State records four new local COVID-19 cases amid first day of lockdown

State records four new local COVID-19 cases amid first day of lockdown

28th May 2021 Off By adpublisher

“Doorknocking positive cases, doorknocking primary close contacts. If we have those additional ADF staff pairing-up with authorised officers we are effectively doubling our capacity for that really important work,” Mr Merlino said.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the personnel would help “to contain the outbreak and to protect Victorians”.

Mr Hunt said there was “real cause for hope” based on the low case numbers announced in Victoria on Friday, the strong contact tracing system set up and the high COVID testing numbers.

Mr Weimar said that one person who has tested positive was at the Sporting Globe in Mordialloc between 6.15pm and 9.45pm on Sunday, May 23, when another positive case was in the venue.

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He said five venues were of particular concern for transmission:

  • The Sporting Globe in Mordialloc between 6.15pm and 9.45pm on May 23
  • The Three Monkeys in Prahran, 9.10pm to 11:00pm on Saturday, May 22 and 12.30am to 2:00am on May 23
  • Somewhere Bar in Prahran, 10.30pm to 1am on May 22
  • The Palace Hotel in South Melbourne, 5.45pm to 6.45pm on Friday, May 21
  • The Local in Port Melbourne, 1.30pm to 3.30pm on May 21

While major venues such as the MCG and Marvel Stadium are also exposure sites, Mr Weimar said those five pubs and clubs are more worrying because of how people act and interact while inside.

“[They are] of particular concern to us because essentially, they are … places where we expect to see significant numbers of people in close proximity, dancing, singing, doing what they do,” he said.

“[At] one of those locations we have now had one case of confirmed community transmission.”

He also said there was a number of venues where people may not have checked in via QR code.

Body Fit Training in Hampton has been identified as an exposure site.Credit:Simon Schluter

“We have a number of locations where we just don’t think we have captured all the people who were in those venues. It is important to get hold of them now,” Mr Weimar said.

The Sporting Globe’s owner said the 11 staff members who were working there on Sunday had all been tested for COVID-19 and all had returned negative tests and were now isolating.

“We are working closely with Monash Health and the DHHS to support contact tracing in any way we can,” said James Sinclair, chief executive of the Signature Hospitality Group.

“In addition to using the Victorian government QR code service … we have provided our full booking list and any other relevant information for the date in question. On the date and time in question it was a usual dining service with all customers seated.”

Two gyms in Melbourne’s inner and south-eastern suburbs, and a medical centre and chemist in Melbourne’s north have been identified as the latest exposure sites.

Coles in Yarraville has been identified as a Tier 2 exposure site, with shoppers asked to leave the supermarket on Friday while deep cleaning took place.

One other new exposure site was Preston City Hall, with Darebin City Council chief executive Sue Wilkinson confirming that a positive case of COVID-19 went to a community immunisation session there on Saturday. The council said the immunisation session was not for COVID-19 vaccinations.

“We have a thorough record of everyone who was in attendance and have contacted those who were there, including our staff” Ms Wilkinson said.

South Australia tightened its border on Friday with Police Commissioner Grant Stevens announcing fresh directions to prohibit regional Victorians from entering the state.

“The one exception is Victorians who reside within 70 kilometres of the South Australian border. They will still be permitted to come into South Australia and operate as they normally do unaffected” he said.

The Victorian lockdown is the first COVID-related economic shutdown since the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme closed at the end of March and Thursday’s announcement plunged thousands of businesses and their employees into financial uncertainty.

The Australian Industry Group, which says Victorian businesses will suffer a $1 billion direct hit from the lockdown with another $1.5 billion in indirect costs, is one of many bodies asking the Victorian and federal governments to provide a financial lifeline to businesses.

Mr Merlino said on Friday that a support package would be announced in the coming days

The group’s Victorian director Tim Piper said the state government’s assistance, needed to cover more than just the small business sector. Mr Piper said the Commonwealth should step in with some form of income support while the state package should be aimed at keeping employers afloat.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra urged the state and federal governments to move quickly. “Business is bleeding today, across the state, not just in the CBD,” Mr Guerra said.

