World

Guards slept with people quarantined in Melbourne hotels, say reports

SYDNEY/MELBOURNE: Australian police set up suburban checkpoints in coronavirus hotspots in Melbourne yesterday as reports surfaced that there were security lapses at Melbourne hotels where people were quarantined - including guards sleeping with guests.

Victoria reported 77 new cases, up slightly from the previous day and in line with weeks of double-digit daily increases. Most of the cases are in Melbourne.

More than 1,000 police set up posts around 36 suburbs, which returned to lockdown after a spike in new infections. Police said they were considering using drones to help them.

The state government has also commenced an inquiry into enforcement of hotel quarantine for people returning from overseas amid worries some new infections came from people who had dodged the mandatory two-week isolation.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said yesterday he supported a judicial review into "strong claims of inappropriate behaviour" by guards employed by security companies contracted by Victoria's state government, Bloomberg reported. Authorities should "throw the book" at those responsible if the allegations are true, he told Sky news.

CONCERNED

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a televised news conference: "I'm obviously concerned about the outbreak, and I'm pleased that the premier has taken the action he's taken by putting in place the lockdown for the outbreak in those suburbs.

"We have seen some levelling (in new cases) although they remain at elevated levels and that is of concern and that means as the lockdown now is in place, we would hope to see those numbers fall again."

Victoria police commissioner Shane Patton promised a heavy presence in "high-volume public places" and said police may even use drones to track down people travelling for reasons other than work, school, healthcare and grocery shopping.

"People will not know where we will be, they will not know how long we'll be there for, but they'll be intercepted," he said.

Australia has fared better than many countries in the pandemic, with around 8,000 cases and 104 deaths. However, the recent jump in Victoria has stoked fears of a second wave, echoing concerns expressed in other countries. - REUTERS

WORLD