The likelihood of Victorians being kept in their choking lockdown for a second week – or longer – will not depend on the number of new cases, but whether they are linked to already known cases or from mystery sources.
The number of cases in the state rose to 51 on Monday after 11 new local infections were confirmed.
Contact tracers are scrambling to identify about 4,200 close contacts and 279 exposure sites as the end of lockdown looms on Thursday.
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton described the virus as ‘an absolute beast’ and that authorities were ‘neck and neck’ with it in the fight to trace cases and control its spread by Friday, or concede defeat and go for another long, hard lockdown.
Acting Premier James Merlino said on Monday the decision on whether to lift or extend restrictions would not only depend on the number of new infections, but the ‘types of cases’.
Pictured: Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino soeaking to the media during a press conference in Melbourne on Monday
Pictured: Health workers prepare Pfizer vaccinations at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre mass vaccination hub in Melbourne on May 28
He said determining whether new cases were in high-risk settings, such as the health sector or in aged care facilities, or linked to other infections.
‘There is no doubt the situation is incredibly serious,’ Mr Merlino said. ‘The next few days remain critical… this outbreak may well get worse before it gets better.’
Epidemiologist Professor Mary Louise McLaws told the ABC on Monday that she didn’t believe the state would be out of lockdown by Friday, as planned.
‘We have a very high, very rapid increase over a short period of time,’ she told the public broadcaster.
‘I know this lockdown costs a billion a week and that would make the authorities very anxious about extending it but… it has to go certainly for 14 days.’
It was also revealed on Monday that a Slades Beverages worker did not get a Covid-19 test until two weeks after they were infected.
Pictured: Pedestrians cross Sydney Road in Coburg in Melbourne on May 28 amid lockdown restrictions
Picured: Staff members of the Royal Freemasons Coppin Centre receive Covid tests in the carpark in Melbourne
Authorities believe the person may have caught the virus on May 12 and worked while infectious from May 14.
It is not known whether the employee had symptoms before they took a test, but the delay may help contact tracers identify a missing link in the origins of the Whittlesea outbreak last week, the Herald Sun reported.
Victoria now has three cases linked to aged care, including another worker’s son, the staff member who worked at two facilities, and a resident in her 90s.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said aged care workers could be forced to get a Covid-19 vaccination if they want to continue working in the sector.
In February, the federal government vowed to vaccinate the majority of aged care residents and workers within the first six weeks, after 655 elderly residents died from the virus in 2020.
Mr Hunt said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has been asked to review its ruling not to make the jab mandatory for aged care workers.
The federal government will review the move on Friday.
Pictured: Staff leaving Arcare Aged Care facility in Maidstone, Melbourne on Monday, May 31
Pictured: The Royal Freemasons aged care facility in Footscray is seen, in Melbourne, Monday, May 31
Should the lockdown be extended and Melbourne be put under stricter conditions than country Victoria, police argue against the ‘ring of steel’ plan of last year’s lockdown.
Melbourne spent 112 consecutive days in lockdown including months in ultra-draconian Stage 4, which regional areas never suffered.
To keep people from moving between the zones, hundreds of police manned checkpoints on roads in and out of Melbourne.
Police association secretary Wayne Gatt said that strategy was ineffective and would take 800 officers to maintain.
‘Last year’s model was not effective, nor was it efficient,’ he told The Age.
‘if in the future government policy required some form of separation to be policed, there are much better ways of doing it that are far less labour-intensive and far more effective.’
Mr Gatt suggested roving patrols like ‘random breath tests on steroids to pull over drivers and see if they should be there.
The ‘ring of steel’ was discussed in recent days by the Victorian Government in the eventuality that the lockdown was extended, The Age reported.
THE FOUR HIGH-RISK MELBOURNE VENUES HEALTH OFFICIALS ARE WORRYING ABOUT THE MOST
Tier 1 restrictions – get tested immediately and self-isolate for 14 days
JMD Grocers and Sweets store, Epping:
5pm to 5.45pm on May 22
3.50pm to 4.35pm on May 24
3.50pm to 4.20pm on May 16
6.30pm to 7.00pm and 10.30am to 1.00pm on May 17
Healthy India, Reservoir:
9:30am – 2:00pm on May 27
10:00am – 9:30pm on May 26
10:00am – 9:30pm on May 25
8:00am – 6:00pm on May 24
Thai Huy Butcher, Footscray – 1.40pm and 2.30pm on May 26
Inday Fillipino Store, Footscray – 1.50pm to 2.40pm on May 26
On Monday, Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton hinted the state’s snap seven-day lockdown could be extended for its seven million residents beyond Thursday.
