Several retail workers at supermarkets and discount chain Kmart have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus.
Two workers at a Coles supermarket in south-eastern Melbourne have been confirmed with the infection, while two employees at the Kmart at Chadstone Shopping Centre – one of Australia’s busiest shopping malls – were among other confirmed cases.
A Melbourne construction site has been temporarily shut down after a worker there tested positive on Monday night.
The Chadstone Kmart was also closed on Tuesday afternoon after the positive diagnosis.
However, Coles said its Brandon Park supermarket in Mulgrave, in Melbourne’s outer south-east, would remain open despite the positive tests.
“Health authorities have not instructed Coles that it is necessary to close any stores, including in cases where team members or customers are diagnosed with COVID-19,” a Coles spokesperson said.
“The Victorian Department of Health has reconfirmed that Coles has undertaken all necessary safety measures in stores where positive cases have been identified.”
The supermarket had been cleaned extensively and staff who had been in contact with the infected workers have been told to self-isolate.
Elsewhere, Multiplex’s $2.8 billion Melbourne Square worksite at Southbank was closed on Monday night after the construction worker’s diagnosis.
“We immediately carried out a full clean and sanitisation of the site in accordance with latest protocols,” regional managing director Graham Cottam said on Tuesday.
Work at the site is expected to resume within 24 hours.
In a statement, the construction union said all workers on the site had been notified.
“Twenty of these workers who were identified as having been in direct contact with the individual are now in self-isolation for the next 14 days,” a CFMEU statement said.
The union said the worker immediately began self-isolating after his partner was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Victoria recorded another 96 confirmed cases of the coronavirus into Tuesday, taking the number of people testing positive to 917. On Monday, 56 cases were reported.
The Department of Health defines close contact as face-to-face for at least 15 minutes.
It also applies to people in the same closed space for at least two hours.
Australian National University infectious disease epidemiologist Meru Shee told the ABC it was difficult to follow health advice to not touch hard surfaces, including trolleys, baskets and self-service checkouts, where the virus could survive for several days.
“You can’t really do that while you’re shopping,” she said.
As the major supermarkets increase efforts to sanitise surfaces and create social-distancing markers at queues, washing hands and avoiding touching surfaces was paramount, she said.
“You want to come home as quickly as possible, but if you have access to a toilet at the shopping centre, go and wash your hands with soap and water immediately, or use a bit of alcohol-based hand sanitiser to clean and disinfect your hands,” she said.
“Also minimise touching your face without cleaning your hands. That’s the biggest thing.”
Coles supermarkets issued an updated advisory on its website on Tuesday, extending trading hours and offering click-and-collect services to carers, friends and neighbours who can shop on behalf of customers who can’t get to the supermarket.