The state government set up a dedicated vaccination hotline on Friday morning after the coronavirus hotline crashed for several hours on Thursday amid overwhelming demand following its decision to offer vaccinations to those aged over 40.

But the new service also malfunctioned as tens of thousands tried to call at the same time.

Callers said they were hung up on, had their calls go unanswered, or continually heard the engaged signal when attempting to get through on the new vaccine line. Some calls were still going unanswered in the middle of the afternoon.

Despite the issues, Victoria has broken its record for the most vaccine doses administered in a single day.

Health department data shows there were 41,389 doses administered on Thursday, breaking the previous record by more than 10,000.

Ben Cowie, the head of the Health Department’s vaccine program said the state’s health authorities would like to see the vaccine program extended to people under 40 as soon as the state had capacity.

“I would like to see eligibility expanded as soon as we have the capacity to do so,” Professor Cowie said.

Austin Health is looking at ways to increase its capacity to administer Pfizer doses after it was completely booked out for appointments until the end of June.

A spokesman for the hospital said a mass vaccine clinic running out of Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital was inundated with calls from Melburnians aged 40 to 49 on Thursday who were racing to get their shots as eligibility was widened.

The head of a Melbourne infectious diseases institute says she believes the seven-day lockdown will be long enough for Victoria to get on top of the outbreak that was triggered by a leak from South Australian hotel quarantine.

Doherty Institute director Sharon Lewin said while it is hard to know if the COVID-19 cases can be brought under control in Victoria in just a week, the lockdown would give contact tracers time to get in touch with all those potentially exposed to the virus.

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“There’s something like 10,000 people in quarantine. Not so much to stop transmission but to actually get on top of these contacts and make sure they are at home and quarantined,” Professor Lewin told Nine’s Today show. “I’m pretty confident seven days should be sufficient.”

Latrobe epidemiologist Hassan Vally said Victorians should take heart that contact tracing systems have been improved to have higher capacity than last year.

“The systems in Victoria are completely different to where they were this time last year,” he told ABC Radio National.

“There have been a lot of lessons that have been learnt over the last 12 months, and a lot of changes that have been made, including moving to a decentralised system … we should take some confidence from the fact that we’ve had the best part of 12 months to refine our systems and our processes and increase our capacity to deal with exactly this sort of situation.”

The latest lockdown, which can be traced back to hotel quarantine in Adelaide, has intensified debate over plans for a “village-style” facility similar to Howard Springs near Darwin.

Health Minister Greg Hunt stepped up federal support for the Victorian proposal on Friday by saying it was “far and away the most advanced” from states and territories.

Mr Hunt said the government was “looking for partnerships” with other states and territories after the expansion of Howard Springs, which is expected to reach a capacity of 2000 beds within a week.

In an industry briefing on the alternative quarantine proposal this month, Chris Keating, the Victorian public servant leading the project, revealed other Australian states and territories were investigating building their own facility.

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“We have had approaches from other jurisdictions to share information which we are of course very happy to do and share everything that we’ve got,” said Mr Keating, a senior bureaucrat in the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

He also said Victoria’s deliberations with the federal government involved a discussion around a national alternative quarantine strategy.

As Avalon Airport re-emerges as the favourite to host the quarantine site, Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson threw her weight behind the “far superior proposal” on Friday.

She accused the Victorian government of having “not done its basic homework” on its preferred site in Mickleham, which is next to a pet quarantine facility that the Commonwealth hopes to expand in the future.

“If someone had called the federal Agricultural Minister, they would have learned that it’s not possible to build this facility next to the Mickleham animal quarantine centre which needs to expand with appropriate biosecurity buffer zones,” said Ms Henderson, whose office is in Geelong, near Avalon.

With Abbi Dib, Craig Butt

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