A former Melbourne-based chef has made shocking claims about the ACT's lax hotel quarantine regime, including that ACT Health didn't know he was in mandatory isolation until he contacted them five days after landing in the nation's capital.
ACT Health has confirmed that the traveller flew under the radar because of a human error during the process of transferring information into its contact tracing system.
Health said it was an isolated incident and was confident it would not happen again.
Speaking on the Dirty Linen food podcast, Mark Glenn detailed his experience of relocating from Melbourne to Canberra, where he had taken up a job at Pialligo Estate.
After completing the "pretty laborious" task of obtaining a permit to leave Victoria, Mr Glenn said he was surprised at the lack of screening when his flight - which was carrying just seven passengers - landed in Canberra.
Despite arriving from Australia's coronavirus hotspot, Mr Glenn said he was told at the airport that he was free to arrange to catch a taxi or Uber to his hotel.
"It was pretty surprising initially," he said. "I suppose it got looser as the process went on."
Do you know more? Email email@example.com
Mr Glenn said that when he arrived at his Barton hotel, he was told that his room wasn't ready and he would need to wait outside.
"Under normal circumstances that is fair enough, you just go out or go for a walk or whatever," he said.
"But given that I'm not meant to be in contact with anyone or out anywhere I sort of just waited."
Once it was ready, Mr Glenn said he was told where to find his room - but no one escorted him there.
"No one followed me, no one asked me where I was going," he said.
"I walked across the road and down the street and into my accommodation, and there was no guards, no police, no nothing."
Mr Glenn said the only precaution authorities took to stop him leaving his room was to activate his swipe card for only one night.
What appeared to be the most serious breakdown in the system was exposed when Mr Glenn called ACT Health to arrange a COVID-19 test, which he said returned travellers were encouraged, but not forced, to take.
Mr Glenn contacted ACT Health because they had not contacted him since his arrival, as he was told they would.
"Upon calling them to find out the process for testing I was told that I wasn't in the system and they didn't know I was in quarantine," he said.
Asked on ABC radio on Wednesday morning to explain how the breakdown had occurred, Chief Minister Andrew Barr said: "That's a good question".
"We'll endeavor to find out what the situation is in that specific case," he said. "People are required to register that they are coming into the ACT and that should have happened in that instance."
Mr Barr couldn't rule out if any other travelers had slipped through the cracks.
"I'm not aware of any, but in light of what I've just heard I'll seek some information from ACT Health in relation to that case," he said.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Stephen said she had sought answers from Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman about the incident.
She noted that unlike travelers returning from overseas, who were forced into hotel quarantine, people arriving from Melbourne were permitted to isolate at home. That meant they were allowed to arrange their own transport from the airport, she said.
But Ms Stephen-Smith conceded there had been a breakdown in the system in Mr Glenn's case.
"He had received an exemption to arrive in the ACT and then it appears that he didn't get that first day contact [from ACT Health] that everybody gets," she said.
"As a result, he wasn't entered into the database. They [ACT Health] are learning the lesson from this and ensuring that there is a double and triple-checking process that everyone that we know that should arriving in the ACT on a particular day is then in the system by the end of that day."
Ms Stephen-Smith praised the health department's contact tracing team, but said they were human beings and therefore vulnerable to making mistakes.
An ACT Health spokesperson confirmed Ms Stephen-Smith's account.
The spokeswoman said Mr Glenn was granted an exemption to travel to Canberra on August 28. He was recorded as having arrived at Canberra Airport and as being in quarantine, the spokeswoman said.
"However, a human error occurred with transfer of information into the contact tracing system, which resulted in the traveller not being contacted by ACT Health as per our standard processes," the spokeswoman said.
"Once the error was identified, the matter was resolved quickly and the traveller is - and continues to be - contacted regularly during his quarantine period, in accordance with contact tracing processes. The traveller has also received several separate compliance checks from ACT Policing."
The spokesperson said ACT Health had reviewed the bungle to ensure the "isolated incident" wasn't repeated.
"We are not aware of any cases like this one having occurred throughout the pandemic response. With additional quality assurance measures having been put in place we are confident that this will not occur again," the spokesperson said.
There were 97 people in hotel quarantine in Canberra as of Wednesday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Opposition health spokeswoman Vicki Dunne accused Mr Barr of passing on blame to Dr Coleman.
"The government must give a full explanation about the circumstances highlighted by Mr Glenn today," Mrs Dunne said.
"We must do everything we can to keep Canberrans safe, and that includes a robust and comprehensive enforcement of quarantining arrangements."