Daniel Andrews absent after outbreak bombshell


Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was nowhere to be seen yesterday after concerns emerged regarding a gap in the containment ring around Melbourne’s latest coronavirus outbreak.

When he fronted the media today, Mr Andrews faced a grilling about a series of damning revelations relating to the state’s infection control management and hotel quarantine.

Over the weekend it was revealed that a large group of individuals were potentially exposed to the mutant UK strain after a female quarantine worker attended a family event in Melbourne’s inner north on February 6.

Investigators initially ruled it out as an exposure site after the worker tested negative the following day, on February 7 – but when a guest later returned a positive result, authorities looked into the woman’s result and found it was actually a “weak positive”.

That means the 38 guests at the gathering were able to venture out in public for a week before the danger was discovered.

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Since then, a number of guests have returned positive tests, including a three-year-old child, the child’s mother, and a woman in her 50s from a separate household.

Those cases mean there are now 17 cases linked to the Holiday Inn cluster.

It comes as the state today recorded one new locally acquired case of COVID-19 from more than 25,000 tests conducted on Sunday.

But the encouraging result has been overshadowed by mounting questions about apparent flaws in Victoria’s systems.

Mr Andrews has faced a lengthy grilling over everything from contact tracing and isolation directives to hotel quarantine and the statewide lockdown.

But on Sunday, he left others to cop criticism and dodged the daily briefing – a move that’s wildly out of character and highly unusual considering Victoria is in the midst of a five-day lockdown, with speculation mounting the lockdown could be extended.

Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton yesterday defended the delay in managing the Holiday Inn cluster and related exposure sites, and claimed false negatives and positives were a rare occurrence.

“We do not have exposure sites for people who return negative tests – all we can do is remain alert to any other results that came through to find out how transmission may have occurred,” Prof Sutton said.

“The Coburg venue wasn’t in scope because of that negative test the day after the event took place.

“It was in getting another case out of that setting that we identified that transmission might have occurred there.”

Questions are now also being raised regarding Victoria’s infection control procedures, with a leading virus expert claiming the state’s protocol had failed.

Speaking to The Age, Professor Peter Collignon – a member of the Australian Government’s Infection Control Expert Group – said all three of Victoria’s latest hotel outbreaks, including the Grand Hyatt, the Park Royal and the Holiday Inn, had “infection control breaches”.

He specifically hit out at the revelation the use of a nebuliser may have been behind the Holiday Inn outbreak.

“Basic infection control procedures have not been followed, and that has resulted in either spread or outbreaks,” Professor Collignon told the publication.

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“Why was someone who needed a nebuliser – someone sick – going to a quarantine hotel instead of a medical hotel? And how come they could use it without anyone noticing?”

Meanwhile, the man at the centre of the nebuliser controversy has also lashed out at the stat government, telling 3AW he hadn’t been contacted by officials to get his side of the story, and that he was left feeling like a criminal after the story broke.

Yesterday, there were three new COVID-19 cases reported in Victoria, including two locally transmitted cases and one in hotel quarantine.

The state government has also revealed Melbourne’s iconic Queen Victoria Market and several tram routes have been added to Victoria’s growing list of public exposure sites.

The health department added four new locations to the tier one venue alerts list on Sunday evening, including the market and the route 11 and 58 trams.

A confirmed case visited the Queen Victoria Market in Queen Street, Melbourne on February 11 between 8.25am and 10.10am.

The cases attended section two – fruit and vegetables – and used the female toilets in section two.

Anyone who visited this section of the market during the same period is required to immediately isolate, get tested and remain isolated for 14 days.



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