Melbourne residents are on edge to learn if they will be placed in an immediate lockdown after a spike in infections.
Many queued for hours at COVID-19 testing facilities as the list of COVID-19 exposure sites grew to more than 70.
With Victoria’s contact tracing system facing immense pressure, Acting Premier James Merlino raised fears of a possible shutdown on Wednesday morning when reporting the Whittlesea cluster had grown to 15 cases.
Victorian leaders were in talks on Wednesday night. By the early hours of Thursday, reports suggested the snap lockdown announcement was imminent.
The Age newspaper, attributing the information to an unnamed source “close to government”, suggested senior cabinet ministers had agreed on a lockdown of no less than three days.
The details – including how long the lockdown would initially last – was expected to be finalised at another meeting on Thursday morning, The Age reported.
Infectious diseases expert Sharon Lewin told the ABC the lockdown decision would be announced by Thursday.
TV and sporting personality Eddie McGuire had amplified concerns during the night after telling viewers of Channel Nine’s Footy Classified that according to his “government sources” a five-day lockdown will be announced in Victoria on Thursday morning.
He also claimed there would be “no crowds” at this weekend’s AFL matches in Melbourne.
“That is information coming through at the moment, unconfirmed. Wait for tomorrow but the information is it could be a five-day lockdown which would mean no crowds at the football,” Mr McGuire said.
- Click here to read the latest restrictions in Melbourne, and how other states and territories have responded
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton earlier said any lockdown would be broad rather than confined to the city’s northern suburbs, with confirmed cases travelling to Bendigo and as far north as Cohuna on the NSW border.
“We’ve got significant spread of exposure sites at the moment so it’s not something that we would look to at a postcode level,” Professor Sutton said.
- Click here to check Victoria’s exposure sites
The exposure sites across Melbourne and regional Victoria include RMIT University, the MCG, Marvel Stadium, and a spate of gyms, supermarkets, cafes and restaurants.
Genomic sequencing shows the outbreak is linked to the case of a Wollert man, who contracted the virus in SA quarantine earlier in May.
An official SA report released on Wednesday found it likely he caught the virus through aerosol transmission due to the “close timing of doors opening and closing” from an adjacent room with an infected guest.
Victoria last entered a five-day “circuit breaker” lockdown in February, when the virus escaped hotel quarantine and infected 13 people.
Fears for NSW
There are concerns the Melbourne outbreak may have spread to New South Wales after members of a sporting club in NSW’s Riverina region who may have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 while attending an event in Victoria were urged to self-isolate.
The club members from Tooleybuc attended a sporting event in Cohuna, Victoria on Saturday, May 22 from 12pm to 5pm.
Any club member who attended is asked to immediately self-isolate and contact NSW Health for further advice.
In a statement on Wednesday night NSW Health said it was working to set up increased virus testing capacity in the Tooleybuc area.
The NSW government is advising people against travelling to Melbourne and Bendigo for the time being as Victoria deals with a fresh COVID-19 outbreak.
A COVID-19 cluster in Melbourne’s north has almost doubled to 15 infections after six extra cases were confirmed on Wednesday.
“Unless you absolutely have to go down there, just consider your options,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Wednesday.