BUNGLE: Shock pics inside nightmare VIC hotels

 

The shocking conditions inside Melbourne's quarantine hotels have been revealed as a fresh probe into the bungled hotel system gets underway.

A Four Corners investigation on Monday lifted the lid on "dirty" conditions and risky practices reported by guests and guards inside the quarantine hotels as it examined the conditions that lead to Victoria's deadly second COVID-19 wave.

Two inquiries are examining the role of Melbourne's quarantine hotels in the explosion of community transmission in the state, which has seen 17,027 confirmed cases and 334 virus deaths.

Christine Cocks is an oncology nurse and infection control expert who stayed at the Rydges on Swanston in April after she returned to Australia from an overseas trip on the Greg Mortimer cruise ship.

She told Four Corners conditions within the hotel room were "dirty" and that guards were not adequately protected while on duty.

"When we arrived in our room and saw the fine layer of dust across the top of the bar and the shelves there, and the dirty table, the dirty desk, across the top of the bar, we had a feeling that things might not have been as clean as we were expecting of the whole situation and that the handling might not be up to what it should have been," she said.

 

RELATED: Follow the latest coronavirus updates

RELATED: Hotel quarantine's key COVID-19 mystery solved

A stained mattress in one of the rooms used by returned travellers in quarantine. Picture: Four Corners
A stained mattress in one of the rooms used by returned travellers in quarantine. Picture: Four Corners

"Some people had stains on their sheets, as if the sheets were dirty. There were a couple of rooms that had bedbugs. Another person said that there was faeces in the toilet that hadn't been flushed and urine splattered on the floor around the toilet that she had to clean."

Ms Cocks told the program she was also concerned about guards, working for private security companies, being potentially exposed to the virus.

"The guards that didn't have their gowns on [but] would be wearing gloves and masks. But that doesn't necessarily protect you," she said.

"If you rub your face with a gloved hand and then after the glove is off, you scratch again, put it in your mouth, near your nose - you're away. There goes your infection.

"It takes a mindset and an education to understand the nuances of non-transfer of pathogens."

 

Conditions inside a quarantine hotel. Picture: Four Corners
Conditions inside a quarantine hotel. Picture: Four Corners

 

Stains on hotel bedding. Picture: Four Corners
Stains on hotel bedding. Picture: Four Corners

 

Three major private security companies - Unified Security, MSS and Wilson Security - were contracted by the Victorian government to guard returned travellers during 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine.

In stunning video and photographs obtained by Four Corners, guests staying at an undisclosed hotel filmed unidentified guards employed working for Unified Security sleeping on the job.

Unified Security said the guards photographed sleeping have been fired.

Four Corners also spoke to a guard at one of the quarantine hotels who revealed his shock at the inadequate training and protective equipment on the job.

Despite his crucial role in helping to contain any possible cases from returned travellers, the guard, Peter - who spoke to Four Corners on the condition of anonymity - said he had "no training whatsoever" prior to starting work at the Novotel on Collins in April, saying everything he knew about the virus he'd learnt "from television".

 

Guests who stayed at the Rydges on Swanston street claim the conditions were ‘dirty’. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images.
Guests who stayed at the Rydges on Swanston street claim the conditions were ‘dirty’. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images.

He said he felt unsafe in the hotel because quarantine guests were ushered past him while going to their rooms without masks or protective equipment.

"Acceptable means there's only two feet difference between us and the guests who were walking through the corridors, who arrived from international, that want to go to their rooms," he said.

"So, there is not much social distancing, no proper training. I have a family waiting for me at home. I don't wanna pass this disease to them."

Unified Security said all guards received infection control training but Four Corners spoke to multiple guards who said that wasn't the case.

Concerns were raised about Melbourne's hotel quarantine program in May when a staff member who worked in the lobby at Rydges on Swanston Street tested positive to COVID-19, quickly followed by five more guards at the hotel.

More guards sleep outside hotel rooms in Melbourne. Picture: Four Corners/ABC
More guards sleep outside hotel rooms in Melbourne. Picture: Four Corners/ABC

Then in June, a guard working for MSS Security at Melbourne's Stamford Plaza tested positive for COVID-19, and five more guards at that hotel tested positive two days later.

Peter, who worked for Unified Security through a subcontractor, told Four Corners he "wasn't surprised" to hear out of the quarantine breach at the hotels.

"The way they was running, they're running very awful," he said (sic).

"Inside the rooms … It's like live bacteria, and people who are there aren't with proper equipment. And most of people who are working there, they've got another jobs. So I wasn't surprised we are at this stage now."

Ms Cocks said she was similarly unsurprised by news of the outbreaks.

"The reaction … was, 'Well, I'm not surprised'," she said.

"I don't think any one person or group can be singled out as being responsible for the spread of COVID that started in Rydges. I think it's a whole maze of issues where everything has just lined up to allow this to happen."

Two inquiries are examining the role of the bungled hotel quarantine scheme in Victoria's second wave of infections, which led to stricter virus measures across the state, and put Melbourne under a brutal stage four lockdown.

A parliamentary inquiry is looking at the role of hotel quarantine as part of the state's wider COVID-19 response, while on Monday, a public inquiry began into hotel quarantine specifically. Counsel Assisting, Tony Neal QC, confirmed the evidence over the next two days will reveal more about how the current outbreak can be traced back to overseas travellers quarantined in hotels.

RELATED: Key quarantine mystery answered

Two inquiries are probing Victoria’s hotel quarantine program. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty
Two inquiries are probing Victoria’s hotel quarantine program. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Geraghty

 

He said the fundamental question to be examined by the board of inquiry was who was running and who was accountable for the program.

Unified Security, the company contracted by Rydges Hotel, have hired a lawyer to appear before the inquiry.

Rydges and Melbourne Hotel Group are also legally represented along with a number of government departments.

The hotel quarantine system did not include a frontline role for the Australian Defence Force nor Victoria Police, with the state government instead deciding to engage private security firms to guard the hotel occupants.

The inquiry will seek to answers questions like who was actually running and accountable for the program, as well as what would have made it work better, whether staff had appropriate access to personal protective equipment, and how the "huge demand" of a 14-day, 24/7 quarantine affected the people who were detained and those guarding them.

The full investigation, titled The Second Wave, is available on ABC's iview

Originally published as Shock pics inside nightmare VIC hotels

Quarantined guest Christine Cocks was concerned by conditions in the hotel. Picture: Four Corners
Quarantined guest Christine Cocks was concerned by conditions in the hotel. Picture: Four Corners
A guard was filmed asleep outside a hotel door. Picture: Four Corners/ABC
A guard was filmed asleep outside a hotel door. Picture: Four Corners/ABC

Hinterland walkers told to take a hike for their own safety

Premium Content Hinterland walkers told to take a hike for their own safety

Section of wildlife corridor closed to hikers due to ‘significant safety issue’.

Surfers, lifesavers ‘best efforts’ not enough to save mother

Premium Content Surfers, lifesavers ‘best efforts’ not enough to save mother

Young woman was unable to be saved at Coolum Beach despite efforts

One new virus case in Queensland

Premium Content One new virus case in Queensland

Deputy Premier to update state's COVID case total