Melbourne Chadstone Cluster Reveals Risks: Andrews

By AAP
October 2, 2020 Updated: October 2, 2020

An outbreak of COVID-19 linked to Australia’s biggest shopping centre shows why it’s unsafe to ease restrictions, Premier Daniel Andrews has said.

A cluster of cases at a The Butcher Club inside Chadstone Shopping Centre in Melbourne’s southeast has grown to 11 and includes a family in Frankston.

The premier challenged Victorians in his Friday press conference to consider the potential impact of a cluster in a such a large, busy setting.

“If we were to open up now, just as our modelling tells us…it will be many hundreds of cases,” he said.

The average needs to drop below five and there must be fewer than five mystery cases in a fortnight before authorities further ease Melbourne restrictions.

The premier expects this to happen by October 19.

Meanwhile, authorities responsible for reviewing the state’s hotel quarantine program have tried to reassure the public ahead of flights resuming.

“We want Victorians to feel very, very assured the accommodation program is a very, very focused one,” Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said.

The hotel program now has “strong and accountable leadership” committed to “making sure that we have got proper oversight, audit and proper checks and balances”, she said.

An inquiry into the program has heard the first iteration of it beginning in March was responsible for the state’s second wave of COVID-19, which has killed more than 800 people.

Corrections Victoria took over the running of the scheme in late June.

“We’ve left no stone unturned,” Corrections Victoria Commissioner Emma Cassar said at her first media appearance on Friday.

“We are really confident in the reset and when flights arrive we will certainly be ready.”

Corrections staff now receive face-to-face infection control training, and processes for cleaning, waste, transport and food standards have been reviewed.

Travellers to Melbourne airport will be medically assessed as soon as they disembark and transferred directly to a hotel if symptomatic, Cassar said.

She and Hennessy joined the premier and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton in front of the media after authorities confirmed two workers in the revised hotel program were on duty while infectious.

Staff from Spotless were replaced by police mid-shift on Wednesday at the Novotel in Southbank, after a healthcare worker told The Age she feared their practices would lead to further COVID-19 outbreaks.

The workers are among nine who have tested positive since the program was overhauled, but were asymptomatic at the time.

DHHS has confirmed that one hotel quarantine staff member thought to have acquired the virus in an aged care facility was, at the same time, working shifts at the Grand Chancellor Hotel.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said all nine cases contracted the virus at the height of the second wave, most likely because of community transmission.

None were responsible for breaches and none had caused further transmission, he said.

Prof Sutton said cleaning staff could not be expected to be limited to just one facility as they would not earn enough income.

There have not been any active cases related to the workforce running hotel quarantine for at least four weeks.

There are 107 people currently in hotel quarantine, of whom 55 are frontline workers.

Flights into Melbourne are not expected to resume until after the hotel quarantine inquiry delivers its findings, which are due by November 6. A small number of flights are still operating for those granted special exemptions.

Victoria recorded another two coronavirus deaths on Friday, taking the state toll to 802 and the national figure to 890.

There were seven new cases in the state, as Melbourne’s 14-day average dropped to 12.8 and the regional figure to 0.2.

Andi Yu in Melbourne