Police set up checkpoints across Melbourne as quarantine hotel sex scandal linked to virus outbreak

Giovanni Torre
·3-min read
Police pull vehicles aside at a checkpoint in the locked-down suburb of Broadmeadows in Melbourne - WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images
Police pull vehicles aside at a checkpoint in the locked-down suburb of Broadmeadows in Melbourne - WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images

Police have set up checkpoints across Melbourne staffed by 1,000 police officers, as a scandal grew over a claim that a guard in one of the city's quarantine hotels broke basic rules by having sex with a resident.

The details emerged as workers at the hotels blew the whistle on practices they say have fuelled the state of Victoria's second wave of Covid-19 cases.

The hotels were used to isolate people who had arrived in the state for two weeks in a bid to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Victoria, whose capital is Melbourne, recorded 77 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday morning, the 16th consecutive day of double-digit increases.

On Thursday a security guard at one of Melbourne’s quarantine hotels claimed he had been given “five minutes' training” before being put to work in a situation he described as “horrendous”.

The guard broke a non-disclosure agreement to tell the Nine Network that management of the crisis was a “money-making exercise” for companies.

The Stamford Plaza has been linked to 31 cases
The Stamford Plaza has been linked to 31 cases

Kazim Shah, the United Workers Union organiser, claimed security companies were using sub-contractors with no experience at several quarantine hotels, often at the same time, which potentially spread the virus. Mr Khan also said PPE was in short supply.

A spokesperson for the Victorian Government told the network that all staff at quarantine hotels were required by the service agreement with the security companies to “undertake regular infection control training”.

On Tuesday, Daniel Andrews, the state premier, announced an inquiry into the hotel quarantine scheme after claims contract workers had not followed protocols.

He had previously revealed that a number of cases in late May and early June could be linked to “an infection control breach in the hotel quarantine program”.

On Thursday an allegation emerged that at least one of the contracted guards had had sex with one of the quarantined people.

Thirty-one cases have been linked to Melbourne's Stamford Plaza hotel, where Mr Khan said sub-contractors are “definitely” used, while other infections have been linked to the Rydges.

Troy Cuthbertson, the group general manager of Rydges Hotels, said in a statement that Rydges on Swanston has been closed to guests since 27 March 2020 and has been operating under the direction of the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and the Department of Health and Human Services as a quarantine hotel.

“Rydges on Swanston has had no involvement in the hiring of security personnel and is fully supportive of the Judicial Inquiry into the Hotel Quarantine Program,” he said.

Addressing the sex claims Greg Hunt, Australia's Minister for Health, told Channel Seven news station: "If those statements are true, that would be completely and utterly unacceptable."

Infectious people have reportedly left Melbourne's hotel system and travelled to other parts of the country.

Watch the video below

One man who tested positive for Covid-19, was reportedly released from quarantine, travelled to Sydney and worked at a Woolworths in Balmain while displaying persistent symptoms.

On Thursday morning some 300,000 residents of Melbourne awoke under lockdown again. The restrictions have been imposed on 36 suburbs identified as Covid-19 hot spots.

More than 1,000 police, including elite units, are patrolling the streets of the zone, with drones surveilling areas to ensure locals comply with the new orders.

New Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said officers from the critical incident response team, mounted branch and highway patrols would join frontline officers in patrolling the suburbs for 24 hours a day .

Victoria Police will use automatic number plate recognition technology to scan drivers' cars to identify anyone travelling to or from the restricted areas.

Drivers are being asked at checkpoints to show their licences and explain where they are going and why. Residents of the restricted suburbs can only leave their homes for work, study, care duties or essential shopping and face fines of A$1,652 (£917) for breaching restrictions.