Melbourne Covid cluster grows to nine

Brenda Watkins
May 26, 2021

Victoria has recorded one new virus case as health authorities race to contain a fresh outbreak in Melbourne ahead of the imposition of new restrictions.

Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has said the first Whittlesea man is carrying a high viral load and warned the community to brace for more possible cases.

Australia has avoided the high COVID-19 numbers seen in many developed countries by closing its global borders in the early stages of the pandemic and with lockdowns.

The latest outbreak snapped Victoria's 86-day streak without a locally acquired COVID-19 case.

The man developed symptoms on 17 May and presented for testing yesterday. "You can be very unlucky with rare cases that are particularly infectious that have been to lots of places and transmit it to lots of people".

A Wollert man contracted the Indian strain of the virus while staying in an Adelaide quarantine hotel in early May and has brought the virus into Melbourne, which has then spread to four others in the City of Whittlesea.

He added Victorians "have to be alive to the possibility" the number of infections will continue to climb.

Jacinda Ardern said there will be an update later today, after a fifth local case was reported in Melbourne.

Professor Sutton said genomic sequencing had also determined they were infected with the B.1.617 mutation, also known as the Indian variant.

The new Melbourne case comes after Victorian officials announced on Monday that four people had tested positive to coronavirus, including a man in his 30s, a man in his 70s, a woman in her 70s and a preschool-aged child.

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Walensky noted that people with compromised immune systems should speak to their doctors before giving up their masks. President Joe Biden wearing a face mask is pictured at the White House in Washington on April 16, 2021.

He told 3AW on Tuesday afternoon cases in the Whittlesea outbreak had not been linked to an exposure site blunder where the government said the Wollert case visited Epping Woolworths while infectious rather than Epping North.

On Tuesday, authorities said they expected the list of exposure sites to grow over the coming days.

It is not now listed as a public exposure site as the Department has access to records of everyone who attended the hospital.

Anyone who visited that site in that window must get tested and self-isolate for 14 days from the date of exposure.

The latest outbreak ends Victoria's run of zero cases for almost three months and saw New Zealand suspend quarantine-free travel with the state and the neighbouring state of South Australia impose travel restrictions.

Face masks will also need to be worn indoors unless an exemption applies.

Mr Merlino said checking in to venues would be compulsory from Friday, May 28.

Schools and workplaces remain open and Victorians who live in greater Melbourne can still travel to regional Victoria.

"Further, staff returning from Greater Melbourne who provide home-based aged care and disability services that involve close physical contact with clients, should exclude themselves from providing in-home care for a period of 14 days since they were last in the area".

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