‘With more numbers today coming through and those really concerning settings, especially in aged care, we are neck and neck with this virus and it is an absolute beast,’ Professor Sutton said.
Victoria’s head of contact tracing Jeroen Weimar said authorities were particularly concerned about four public venues in Melbourne’s north and inner-city.
Anyone who shopped at the Thai Huy Butcher shop in Footscray in the city’s inner-west between 1.40pm and 2.30pm on May 26 must get tested immediately and self-isolate for 14 days from the point of exposure.
The JMD Grocers and Sweets store in Epping in northern Melbourne has been potentially exposed to Covid-19 over five different periods during the past two weeks
The Thai Huy Butcher shop in Footscray in the city’s inner-west has been listed as a potential exposure site between 1.40pm and 2.30pm on May 26
The same order applies to those who were at the Inday Fillipino Store in Footscray on the same day from 1.50pm to 2.40pm.
Shoppers who visited the JMD Grocers and Sweets store in Epping in northern Melbourne during any of five exposure periods over the past two weeks must also get tested and self-isolate for 14 days.
Those periods are 5pm to 5.45pm on May 22, 3.50pm to 4.35pm on May 24, 3.50pm to 4.20pm on May 16 and 6.30pm to 7.00pm and 10.30am to 1.00pm on May 17.
There are also four high-risk exposure periods for the Healthy India supermarket in the northern suburb of Reservoir, with affected shoppers also required to complete two weeks of self-isolation after being tested.
‘We want to see as many people who went to these locations to get tested and isolate as soon as possible,’ Mr Weimar said.
‘I would also just say I need is critically important for those people who want to get their vaccine done, it is so important that you feel well.
‘If you have any symptoms whatsoever, do not go and get a vaccine, go and get a tested.’
NEW STAGE THREE RESTRICTIONS IN VICTORIA
An emergency seven-day lockdown will begin at 00.01 on Friday.
Under the strict new rules to stop Melbourne’s coronavirus cluster from getting out of control, there are a number of restrictions:
Stay-at-home order with just five reasons to leave the house:
– Shopping for necessary goods and services
– Going to work or permitted education
– Exercise with a two-hour limit
– Medical reasons and care giving
– Getting vaccinated
As well as this, there will be serious restrictions on people’s personal life, business, work and school:
– No visitors to your home other than an intimate partner. Single bubbles will be permitted. If you live alone, you can make a bubble with another person.
– 5km travel limit for exercise and shopping
– Compulsory masks indoors and outdoors unless in the home
– No public gatherings.
– Restaurants, pubs, and cafes can provide takeaway only.
– Essential retail, so supermarkets, food stores, petrol stations, banks, bottle shops and pharmacies, other retail stores can provide click and collect.
– Childcare and kinders will be open as per the last circuit breaker lockdown earlier this year.
– Approved professional sporting events will proceed but proceed without crowds.
– Schools will move to remote learning, except for vulnerable children, and children of authorised workers.
– Higher education will move to remote learning only.
– Community support and recreation, accommodation, but there will be some exemptions that apply.
– Hotels, clubs, TABs and the casino will be closed.
– Indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, swimming pools, spas, saunas, indoor and outdoor springs, community venues, drive in cinemas, amusements parks and arcades, creative studios, art galleries and museums, tourism, tours, and transport, and auctions can only happen online.
– Aged care facilities, no visitors except for limited reasons.
– In our hospitals, visitors only for end of life, to support a partner during birth, or a parent accompanying a child.
– In terms of ceremonies, funerals, a maximum of 10 people plus those running the service.
– Weddings cannot proceed unless end of life or deportation reasons apply.
– Religious activities will not proceed other than through broadcast with a maximum of five people.