Inquiry into VIC Government’s COVID-19 contact tracing system concludes system was “overwhelmed” from outset

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The Parliament of Victoria’s inquiry into the state’s COVID-19 tracing system during the pandemic has been released – and its findings paint a damning picture.

The report goes into detail about what factors affected the tracing system most, but Victoria’s second wave in June and July was found to have stretched the system to its limit.

The main issues identified were a lack of preparedness, governance culture, financial viability, why the system was overwhelmed, testing criteria, test tracking and communication as a whole.

Many stakeholders said they felt the Victorian Government was ‘reluctant’ to appropriately prepare for the pandemic which led to the response being ‘crisis built’ and reactionary, rather than planned for.

Dr Giuseppe Garra told the inquiry a testing blitz had caused delays in results.

Meanwhile, Dr Tim Read said there was too much faith put into the state’s ‘army of disease detectives’ –even when the epidemic had grown too large to suppress with contract tracing.

Contact tracing is heavily reliant on fast test results but report found that the slow turnaround across the state during the second wave may have resulted in people not self-isolating while awaiting their results.

Another issue the inquiry highlighted was the wide dispersal of essential information across different platforms, which it says ultimately led to some confusion.

The committee was unable to determine if this issue had been “appropriately addressed by the Victorian Government’” and is calling on the Andrews Government to address shortcomings.

It wasn’t until 13 November that the Victorian Government began pilot testing a QR code for contact tracing before signing off on it on 28 November – just over two weeks ago.

However, the inquiry credited Victoria’s lockdown and contact tracing as important factors in eliminating COVID-19 from the community, which has now gone 45 days since a case of community transmission.

One COVID case was recorded in a returned traveller on Monday.