Inquiry to probe Vic virus contact tracing

Benita Kolovos
·2-min read

A Victorian parliamentary committee will hold an inquiry into the state's contact tracing system, which struggled to keep up when the second wave of COVID-19 took hold.

The upper house on Wednesday agreed to a motion put forward by the opposition to establish an inquiry into the system, to be carried out by its Legal and Social Issues Committee.

Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said the government's failed hotel quarantine program sparked Victoria's second wave, but it was its contact tracing system that led to widespread community transmission of COVID-19.

"It was those catastrophic failures which have led to this widespread devastation, including 800 people losing their lives," she told reporters outside parliament on Wednesday.

The motion had support from the cross benches and the government, although amendments were made to the committee's reporting timeline.

The committee consists of three Labor MPs, two coalition MPs and two crossbenchers and is headed by Reason Party leader Fiona Patten.

Ms Patten has pledged to be an "independent chair", unencumbered by Labor or Liberal influence.

"We want to ensure that Victoria's contact tracing can be the best it can be going forward," she told AAP.

"Our contact tracing needs to be at the top of its game.

"It is my hope that this inquiry will give the public and business confidence that as we open up, we will stay open."

The committee will consider and monitor the capacity of the state's contact tracing system and testing regime and will consult with doctors, business representatives, the community sector and multicultural groups.

It will provide an initial report to the Legislative Council by November 30, while a final report is due by December 14.

Ms Crozier said it was critical the inquiry was concluded before Christmas.

"Everybody needs the confidence going into this summer period that the contact tracing issues are fixed because the virus is still in the community," she said.

Victorian Greens health spokesman Tim Read said contact tracing was most important when case numbers were low.

"It helps us put out any spot fires so that we can avoid the whole bush going up in flames again. That's why it's critical we get it right this time," Dr Read said.

Health experts have raised concerns over the state's contact tracing system for months.

Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters on Tuesday the state now had the best system in the country.

"I've been pretty frank about weaknesses or critiques in elements of our response right through, but I will say now, I think our case contact and outbreak management is the best in Australia at the moment," he said.

"We've had to step up with really significant requirements. I think this set-up we've got now could do things at scale if required."

The state recorded just two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, following two consecutive days of zero.