private security guards instead of Australian Defence Forces or state police.

Premier Daniel Andrews has also repeatedly refuted or deflected questions on why he refused to accept offers of ADF personnel.

However, he has said that  at a press conference on Aug. 17 if he is called to attend the inquiry, he will “be there.”

Victoria’s State Control Centre created Victoria’s Hotel quarantine program on March 28, a day after a national cabinet meeting had decided to implement a compulsory quarantine program.

Department of jobs minister Martin Pakula told the inquiry on Aug. 12 that his department was instructed to find suitable private security companies by midnight on March 28, the first set of returnees arrived the morning of March 29.

Premier Daniel Andrews launched Victoria’s hotel quarantine inquiry on July 2 following an assessment from genome sequencing that “at least a significant portion” of the state’s CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus cases since June came from the returnees quarantine program.

Director of the Microbiological Diagnostic Unit, at the University of Melbourne, Benjamin Peter Howden told the inquiry that three strains of COVID-19 had been detected since June, and each has been linked to returnees.

“What I could say, a high-level statement would be that over 99 percent of all current cases in Victoria for which we have genomic sequencing data are derived from” those three strains.