By: RACHEL BAXENDALE VICTORIAN POLITICAL REPORTER
Close contacts of two students at a Melbourne primary school who tested positive for COVID-19 waited at least 22 days for Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services to tell them they might have been exposed to the virus.
The episode is the latest of numerous examples of the DHHS contact tracing team failing to act with sufficient speed to mitigate spread of COVID-19, and comes as community members in the rural township of Colac, southwest of Melbourne, say they have been left on their own to battle a growing cluster of 12 cases linked to the local abattoir.
Parents at Good Samaritan Catholic Primary School in Roxburgh Park, in Melbourne’s outer north, became dismayed last Thursday, July 16, when they received a letter from principal Paul Sedunary telling them he had been contacted by DHHS the previous day and notified of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the school.
“The cases relate to two children who attended school on the last day of Term 2, 25 June 2020,” Mr Sedunary wrote. “It is unusual to be notified so long after a case was confirmed, but as part of its usual procedures the DHHS will undertake a process of contacting close contacts.”
Asked why it had taken so long for the school to be notified, a DHHS spokesman confirmed the department had been notified of “a positive case from this school on 6 July, who may have been infectious on the final day of the school term on 25 June”.
“An interview was conducted within 48 hours and a request was made to the school for the list of close contacts on 9 July,” the spokesman said.
“We understand there was a delay with the school receiving this request and, as such, the list of close contacts was only received by DHHS on 17 July.
“Once this list was received the relevant texts and emails were sent to the identified close contacts. Our contact tracing team are managing hundreds of cases every day and are making every effort to provide information and advice as soon as practicable.”
No explanation was offered as to who was responsible for the delay in the school receiving the request.
State Liberal MP Richard Riordan, whose electorate covers Colac, where at least 12 cases have been linked to the Australian Lamb Company meatworks, said the success of testing and tracing in the town was all due to local initiative.