Victoria's contact tracing will be probed

Benita Kolovos
·2-min read

A parliamentary inquiry into Victoria's coronavirus contact tracing system will hold public hearings next week, with the nation's chief scientist among those set to appear as witnesses.

The Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee will hold hearings online on Monday and Wednesday.

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel will give evidence on Wednesday, as will Cedar Meats owner Tony Kairouz.

The abattoir was the site of the largest outbreak of Victoria's first wave and put the spotlight on the state's contact tracing system.

Leading epidemiologists Catherine Bennett and Mary-Louise McLaws are also due to appear before the inquiry.

They have been critical of the state's contact tracing system, describing it as centralised and out of step with other states.

Contact tracing staff were reportedly forced to use pens, paper and fax machines as the state's second wave took hold.

The government has since overhauled its system by establishing suburban response teams and recruiting tech giant Salesforce to provide a digitised system.

Former Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and the state's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton do not appear on the witness list.

Committee chair Fiona Patten said the inquiry wants to ensure Victoria has the best possible systems in place so the state can stay open.

"During our hearings we will be speaking with a wide cross-section of people, including business representatives, infectious diseases experts, companies providing information technology and workforce solutions, medical and legal professionals, community sector representatives and health services," the Reason Party MP said in a statement on Friday.

"We want to find out about their experiences with the contact tracing and testing that has been undertaken and hear their views on any improvements that may be needed."

Her comments come as the state recorded its 14th consecutive day with no new cases or deaths.

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

The inquiry is separate to a judicial probe by retired judge Jennifer Coate into Victoria's botched hotel quarantine system.

Victoria's second COVID-19 wave, which led to more than 18,000 new infections and 800 deaths, began with staff outbreaks at the Rydges and Stamford Plaza quarantine hotels.