Coronavirus-hit Melbourne supermarket alarmed by silence from contact tracers

| 14.08,20. 01:47 AM |

Coronavirus-hit Melbourne supermarket alarmed by silence from contact tracers

Fifteen other staff members went into isolation, but all returned negative results.(Supplied)

When supermarket owner Tina Reddrop learned the partner of a staff member had COVID-19, she took no chances.

"We asked her to immediately get tested," Ms Reddrop said.

"Members of staff who were in contact with her were also asked to self-isolate and get tested."

The businesswoman had seen other workplaces across Melbourne quickly transformed into hotbeds of coronavirus transmission.

Her Werribee Supa IGA store is in the Wyndham local government area, which has seen about 1,700 cases of the virus.

She was determined the outlet would not become the next major cluster.

"We have a sophisticated time-recording system that could tell us all the employees that worked with that person," she said.

"We took all of those employees and questioned all of them."

Days later, on Saturday August 1, the vigilance was vindicated — the staff member joined her partner in testing positive for COVID-19.

Ms Reddrop promised the young manager and 15 other staff members their full pay during their whole period in quarantine.

"From a financial standpoint, it was a pretty big hit," she said.

"We're looking at paying tens of thousands of dollars for them to have done the right thing."

'It's just moving too quickly'

Ms Reddrop thought contact tracing officials would quickly be in touch to gather details about the woman's colleagues and any customers she spent time with.

But almost two weeks on, she says those disease detectives have not been in touch.

Victoria's workplace safety authority also took longer than expected to respond after she submitted a COVID-19 notification.

"The fact that I waited five days for WorkSafe to contact me, and still haven't heard from [contact tracers], I find disturbing," she said.

"I don't believe that you can rely on the Government to direct you. It's just moving too quickly.

"Having said that, I also understand that they are short-staffed as no one's prepared for a pandemic."

Ms Reddrop was also concerned after some testing centres turned away staff because they were not showing symptoms, forcing them to visit different fever clinics.

The Victorian health department declined to answer specific questions about why contact tracers did not speak with the business operator.

But in a statement, a spokesman said: "It’s important to remember that not everyone who believes they may have been exposed will meet the clinical definition of a close contact."

"Our public health team will be in contact with people identified as a close contact during the interview process — usually within 48 hours.

"Close contacts are followed up as soon as possible, either via phone calls or text messages."

WorkSafe Victoria said it had received almost 1,600 coronavirus notifications between July 28 and Wednesday.

"WorkSafe triages employer notifications to ensure responses to workplaces at high risk of outbreaks are prioritised," a spokesman said.

The Reddrop Group owns more than a dozen supermarkets across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Ms Reddrop said the family-owned business implemented safety measures towards the start of the pandemic, including cleaning supermarkets at least three times daily.

Staff have also been told to avoid conversations with customers, where possible.

All other staff at the Werribee store have since tested negative for the virus.


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