MELBOURNE, Australia — Victoria has recorded one new local case of COVID-19, while Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says there is no plan, yet, to extend the five-day lockdown.
The latest COVID-19 case in Victoria is a friend of a hotel quarantine worker, as contact tracers race to ring-fence an outbreak of the infectious UK strain.
There are now 14 cases linked to the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport as the entire state undergoes a five-day “circuit-breaker” lockdown.
The single additional positive case recorded on Saturday is a man in his 30s in Point Cook in Melbourne’s west, who is a friend of a Holiday Inn worker.
That man’s primary close contacts—38 of them—are also isolating and are being tested.
Premier Daniel Andrews said on Saturday there were 996 known primary close contacts associated with the known Holiday Inn cases but the number was expected to grow.
Test results of all these people would start to come through on Sunday and Monday, hence the need for a five days of lockdown, he said.
Of 12 co-workers of an infected worker who did a shift at Brunetti’s cafe at Melbourne airport on Tuesday between 4.45 a.m. and 1.15 p.m., 11 have returned negative test results.
One remaining test result is yet to come through.
More than 2,000 passengers who went through Melbourne airport on Tuesday have been asked to isolate and get tested. They are being asked about their movements to ascertain any exposure risk.
Andrews defended the need for a third lockdown, saying he knew a lot of people would be hurting but that it was the right thing to do.
“Victorians know what has to be done, we’ve done it before. I know it’s not easy,” he said. “I’ve got advice to do it. I’ve done it. It’s based on science.”
He said there would be announcements in coming days about financial support for businesses and others.
The outbreak can be traced back to a family of three who quarantined at the Holiday Inn and are believed to have been infected overseas.
One family member, who is in intensive care, used a medical device called a nebuliser in their room despite them banned outside of medi-hotels.
Andrews brushed off reporters’ questions about the nebuliser on Saturday, deferring to COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria commissioner Emma Cassar who is expected to speak to media later.
It followed Andrews’ comments on Friday that it was clear nebulisers were not allowed, contradicting the man’s own account given to The Age that quarantine staff had let him use it.
Five international flights that were in transit when the Victorian government announced a pause on all passenger arrivals will arrive in Melbourne on Saturday.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton addressed concerns about why the five-day lockdown could legally go until Feb. 26.
“Nothing should be read into it as having any intention to extend beyond a day beyond when we think they need to be in place. For now, that’s five days,” he said.
Until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Victorians are only able to leave home to shop for food and essential items, provide or receive care, exercise and to work or study if they can’t from home.
Similar to stage-four restrictions imposed last year, there’s a five-kilometre travel limit, compulsory face mask usage and no visitors.
The premier has said he is confident the lockdown – similar to what was imposed in Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth after cases escaped quarantine – will work.
The latest exposure sites listed on the Victorian department of health website include Alberton Cafe, Albert Park, The Coffeeologist cafe, Point Cook, Coates Hire Werribee, Caltex Woolworths in Hoppers Crossing as well as the Craigieburn train line, the 513 Eltham to Glenroy bus route and the 901 Frankston to Melbourne Airport bus route.
Andrews has asked his experts to do a risk assessment of hotel quarantine in light of the infectious UK virus strain to contribute to a national discussion about the ongoing nature of hotel quarantine.
By Andi Yu