The Victorian government has recorded five new local COVID-19 cases, bringing the size of the state’s current outbreak to 70 cases amid the Australian state’s fourth lockdown.
As Melbourne enters its second weekend of strict lockdown, authorities are combing through virus samples and genomic sequencing from across the country to determine how a Victorian family contracted the Delta coronavirus strain—previously known as the Indian strain of the novel coronavirus.
The local case count rose by four on Friday, three of which are linked to the household in the city’s west.
It is not yet clear whether the latest cases reported on Saturday morning are linked to the Delta strain.
Amid fears the variant that has caused devastation in India and the UK could be spreading through the community, health authorities are re-examining strains in quarantine and cases linked to maritime, airline, and diplomatic travellers.
No-one has been hospitalised locally yet with the Delta variant, which is a “cousin” of the Kappa strain that sparked the rest of the current Melbourne outbreak.
There are now 366 sites where exposure to the virus may have occurred.
The latest exposure sites to be added are Costco in the Docklands on May 30 between 3 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. and 55 Collins Street—an office building in Melbourne’s CBD where a confirmed case attended for the whole day on May 25.
The state’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters on Friday the Delta strain has not been linked to any of the other cases in the current outbreak, which means it is not related in terms of transmission.
Sutton said the B1.617.2 variant has “very high transmission potential,” and while there is little information about the severity of illness it causes, there are anecdotal reports it causes more severe illness in children.
Genomic sequencing from two cases in a west Melbourne family has revealed they are infected with the Delta variant.
It remains unclear how those family members, who also travelled to Jervis Bay in NSW, contracted the virus, but the possibility that they picked up the virus while interstate has not been ruled out.
The family has more than 300 close contacts, many of them at North Melbourne Primary School, and authorities suspect there has been transmission between two grade five students at the school.
Some of the close contacts also live in public housing towers, which became a key focus a year ago early in Melbourne’s second lockdown.
On Friday, the Health Department said there are eight cases of transmission through incidental contact, plus five exposure sites where the virus infected people who do not know each other.
Meanwhile, the Commonwealth and Victoria signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly finance a purpose-built COVID-19 quarantine facility in Melbourne.
The location is yet to be determined, however it is understood the federal government prefers a location near Avalon.
On Friday, Acting Premier James Merlino said the Commonwealth would try to help Victoria meet an increased vaccine demand.
The state wants to double the number of AstraZeneca doses available to GPs, and provide an extra 100,000 Pfizer doses from mid-June for its public vaccination sites.
By Andi Yu