A superspreader who carried the virus from Melbourne to regional Victoria, infecting communities along the way, was allowed to falsify accounts of his trip because authorities did not utilise powers available to them.
A Melbourne truckie linked to the Chadstone cluster visited Kilmore, Benalla and Shepparton, authorities said today.
He told the Department of Health and Human Services’ contact tracing officers that he visited Kilmore but did not reveal his trip to Shepparton.
Three people have been infected with COVID-19 in Shepparton and there are fears the virus could spread throughout the community.
DHHS’ Jeroen Weimar said the man’s lies prevented authorities from reacting to the Shepparton cluster sooner.
Speaking at today’s press conference, Mr Weimar said the positive case failed to admit his Shepparton stop for two weeks.
“We should have been told about the Shepparton connection that he had made,” he said.
“Had we known about that, we would have done in Shepparton what we did in Kilmore and Benalla, which was to jump on all this and the contacts a week earlier.”
As contact tracers work overtime to track the potential spread of the virus, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton says powers available to him were not used.
He said authorities could have demanded the truckie hand over phone data revealing where he went, but instead they took him at his word.
“We rely on people to tell the truth,” Prof Sutton said.
When pressed about whether there was more that could have been done, he admitted: “There are powers in the Public Health and Wellbeing Act for me to request information, demand information for the purpose of assessing a public health risk and I will consider that in circumstances where that might not be forthcoming.”
Premier Daniel Andrews said the truck driver had been referred to police who would take the appropriate action.
“You don’t get in trouble if you tell the full story, I want to make that clear to people,” the Premier said. “You potentially do get into trouble if you don’t.
“By trouble, I am not just talking about a fine but there are infections in Shepparton today that we know of and there is almost certainly going to be more that were all completely preventable if this individual had told the full story. He wouldn’t have got into trouble for telling the whole story.
“It is only when you don’t that we all have problems. We all have a challenge that is greater than it should be.”