Claims Victoria scaled back coronavirus contact tracing as cases soared
Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews has denied scaling back contact tracing efforts as coronavirus spread into Melbourne communities.
9News has confirmed with sources very close to the operation that efforts were reduced in May and June as authorities thought were on top of the virus and were close to eliminating it.
But by late May, the Rydges Hotel Quarantine outbreak had been identified.
Three weeks later the Stamford Plaza outbreak had taken off.
READ MORE: Victoria's darkest day after 15 fatalities and 725 new cases
Both hotel quarantine programs were operated by contracted and sub-contracted security guards.
The program is now the subject of an independent inquiry in Victoria.
Sources told 9News contact tracers were too reliant on businesses like abattoirs, doing their own contact tracing.
9News has been told the failings in the system were "catastrophic" and "worse than the hotel quarantine program".
Asked if he had scaled back resources in late May-June, Premier Daniel Andrews said: "No, that team is a very big team, it's growing steadily as cases have grown".
"We've always had people in reserve. If it has to grow further, it will."
But 9News can reveal by mid-June there were 57 tracers, but that grew to 2,000 by the end of July.
READ MORE: Victorian travellers entering NSW must undergo 14-day hotel quarantine
Many call handlers were brought in from Qantas, Telstra, Jetstar and Medibank.
Since June 9 the number of coronavirus cases has exploded by more than 10,600 with another 128 deaths added to the toll.
In New South Wales in the same time frame, they have had six outbreaks all from Victoria, but 695 cases and two deaths.
Today NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian praised her tracing team's "absolutely meticulous detective work which has been able to keep NSW in the position we're in."
Last month the Prime Minister indicated the federal government had identified problems with Victoria's model of operation, and he heaped praised on NSW.
"You don't protect your economy by continually shutting things down. That's what you have to do when things get to the point they have in Victoria," he said.
"But you can continue to move forward in the way that New South Wales is demonstrating by building that capability for tracing, for testing and so on.
"This is why the tracing is so important. And to have the capability not just to make the calls and to trace the calls and but it is also to ensure that the way that workload is managed is appropriately tasking all the resources there to make sure you keep up to date with it.
"And so, the key defence as we move forward is to ensure that you have the testing and the isolation of those cases that are positive and the prompt tracing of all those cases.
"New South Wales has done incredibly well on that on the Crossroads case in recent days and I think that will have prevented the flow on, potentially, of other cases that could arise."
Commodore Mark Hill is overseeing an ADF Response in Victoria, which now involves more than 1,500 troops.
The country's Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel is working with Victoria to help it bolster tracing capability.
You can get up-to-date information from the Federal Government's Coronavirus Australia app, available on the App Store, Google Play and the Government's WhatsApp channel.
Beyond Blue's Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service is a 24/7 service free of charge to all Australians. Visit the site here or call 1800512348
For coronavirus breaking news alerts and livestreams straight to your smartphone sign up to the 9News app and set notifications to on at the App Store or Google Play.
Sign up to our breaking 9News newsletter here.