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A senior Victorian health official has admitted he underestimated the role that contaminated objects played in the state’s Covid-19 outbreaks in hotel quarantine.
Dr Simon Crouch, a senior medical advisor to the health department, told the state’s inquiry into hotel quarantine that fomite transmission – when diseases are passed on via objects – played a “larger role” than initially thought.
Crouch was the team leader of outbreak management for the Rydges and Stamford hotel outbreaks in Melbourne.
As of 1 May, Crouch wrote that fomite transmission was “not a significant source of transmission for local outbreaks”, the inquiry heard. But on Tuesday, he told the inquiry he had revised that opinion.
“This was prior to the Rydges [outbreak] and the experience of the Rydges and Stamford hotels has changed my opinion on that more,” he said.
“As of 1 May, I was aware fomite transmission was a possibility … but we didn’t have much evidence from the cases and outbreaks we had seen at that point in Victoria that it had played a significant role.
“However, since then, it does appear that fomite transmission plays a larger role than I would have given it credit at that point.”
The inquiry also heard Crouch did not know “the precise manner” in which the outbreak squads at the two hotels managed it on the ground, despite him being the coordinator of both.
The counsel assisting the inquiry, Ben Ihle, asked him: “How is that you have said in your statement that you are not aware of the precise manner in which the squad performs its functions or the protocols under which they operate?”
Crouch said that the broad protocols were known, but that the “fine details” of what the squad did “on the ground” was under another coordinator and not within his remit.
“You, as the outbreak management team leader, were not aware of the precise manner in which the squad performs its functions, and you do not know, for example, the protocols under which they operate,” Ihle said.
Earlier on Tuesday, it was revealed a hotel quarantine guest had allegedly entered a convenience store outside their hotel. Victoria police tendered documents they had been sent, including photographs, that appeared to show guests leaving their facilities at the Pan Pacific Melbourne in South Wharf.
The Victoria police commander, Tim Tully, was sent multiple emails by a former police officer who raised concerns about how private security was managing hotel quarantine at the Pan Pacific.
One email from 15 April stated: “Nigel and Tim. We have got the quarantined people out again this morning. One has tried to enter a convenience store on-site.”
The former officer also sent through multiple photos that allegedly showed the breaches.
The inquiry continues.
Source: The Guardian
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