New South Wales police requested private security guards be used as “second-tier” security in hotel quarantine, commissioner Mick Fuller has said.
Fuller defended the practice on Wednesday, after nearly 400 people were moved from the Travelodge Wentworth hotel on Tuesday night after police determined the hotel failed to meet the quarantine program’s standards.
Two security guards at the Sydney Harbour Marriott have so far tested positive for Covid-19, and one was fined twice by police for breaching his self-isolation requirements on two occasions.
Related: Australia coronavirus live update: Victoria reports 149 new Covid cases and 24 deaths as NSW records six cases
However, Fuller told reporters on Wednesday that he still had confidence in the hotel quarantine system, even as he admitted some may not be “up to scratch”.
“We are using security guards at our hotels – that was by request of NSW police to the government,” he said.
“[Private] security will remain at the hotels because NSW police asked for them and we still require them …From time to time, we will probably audit them and find security guards that aren’t up to scratch. And they will be removed from the process.”
The commissioner said he was aware of the risk of the virus spreading from hotel quarantine into the community, as had happened in Victoria.
“83,000 shifts of security guards and two positive tests … [But] I get the significance of this, as I know other states, territories and countries have been let down by quarantine. If I felt the security guard aspect was failing, I would put police in there.”
He also told reporters that “every hotel has had a complaint at some stage” in the quarantine process.
“You could go into a five-star hotel and we’ve had people complain,” he said.
Guests at the Travelodge had complained that the hotel had sticky door handles, and they had found hair, toenails and dirt in their rooms, before they were transferred on Tuesday night.
Fuller said roughly 2,000 people had already been housed at the Travelodge, but “complaints rose last week”.
“Certainly last week the volume of complaints was unusual, there was an escalation to a point that the commander made a determination [to move people].”
On Wednesday, NSW recorded six new cases of Covid-19 with five locally acquired with an unknown source of transmission.
Alerts have also been issued for some sites in the Sydney CBD – including the City Tattersalls Fitness Centre on Pitt Street and the 300 George Street building.
Two people who were later diagnosed with Covid-19 attended the fitness centre and one worked at 300 George Street while infectious.
Anyone who attended the fitness centre on 19, 21 or 23 August or 300 George Street on 19, 20, 21 or 24 August should be alert for symptoms and get tested if any develop.
One person also attended the Apple Store in Broadway shopping centre while infections on Saturday 22 August from 3.40pm-4.40pm. Anyone who attended the store at this time should be tested if symptoms develop.
One person who contracted Covid-19 is a trainee bus driver who worked for one day while infectious, and had “a limited number of a passengers”. The chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said the risk to passengers was “very low”.
Related: NSW police fine Sydney hotel security guard twice for allegedly failing to self-isolate after Covid test
On Wednesday, premier Gladys Berejiklian said she “can’t thank the police enough” and backed Fuller’s continued use of private security.
“The state government has two roles when it comes to hotel quarantine,” she said. “Number one: to put the police in charge, number two: to pay the bill.”
She said that NSW was “bearing the lion’s share” of hotel quarantine and doing “more than double” all other states combined in housing returned travellers.
“I wish other states would lift a bit more of the burden,” she said.
Fuller told reporters that he had confidence in the hotel quarantine system and security guards play an important role.
“That is an important part of the operation, but nevertheless they are a second tier of security. They assist with floor security only. The primary role is for police and defence. That will continue.”
Video: NSW Police will remove hotel security that isn’t ‘up to scratch’ (Sky News Australia)