Asia Today: Victoria health chief quits in quarantine probe

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An Indian policeman inhales steam at steam stations set up outside the office of the Commissioner of Police as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus in Ahmedabad, India, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. The nation of 1.3 billion people is expected to become the pandemic's worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

MELBOURNE – The health minister in Australia's Victoria state has resigned in the fallout from an inquiry into why security guards were used instead of police or the military at quarantine hotels. Lapses in security at the hotels were given as the major reason for a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

Victoria reported just one more coronavirus death as Melbourne’s new case average continued to fall. The death took the state toll to 782 and the national figure to 870. There were 12 new cases, while Melbourne’s 14-day average fell again on Saturday to 23.6.

Melburnians, who have been in lockdown for more than a month, are waiting for the easing of restrictions on Monday. It's expected to include a staged return to school for some students and outdoor gatherings of five people from two households.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos on Saturday issued a statement confirming her resignation, just a day after Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews gave evidence to the inquiry and pointed partial blame at Mikakos for her role in the bungled quarantine program.

“I am disappointed that my integrity has sought to be undermined,” she wrote in a one-page statement. “I have never shirked my responsibility." She said she also plans to resign from Victoria Parliament.

Mikakos appears to be taking the blame when no one else would. After six weeks of hearings into the hotel inquiry, it was still not known who made the decision to use security guards instead of police or soldiers, which were used in other Australian states.

Andrews, Jobs Minister Martin Pakula and Police Minister Lisa Neville all denied being involved in the decision. Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton, his predecessor Graham Ashton, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and multiple senior public servants also said it wasn’t their decision.

In other developments around the Asia-Pacific region: