Coronavirus: Melbourne hotel debacle to face health and safety probe

Coronavirus: Melbourne hotel debacle to face health and safety probe

Rydges on Swanston hotel in Melbourne. Picture: David Geraghty
Rydges on Swanston hotel in Melbourne. Picture: David Geraghty

WorkSafe Victoria has launched an investigation into the state’s hotel quarantine program which will examine possible breaches of health and safety laws.

Confirmation of the probe came after Independent Contractors Australia called for an investigation.

“WorkSafe Victoria is investigating workplaces associated with the COVID-19 hotel quarantine program,” a spokesman said on Wednesday night.

The Australian understands the probe was launched the probe in July.

A family of four allowed outside their Rydges Hotel room for walks was identified this week as the source of almost all the second-wave COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, an outbreak that has infected thousands and put the city in lockdown.

Within a week of the family’s arrival at the hotel on May 15, two security guards and an employee had contracted the coronavirus — before it spread to 17 people who worked in the building or were close contacts of those who did.

Also, a man and a ­couple who returned to Australia on June 1 and June 11 respectively were identified as the source of a ­smaller infection that was quickly linked to 46 people before spreading across Melbourne, the Victorian hotel quarantine inquiry heard on Tuesday.

Victoria’s first wave of infections left 19 people dead — to May 30 — with 1645 infected. Since then, the second wave has infected more than 15,500.

More than 330 people have died, and Melbourne is under the toughest lockdown in the country, with a curfew in place ­between 8pm and 5am.

Ken Phillips, executive director of Independent Contractors Australia, said the Andrews government had “pretty much ­admitted” the second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks occurred “because of the botched hotel quarantine mess in March”.

“This COVID-19 outbreak is arguably the largest mass deaths event resulting from a workplace incident in Australia’s history,” he said.

“Everything points to the probability of recklessness in the chain of command and control of decision-making related to the quarantines.”

Mr Phillips said an investigation would look to see if prosecution should occur under the Victorian OHS Act, including ­application of the state’s new manslaughter provisions.