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Bureaucrats leading Melbourne’s hotel quarantine disaster boast about slowing coronavirus spread

A leaked video has emerged of bureaucrats congratulating themselves over Melbourne’s hotel quarantine program which eventually sparked a second deadly outbreak of coronavirus.

The bungled quarantine program is now subject to an independent inquiry after a series of failings contributed to a new wave of infections, as Victoria recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic on Monday.

The eight-and-half-minute video starring Global Victoria bureaucrats in charge of the program was filmed and shown to government staff in April, a month after the federal government first ordered returned travellers to quarantine in hotels.

Bureaucrats in the footage obtained by the Herald Sun described the program as a ‘massive inbound super trade mission’, set up within just 24 hours of the federal government’s announcement.

Since then, Melbourne’s outbreak has led to a draconian stage four lockdown, after the virus is believed to have leaked out of the botched quarantine program in hotels.

It starts with Global Victoria chief Gonul Serbest describing the program as a challenging but exciting initiative to be involved in. 

‘It’s been a really interesting and complex project but something that I think we will look back and really think about as something that’s been really rewarding,’ Ms Serbest boasts in the video.

‘And the fact that we have been able to help slow the spread of coronavirus makes us feel really proud of the work we have been doing.’

Around 6,000 returned travellers had been quarantined in 16 Melbourne hotels at the time of the video filmed two months before Victoria’s daily rate started to spike.

Global Victoria is a Victorian government agency, hailed as the state’s gateway to ‘global economies and communities’.

‘What make Global Victoria staff so suited to this is that when you talk about trade, it’s about relationships,’ Ms Serbest explains

‘We’ve been able to really lean in and use the passionate empathy that the Global Victoria team has to be able to provide a really great service to all of those people who are going through quarantine.’

The video then throws to staff involved in in the program ‘to provide colour and movement of people on the ground’.

‘The biggest challenge for this project was setting up the project initially,’ Global Victoria trade director Paul Stagg recalled.

‘On Saturday (March 28) Global Victoria and many other people throughout JPR (Department of Jobs, Precincts and Resources) received a call and by the early hours of Sunday we were accepting people into hotels.’ 

Global Victoria director Kate Cini showed off a warehouse packed with boxes of toys to keep young quarantined guests occupied during their two weeks confined in a hotel room.

Bureaucrats from other governments departments were also involved, including Agriculture Victoria critical infrastructure principal advisor Simon Debenham.

He was responsible for liaising with supermarkets to ensure quarantine guests had personal and sanitary products.

‘The biggest challenge has been making sure that there’s an adequate supply of essential items across a growing number of hotels being used,’ Mr Debenham explained in the video.

No one has been been held accountable the bungled hotel quarantine program that sparked Victoria’s coronavirus disaster.

Opposition government waste spokesman James Newbury claims the video ‘proves the Premier has been lying and knew for months who left the quarantine door open’.

‘Victorians have tragically died and thousands are sick because of the government’s failure. The Premier needs to stop lying and covering up,’ he told the Herald Sun.

Premier Daniel Andrews has promised to ‘own’ the errors of the quarantine fiasco – but couldn’t answer crucial questions about it when grilled by reporters last week. 

He will front a parliamentary committee on Tuesday over his government’s handling of the pandemic. 

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