MELBOURNE—Premier Daniel Andrews has defended the capability of his government’s contact tracing system amid claims of frequent mistakes and several reports of people having to wait long periods for their virus test results, at a press conference on Aug. 11.
The Victorian government’s contact tracing system has come under scrutiny with several reports of delayed results, including one report of a woman who is still waiting after 12 days for her family’s COVID-19 test results.
Another woman who tested positive for COVID-19 received no further communication from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services after she received her results.
Andrews has asserted that he will look into the issues but played down the possibility that the contact tracers were stretched or that their availability may be lacking.
The premier said: “It can never be perfect.”
Andrews noted: “Each of those cases is probably counting for say another four or five close contacts plus outbreaks with some of those, that close contact net, if you like, is hundreds of people, so it’s a very very significant task.
“I’m never gonna be able to stand here and say to that every single person … that should have got a phone call, got that phone call,” he said.
“When you’re dealing with this many people, you’re dealing with this task as challenging as it is, you can never deliver something completely perfect, there will always be some error. This is humans talking to other humans, and it’s a massive task,” the Victorian premier said.
This is not the first time problems have arisen with Victoria’s contact tracing program.
On July 10 The Age reported that the state’s Department of Health and Human Services had failed multiple times to quickly inform close contacts of COVID-19 cases, creating conditions where unsuspecting Victorians could spread the virus.
Epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely from The University of Melbourne told The Age that other country’s success in fighting the virus had mainly come down to rapid contact tracing.
“Ideally, that contact tracing should be happening within hours,” Blakely said.
Victoria has an estimated 2,600 contact tracers working in shifts, according to the premier, and people should be contacted with 24 hours of being tested; close contacts within 48 hours.
The latest figures show contact tracers have over 2,668 virus cases under investigation.
In addition, due to the high number of cases, contact tracing teams have to visit homes or call around 76,000 people of positive cases and close contacts.
A defensive premier said his government’s response to the second wave of COVID-19 was driven by needs, arguing: “You can always look for refinements and improvements.”
The key point is to learn from each mistake, he explained.