Emails show Brett Sutton frustrated at hotel bungle

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton described “tension” as he realised he’d been excluded from the hotel quarantine program he was legally responsible for.

In emails from April 13 to Euan Wallace, then the Department Secretary, Prof Sutton said it was “astounding” the hotel quarantine program, code named Operation Soteria, had been set up without consulting with him or his deputy, Annaliese van Diemen. The email was published by The Australian.

He said the program had been set up by the State Controller and Emergency Management Victoria.

Prof Sutton continued on that Ms van Diemen had written “the direction so was effectively the ‘maker’ of the entire scheme and has responsibility for it in law.

“There is clearly a disconnect with our EM colleagues, perhaps especially in EMV who understand their role as controller of the scheme and effectively excluded those with significant accountability,” he said.

“That is a source of unease — moral and legal!”

The revelation came on the same day Victoria did the seemingly impossible, and officially eliminated COVID-19 by hitting a major milestone this morning.

It wasn’t long ago, on August 11,  that there were 7880 active cases in the state, but now Victoria has hit 28 days without a single infection.

Epidemiologists say elimination is achieved after 28 days without new infections or mystery cases in the community, but Victoria has gone one better with no infections recorded at all.

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Phoebe Loomes

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton described “tension” as he realised he’d been excluded from the hotel quarantine program he was legally responsible for.

In emails from April 13 to Euan Wallace, then the Department Secretary, Prof Sutton said it was “astounding” the hotel quarantine program, code named Operation Soteria, had been set up without consulting with him or his deputy, Annaliese van Diemen. The email was published by The Australian.

He said the program had been set up by the State Controller and Emergency Management Victoria.

Prof Sutton continued on that Ms van Diemen had written “the direction so was effectively the ‘maker’ of the entire scheme and has responsibility for it in law.

“There is clearly a disconnect with our EM colleagues, perhaps especially in EMV who understand their role as controller of the scheme and effectively excluded those with significant accountability,” he said.

“That is a source of unease — moral and legal!”

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Phoebe Loomes

Text messages exchanged between Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and his Chief of Staff, sent the first night of the bungled hotel quarantine program have been revealed.

The text exchange, published by The Australian, show Mr Andrews asking his staffer Lissie Ratcliff about the hotel quarantine program.

Mr Andrews texted Ms Ratcliffe on March 27, at 8.26pm:

“How are we going on hotels and midnight tomorrow? Do we have many flights tomorrow. Call if you need to.”

Ms Ratfcliffe replied:

“I’ll have updates tonight on
-number of rooms
-transportation guidelines for leaving rooms
-protection for workers
-number of expected arrivals / flights for Sunday.

“It’ll only apply to flights landing after midnight so anyone coming in during the day won’t be caught up.

“Will get you an update as soon as it comes through.”

Mr Andrews said in an affidavit to the Hotel Quarantine Inquiry he did not make the decision to use private security guards at quarantine hotels.

He said he doesn’t have a role in “operational” decisions.


Phoebe Loomes

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has celebrated the state’s 28th day without a new coronavirus case, saying it’s an achievement that belongs to all Victorians.

“28 days of zero cases is a good way to end the week,” he wrote on Twitter.

“It’s been a long, hard slog to get here. Victorians have dug so deep and sacrificed so much.

“And this achievement belongs to every single one of you.

“Have a good one – and stay safe.

“Because that’s how we stay open.”

The 28 day mark is considered a benchmark for essentially eliminating coronavirus by epidemiologists.

The length of time is close to two life cycles of the virus.

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