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Daily staff testing, no second jobs under Victoria's new medi-hotel regime

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A dedicated agency will oversee Victoria’s new hotel quarantine program, after an outbreak in June led to 800 deaths.

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Premier Daniel Andrews and Police Minister Lisa Neville announced on Monday the establishment of COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) to oversee all elements of the program, restarting on December 7.

It will be led by Corrections Commissioner Emma Cassar, who will directly report to Ms Neville.

The program was suspended in June and an inquiry was called after workers at the Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza hotels contracted COVID-19.

The outbreaks sparked Victoria’s second wave, which resulted in more than 18,000 infections and 800 deaths.

All staff working in the reset program will be employed or directly contracted by CQV with the exception of cleaning staff who are on fixed-term contracts with Alfred Health.

About 300 Victoria Police officers and 220 Australian Defence Force personnel will be embedded in the hotels each day.

All staff involved in the program will be tested daily and they will work in ‘bubbles’ to ensure they only have contact with a limited number of other people.

The premier said no private security guards will be involved in the program.

“There are no private security engaged, only Victoria Police performing those roles as well as ADF,” Andrews said.

“No moonlighting, no second jobs, no subcontracting, because there are no subcontracts, it is all direct and obvious and clear.”

Returned travellers will no longer be able to leave their rooms for fresh air or exercise breaks, while food and care packages from family and friends will no longer be permitted, in an effort to reduce movement.

They will likely have to pay around $3500 per adult for the mandatory two-week stay.

Infectious diseases physician and epidemiologist Professor Ben Cowie has been appointed deputy chief health officer and will lead the management of the program.

Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther from Victoria Police will oversee the force’s expanded role in the program.

The hotel quarantine inquiry has made 69 interim recommendations to improve the program, including allowing some returned travellers to quarantine at home.

The government has accepted or accepted in principle 52 recommendations, with a further 17 recommendations under review.

The home quarantine model has been ruled out by national cabinet.

The inquiry, led by retired judge Jennifer Coate, will hand down its final report by December 21.

-AAP

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