Poorly trained security guards who became overwhelmed by hysterical guests may have been responsible for how COVID-19 escaped into the wider community.
An independent inquiry into Victoria's hotel quarantine system is expected to hear evidence this week that guests were begging, banging on walls and even attempting to bribe security guards to let them out for fresh air.
A guest from the Rydges Hotel, which was one of the first to take quarantine travellers, told The Australian "people were going absolutely nuts" on his floor of the hotel, saying they were "asking for Valium" and "begging to be let out and running for the doors".
He said guards seem ill-equipped to handle the situation. "They were being told no, but the guards had no real authority … they gave the impression they could be talked around. And guests were going up to the security guards, begging and offering money to be let out. It was insane."
Some guests reportedly advised each other to "lose your sh*t, cry" in order to get outside.
Last month, Melbourne's quarantine hotels were identified as a key source behind the virus's terrifying escalation throughout the state.
Since March, all travellers returning from overseas have been made to isolate for 14 days in their hotel rooms.
But a scandal over quarantine and security breaches in a series of Melbourne hotels helped create the city's predicament today – millions of Australians in stage 4 lockdown, with more than 6489 active cases of the deadly virus in the state.
Security breaches in six Melbourne hotels are under the spotlight, with accusations that the hotel security assignment was poorly organised and guards were neither trained nor vetted closely.
The use of industry subcontractors, who recruited security guards for the hotels, has also come under criticism.
Speaking to Channel 9's 60 Minutes on Sunday night, several insiders said the use of private subcontractors without medical training to run the system meant hired staff were not properly trained or given personal protective equipment, and did not take the job as seriously as they should have.
Josh Reeve, a security veteran who specialises in A-list clients, said the private security company hired by the Victorian government was a "botched program".
"Unfortunately, it's the result of a cheap and nasty product," he told 60 Minutes.
"The reputation of the security industry at the moment in most people's eyes is that it's ineffective – and through some of the things that we have seen alleged is worse than ineffective.
"I think the fact that the industry has that reputation indicates it it's as bad as it could be. It's negligent, it's complacent."
One guard, given the alias "John" in the segment, worked at six of Melbourne's 12 quarantine hotels for two months.
John was first contacted back in April, three weeks after the Victorian government announced plans to hire private security firms to guard quarantine hotels.
He said the caller who hired him was more interested in his readiness than his experience.
"He was a subcontractor and asked me if I'm still willing to work in security. I said, 'Yeah, of course I am'. So he said, 'Okay, you just WhatsApp me your license and your availability".
"When I reached there, I asked him, 'So what are my duties and what am I supposed to do?' He said, 'Go on this floor and ask the security guard what you're supposed to do'.
"I went on the floor and the other security guard was like, 'It's also my first day here'. And that's a bit strange.
"He told me that if someone comes out of the room, we just have to tell them to stay inside. That's it. That was my induction or whatever you call it."
Returning travellers Ricky Singh and Kate Hyslop, who were put in hotel quarantine for two weeks, told the program they were not once tested for the virus during that period.
They said their biggest fear was the security guards outside their door, because they "weren't wearing masks" and "would sleep on the ground".
"Quite often they wouldn't even hear us open our door because they'd have their earphones in and be on the phone, or talking with another security guard and having a laugh. It just seemed like the whole idea of hotel quarantine was a joke at that point."
The Herald Sun reported allegations that hotel guards slept with guests staying at the hotels during quarantine.
It was also alleged guests were allowed to move between rooms under the watch of guards hired by private security firms.
A judicial inquiry will look into the claims and reported failings of Victoria's hotel quarantine system.
Public hearings of the inquiry begin on Thursday.