COVID contact tracing, Health Department 'shambles' for these Victorians amid reopening

David Murray said he learned of the COVID-19 outbreak through the media. (Supplied)

David Murray attended what he believed to be a COVID-safe country music event at the Hamilton Golf Club in western Victoria on November 14, an event that has since spawned a cluster of 31 cases as of Thursday.

The day after the event, Mr Murray visited his wife in an aged care home near Ararat.

More than a week later, he found out through a friend that the event he had attended had turned into a coronavirus outbreak.

He learned about the outbreak through the media. 

"I was horrified," Mr Murray said. 

"I thought it was all safe. But when I found out [about the exposure] and hadn't been told after more than nine days that the virus was there … it was upsetting."

Despite a continual rise in case numbers from the Hamilton Country Music event, Mr Murray is yet to be contacted by authorities about the outbreak. 

"I'm just horrified that I wasn't notified."

The Hamilton Country Music Club event was held for fully vaccinated patrons only, but has turned into a COVID cluster (Supplied)

Mr Murray tried to get in contact with authorities for health advice but, after multiple calls, he gave up.

He described it as "basically impossible" to get the right information from the right authority.

"If I was notified straight away I would have done something … but I wasn't," he said.

The Victorian government was asked about the contact tracing process after Mr Murray's experience.

A spokesperson did not answer the questions directly, instead pointing to a previous release from Premier Daniel Andrews: 

"Exposure sites will no longer be published. Instead, the [Health] Department will use the new alert function in the Service Victoria app to notify patrons of higher-risk venues where positive cases have been present such as restaurants, gyms, and nightclubs, and advise them to get tested," the statement read.

"Individuals who test positive are strongly recommended to tell the social contacts they have spent time with and encourage them to get tested. The department will not trace or manage these contacts."

Mr Murray has since tested negative to the virus. 

Tradie incorrectly placed at exposure site

It is one of a number of concerns that are being raised about failings with the contact tracing system.

In September, Jonathan Slocombe received a call from Victoria's Department of Health telling him he had been at an exposure site.

The only problem is he was not there.

"I was so confused," Mr Slocombe said. 

Tradie Jonathan Slocombe says he received conflicting health advice.  (Supplied)

Mr Slocombe had taken a COVID-19 test five days prior to receiving the message, purely as a precaution. 

His boss told everyone the business would close for a few days due to one of the worksites becoming an exposure site.

Mr Slocombe described the call from a Health Department staff member as confusing and unhelpful.

"When I questioned it she said I'd have to speak to her manager," he said.

"So, her manager would call me back to clear me of isolation.

After being told he needed to isolate for 14 days, due to being at an exposure site, he contacted his boss who informed him he had not been at the worksite in question and did not need to isolate.

The contact tracers had told his boss he was clear to go back to work due to his negative result.

But he was getting text messages from the Department of Health every day, instructing him to isolate.

"It confused me even more … every message I got said something different," he said.

"I wasn't sure who to listen to."

Mr Slocombe says he spent three days calling authorities to clarify if he needed to isolate or not.  (Supplied)

Seeking clarification, the 25-year-old tradie spent hours on the phone trying to get through to the department or coronavirus hotline but was unsuccessful in getting someone on the phone to clarify the isolation advice.

"I spent three hours each day on the phone," he said.

"It seemed like a bit of a circus."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said contact tracing in Victoria was consistently exceeding national benchmarks for performance.

"Over 97 per cent of close contacts are contacted within 48 hours," the spokesperson said.

"We remind every Victorian that getting tested — and getting tested as quickly as possible when symptoms appear — is critical to a rapid public health response."

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