Why did Vic Premier refuse to release COVID-19 data?
So now it's official: the Andrews Government has known for three months that people working at the Rydges on Swanston hotel had been infected with COVID-19 by quarantined guests.
Department of Health and Human Services epidemiologist Dr Charles Alpren spelled it out at the hotel inquiry, saying the department received the first report of genomic analysis linking an infected staff member with infected guests back on May 30, and followed up with weekly reports and teleconferences all through June.
"These revealed that all sequenced cases that shared epidemiological links to the Rydges Hotel outbreak clustered together,'' Dr Alpren said.
Yet for months, Premier Daniel Andrews refused to release this data to the public, insisting it belonged the Doherty Institute, and wasn't his to share. His Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton backed him up on this claim.
In fact, the hotel inquiry chaired by former judge Jennifer Coate was told there was a data-sharing arrangement between the Doherty Institute and the DHHS which allows information to be shared for public heath purposes. The Premier insisted again yesterday that he was only made aware of the genomic testing on the day he called the inquiry, June 30.
Interestingly, the Premier's media release that day says: "As a result of genomic testing, the Chief Health Officer has today advised the Government that a number of our cases through late May and early June can be linked to an infection control breach in the hotel quarantine program.''
If Mr Andrews really did only find out "today'', (on June 30), someone will need to explain why the data, known to the DHHS, was kept from him for a month.
With more than 15,000 people infected and 300 dead in Victoria's second wave, Jennifer Coate's hotel quarantine inquiry can judge whether that was an acceptable delay.
Mr Andrews' insistence that Australian Defence Force support was not on offer to help with enforcing hotel quarantine is also fraying, with the head of the ADF's COVID-19 task force, Lieutenant General John Frewen, telling the Senate "broad-reaching support'' was offered, and 100 personnel put on standby for Victoria.
Originally published as Why did Premier refuse to release COVID-19 data?