Text messages sent in error during lockdown

Victoria’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has been thrown into question once again after a “data entry error” resulted in self-isolating people being told they could leave quarantine early.

Text messages were sent to recipients being monitored digitally while in quarantine over the weekend.

One recipient was a Melbourne woman whose partner had tested positive to COVID-19 on Wednesday. She was told to isolate but a text message advised her she was free to leave her home.

A spokeswoman for Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services sent a statement to news.com.au after the bungle was exposed.

“This was an inadvertent data entry error and we apologise for any confusion,” the statement read.

The department did not to respond to a question about how many people were sent text messages in error or whether a correction had been sent to those recipients.

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“The department is issuing multiple automated messages at different times of the day to thousands of people who may be at different stages of their isolation periods,” the spokeswoman said.

“Anyone who is concerned about receiving messages which appear inconsistent should call the coronavirus helpline on 1800 675 398.”

The Herald Sun, which first reported the error, spoke with a woman who was ordered into quarantine on Wednesday.

“Straight away I thought, this is a mistake, something has gone wrong here,” she said of receiving the message.

The timing could not be worse for a government trying desperately to recover from serious mistakes made in hotel quarantine.

It was revealed in early July that private security guards tasked with overseeing the Andrews Government’s hotel quarantine program had taken overseas arrivals out shopping and, according to several reports, engaged in sexual activity with some of those in their care.

Several cases have since been linked to outbreaks at both the Rydges Hotel and the Stamford Plaza Hotel.

Kazim Shah from the United Workers Union said the use of private subcontractors without medical training to run the system meant many saw it as a “money-making” exercise and staff were not properly trained or given personal protective equipment (PPE).

“What happened was that the work was given to security companies which was then subleased to subcontractors where there was cost-cutting happening and they were making money out of this,” he explained to the ABC.

“There was no training provided to these security guards which were placed in these hotels which have very highly infectious disease [in them].”

He said some staff were given five minutes briefing and told their job was to simply stop people leaving the lobby. Others were given just one mask and a pair of gloves for the day.

Many of the guards were too inexperienced to know better.

“What I believe what should have been done is they have medical professionals on the sites where 24/7 they were giving medical advice and instructions,” he said.

“If proper experienced guards were working, they would have flagged all these issues.”

The comments come as another security guard known only as Sam, who had been working across the quarantine hotels for the past two months, told Nine staff were told to avoid self-isolating.

“When I knew that there was positive cases in the hotel I have asked them, do I need to go for a test or something? And they said no, no, no don’t worry, don’t stress because we need people, so if you (go) for a test they will ask you to self-isolate, so don’t go, we will let you know when to go for a test,” he said.

with Ally Foster

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