News Coronavirus Expanding abattoir cluster second only to deadly cruise ship outbreak

Expanding abattoir cluster second only to deadly cruise ship outbreak

cedar meats cluster worst
The Cedar Meats abattoir – where COVID-19 cases continue to grow – reopened this week. Photo: Getty
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Three more coronavirus cases have been linked to Melbourne’s Cedar Meats – making it Australia’s second-worst outbreak, behind only the deadly Ruby Princess.

The expanding abattoir cluster has grown to 106 cases after being first identified in late April.

No deaths have been linked to the meat works cluster. But the COVID-19 outbreak that started on the beleaguered Ruby Princess is responsible for at least 20 Australian deaths and at least 660 infections.

Australia’s other major coronavirus outbreak is at Sydney’s Newmarch House aged-care home. Nineteen residents have died from COVID-19 there, with the total number of cases linked to the home at 71 (37 residents and 34 staff).

Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville reported the latest abattoir-linked infections on Thursday morning. They were among four cases reported in the state – with the outbreak the only one in Victoria still growing.

“There are no new aged-care cases. There are no additions to any other recent clusters, other than Cedar Meats. So no more at McDonald’s,” Ms Neville said.

A dozen McDonald’s outlets across Melbourne were shut this week after a delivery driver tested positive. Two others in the city’s north were also shut, with the cluster at one accounting for 12 coronavirus infections.

In recent days, several aged-care homes across Melbourne have been locked down after residents tested either positive or had inconclusive results.

One woman at a dementia facility in Caulfield, in Melbourne’s inner- south-east, is due to receive the results of a third COVID-19 test on Thursday.

She tested positive on Monday before a second negative swab on Tuesday. She was then tested for a third time.

HammondCare chief executive Stephen Judd said on Wednesday the woman was “doing really well” despite a cough that prompted the testing.

A study from the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and the Victorian health department released this week revealed Victoria had 76 distinct genetic COVID-19 clusters by April 14.

Researchers made the finding through genetic analysis of samples from 903 coronavirus patients, which was about 75 per cent of the state’s 1333 cases at the time.

Of the cases sampled, the majority (737) were part of a genomic cluster, with social venues, healthcare facilities and cruise ships among the sites where outbreaks were linked.

The 76 clusters included 34 with only people who had travelled overseas and 34 with a mix of people who had travelled overseas and acquired the illness locally.

The median size of a cluster was five people, but one linked to multiple social venues in metropolitan Melbourne had 75 cases.

cedar meats virus cluster worst
HammondCare’s Caufield Village was one of several aged-care homes locked down. Photo: AAP

NSW numbers fall

NSW reported two new COVID-19 cases from more than 9700 tests on Thursday, including one in a student from an independent school in Sydney.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian flagged a likely increase in numbers of people allowed to dine in restaurants and cafes within weeks.

“The government will have more to say in the very near future about what restaurants and cafes will look like in June and July,” Ms Berejiklian said on Thursday.

Increasing dining patronage in June would align with the easing of regional travel restrictions across the state and the opening of museums, galleries and libraries from June 1.

Queensland moves towards zero

Queensland recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday morning, and has only 12 active cases remaining.

Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk urged residents to plan a winter holiday within their region during the upcoming school break, as borders remain closed to interstate travellers.

“I really want to encourage people as much as possible to start planning those holidays and support our tourism industry,” she said.

She also said Brisbane’s Ekka show holiday – which usually falls on a Wednesday – would move to Friday, August 14, for 2020.

The show has been scrapped for 2020 because of COVID-19, but it is hoped the long weekend will encourage families to further explore their local region.

The announcements come as Ms Palaszczuk faces pressure from the tourism industry and other stakeholders to open the borders.

On Thursday, Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the government wouldn’t take health advice from NSW – “the worst performing state”.

“It’s time for Gladys and the NSW government to get their act together and start performing as well as Queensland has on the health front,” he said.

cedar meats virus worst cluster
There will be no Ekka in Brisbane this year – but there will be a holiday for it. Photo: AAP

Other states

The Northern Territory has been declared free of the coronavirus after an Australian Defence Force member who was the NT’s only remaining patient was cleared overnight.

The ACT and South Australia also have no active cases. Western Australia and Tasmania reported no new infections on Thursday morning.

Australia has had 7084 cases, with only 534 active infections remaining.

The national death toll is 100 – NSW 49, Victoria 18, Tasmania 13, WA 9, Queensland 6, SA 4, ACT 3. (Two QLD residents who died in NSW have been included in both state’s counts).

-with AAP