Should Victoria’s Department of Health face prosecution over its alleged quarantine failures? public hearing will decide
A hearing is set to begin to determine whether Victoria’s Department of Health will face prosecution over alleged hotel quarantine failures.
Worksafe charged the Department of Health with 58 breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in September 2021 after a 15-month investigation.
More than 40 allegations allege that the department failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the operation of its undertaking .
Another 17 charges allege the department failed to provide and maintain a safe and health-free environment for its employees.
A committal hearing, where a magistrate will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction on the charges, is listed to begin at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Monday.
It is expected to last for five weeks.
The department was responsible for the state’s first hotel quarantine program between March and July 2020.
A judicial inquiry into the program found that 99 per cent of cases in the second wave of COVID-19 in Victoria could be traced to security guards who were infected at the Ridges of the Swanton and Stamford Plaza hotels in May and June 2020.
The second wave resulted in over 18,000 new infections, 800 deaths, and a 112-day lockdown.
Foreign travelers arriving at their quarantine hotels are returning. Source: AAP
WorkSafe alleges that the department has violated occupational health and safety laws by failing to employ people with infection prevention and control expertise in the hotels it uses.
It is also alleged that the department has failed to provide security guards with face-to-face, specialist infection prevention control training and written instructions on how to use personal protective equipment.
WorkSafe alleges that department employees, government employees and security guards were at risk of contracting COVID-19 from an infected passenger, co-worker or contaminated surfaces.
If convicted, the department faces potential total fines of more than $95 million.