Acting Premier James Merlino said the spread of the outbreak was causing great concern, with more than 10,000 primary and secondary contacts identified
Victoria’s fourth lockdown might be its cruellest yet.
While six million residents went about their lives under the impression Covid-19 was behind them, now confined to the dungeons of quarantine hotels, they have been shocked back to reality.
Victoria is once again heading for Stage 3 restrictions.
While the MCG was pumping, bars and shopping centres humming, a covert wave of the virus has been spreading virtually undetected through the state for more than two weeks.
The coronavirus cluster which began in Melbourne’s north at the weekend expanded to 26 infections on Thursday, as residents were told they would be plunged into a seven-day lockdown from midnight.
The outbreak began when an Australian who returned from overseas, without the virus, contracted it in Adelaide’s hotel quarantine – before testing negative and flying home to Melbourne on May 4.
A report released in South Australia said the traveller likely caught the virus from an adjacent hotel room when his door and their door were momentarily opened at the same time, raising questions about the safety of the entire program.
Genomic sequencing has found the new cluster of 26 in Melbourne have the same double mutant Indian strain as the man from hotel quarantine, meaning it somehow jumped from him to infect others across the city.
More than 10,000 primary and secondary contacts have been identified and up to 80 potential exposure sites listed with footy fans, pub goers and even students at a swimming club now at risk.
Some of the Covid-hit venues in Melbourne after the virus travelled from South Australia
Healthcare workers are seen at the Albert Park Covid19 testing facility in Melbourne on Thursday
So how did Australia’s second most populated state again end up at the mercy of Covid-19 just as the vaccine rollout gains momentum and travel bubbles re-open?
This is the story of the unrelenting charge of the coronavirus that should be a warning to all Australians.
Genomic sequencing shows the outbreak is linked a Wollert man who contracted the virus in quarantine in South Australia before returning to Victoria where he tested positive on May 11.
Victoria’s first local case in 86 days was recorded on Monday, with health authorities ordering shoppers and visitors to a swimming centre to get tested and isolate immediately.
Testing showed local infections were family contacts, living in separate houses but by Thursday morning, the outbreak had jumped to 26 cases – with an additional 11 infections diagnosed overnight.
The alarming increase can be seen in the Department of Health’s expansive list of potential exposure sites – which spread across more than 30 Melbourne suburbs and Bendigo, Cohuna and Red Hill in regional Victoria.
But definitive link between the Wollert man and the Whittlesea outbreak hasn’t been established.
On May 20, a Covid-positive case went shopping at the High Point Shopping Centre in Maryibyrnong, between 5pm and 8pm.
Health authorities ordered those who attended the centre at the identified times to get tested and isolate until further notice.
On May 21, an infected person then visited Jump! Swim School, in Bundoora, Melbourne’s north-east, between 8.55am and 10.15am.
Fans pack into Marvel Stadium shoulder-to-shoulder as they walked through the concourse, causing concerns the virus could have spread rapidly through the crowd
A positive case visited High Point Shopping Centre in Maryibyrnong (pictured), between 5pm and 8pm on May 20
The MCG and Marvel Stadium are amongst the exposure sites and three bars in the inner suburb of Prahran remain a ‘concern’.
A positive case went to the Essendon/North Melbourne AFL game at Marvel Stadium on Sunday, 23 May.
Photos from the front of the venue and inside the concourse showed footy fans shoulder-to-shoulder as they walked through the stadium, causing concerns the virus could have spread rapidly through the crowd.
Health authorities said individuals sitting on Level 1 between Aisles 5 and 28 or Level 3 between Aisles 6 and 29 must get tested and stay isolated until they have receive a negative result.
‘The department is working with the AFL and Marvel Stadium to contact spectators to provide this advice,’ the Department of Health said.
‘Some individuals with the closest contact to the positive case will be directly provided more specific advice from the Department of Health.’
An infected person also attended the Collingwood-Port Adelaide AFL game at the MCG on Sunday.
Also at the weekend, an infected case partied at three different bars in Prahran on Saturday night – and ended up kicking on until 4am on Sunday in one of the venues known for packed crowds and a pumping dancefloor.
The pub-crawler, unknowingly infected with a highly contagious double mutant Indian strain of the virus, began the evening at a cocktail bar on Chapel Street called Three Monkeys.
They arrived at about 9.15pm and then went down the street to the famed Somewhere Bar – an establishment frequented by young, hip partygoers.
That Saturday the venue was packed as DJs blasted out tunes late into the night.
Three Monkeys also had a good turnout, raising fears the infected drinker may have sparked a super-spreader event.
Genomic sequencing shows the outbreak is linked to the infection of a Wollert man, who contracted the virus in quarantine in South Australia and tested positive on May 11. He was staying at the Playford Hotel (pictured)
The infected case stayed at Somewhere Bar before heading back to Three Monkeys at about 1am.
The positive case then headed off towards Circus Bar – known for its raucous dance floor – on Commercial Road and kept the party going until 4am.
A report released on Wednesday in SA found it likely the Wollert man caught the virus through aerosol transmission due to the ‘timing of doors opening and closing’ at an adjacent room occupied by an infected guest.
The man, aged in his 30s, was staying at the Playford Hotel, in Adelaide.
South Australia on Wednesday became the first state to close its border to residents of Greater Melbourne. NSW and Queensland are urging residents to reconsider travel to the city and parts of regional Victoria.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said authorities are monitoring Victoria’s outbreak ‘very closely’ amid fears it could have crossed the border.
‘I’m worried about the evolving situation and of course we’ll watch closely to see what the Victorian government announces this morning,’ she told Nine on Thursday.
‘We don’t have any intention of closing the borders at this stage, but of course we are very, very concerned with what’s going on.’
The Victorian Department of Health asked visitors to the Jump! Swim School, in Bundoora, Melbourne’s north-east, between 8.55am and 10.15am on May 21 to get tested immediately and self-isolate for 14 days
The NSW government has advised people against travelling to Melbourne and Bendigo and Ms Berejiklian also asked people in Victoria not to rush to NSW.
‘Can I please urge anybody who is intending to get in their car and try and beat the lockdown, please think about your fellow citizens, please be safe, please know your actions can really harm so many others.’
Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed the state will enter the ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown at midnight on Thursday.
‘Unless something changes, this will be increasingly uncontrollable,’ he told reporters.
People will only be 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, and getting vaccinated.
The 5km travel limit will also be reimposed for exercise and shopping, as will compulsory use of masks both indoors and outdoors.
All non-essential retail will close but essential stores like supermarkets, bottle shops and pharmacies will remain open. Cafes and restaurants will only be able to offer take-away.
Childcare and kinder will stay open, but schools will close.
Pictured: Staff wearing PPE are seen amongst massive queues at a pop-up COVID test site at Albert Park Lake on Thursday