Australia’s Chief Scientist has commended Victoria for making “enormous” improvements to its contact tracing system during the coronavirus pandemic.
As the state grappled with its second wave, it was criticised for being too slow to identify and notify people who may have crossed paths with a positive coronavirus case.
In recent weeks however Victoria has expanded its approach by advising close contacts of close contacts connected to key outbreaks to get tested for COVID-19 and self-isolate.
Dr Alan Finkel has been advising the State Government since August on modernising and digitising its processes.
“Improvements have been manifest across all of the system,” the Chief Scientist told Senate Estimates.
He said efficiencies and improvements had been made in workforce training and a shift from paper-based forms to fully digital processes.
“I can say with great confidence that the resources and personnel being applied to that task are significant, really substantial.
“The focus on improving the end-to-end process so cases don’t get lost in the system, so everyone gets followed up with minimal confusion as efficiently as possible — I’d say the effort being applied is enormous.”
Dr Finkel indicated that Victoria was achieving his target of notifying close contacts within 48 hours.
“I’m very comfortable with the performance of Victoria against that target,” he said.
When asked by Liberal senator James Patterson if Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton was right to claim that the state’s contact tracing system was the best in the country, Dr Finkel replied: “It’s not incorrect.”
“We need some more weeks of testing the system because it’s all very new, but by design and implementation it is very impressive,” Dr Finkel said.
Premier Daniel Andrews also insists the program is of a high standard.
Earlier on Tuesday, Victoria’s Parliament voted to establish an inquiry to assess if the state’s contact tracing system can cope in the event of another outbreak.
The inquiry will be chaired by Reason Party MP Fiona Patten and is set to report back to the Parliament by November 30.
Ms Patten said the terms of reference of the probe were focused on the current system and how it could be improved.
“So this inquiry is specifically going to look at Victoria’s contact tracing and not so much what we’ve done in the past but what we’re doing now and to ensure it’s the best system for Victoria,” Ms Patten said.
“I think certainly there hasn’t been great confidence in our contact tracing in Victoria. I believe everybody would accept that it’s improved enormously in recent times.
“But this inquiry I hope will provide that confidence and assuredness to community and to business that we can open and continue to stay open.”