Roving testing squads will doorknock Melbourne’s COVID hotspots and residents might also face stay-at-home orders as authorities try to stamp out the city’s surging coronavirus outbreak.
“This is about being nimble and responding to where we have hotspot locations,” Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said on Monday.
“We are drilling down the data and looking at particular suburbs now so we can focus our efforts on those particular suburbs where we have particular issues.”
In Sydney on Monday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said localised restrictions were “part of living with COVID-19” and proof the national cabinet’s slow easing of restrictions made sense.
Victoria reported 16 new confirmed virus infections cases on Monday – another day of double-digit increases that has sparked an intense effort to try to control the outbreak of community transmission.
The state’s caseload has risen by more than 120 in the past week – mostly through families that have ignored physical distancing measures at home.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has identified the municipalities of Hume, Casey, Brimbank, Moreland, Cardinia and Darebin – home to more than a million people – as coronavirus hotspots.
“Just because you don’t live in a local government hotspot area does not mean that your area is without risk – and everybody should still be complying very closely with all of the public health advice,” Ms Mikakos said.
She said the state government had not ruled out imposing stay-at-home restrictions on the six council areas. What form they might take was under “active consideration”.
“We’ve had stay-at-home directions in the past, which limited the types of reasons that you could leave your home to medical care, going to work and going to school,” she said.
“We don’t want to be in that situation.
“If people in those hotspot areas particularly limit their movements in the next few weeks, we can assess the situation and see if that makes a difference.”
Victoria’s cases on Monday are made up of six linked to outbreaks, five identified through routine testing, four in returned travellers in hotel quarantine and one case under investigation.
They also include:
- Two more security contractors linked to the outbreak at the Stamford Plaza Hotel, taking that cluster to 14;
- Two further cases linked to H&M Northland, taking the total to four. One is a staff member who attended Melbourne’s Black Lives Matter protest on June 6 but is not thought to have acquired the infection there;
- Two new cases linked to Albanvale Primary School, both teachers;
- A child from Great Beginnings Reservoir childcare centre in Reservoir, in Melbourne’s north.
Ms Mikakos said an “action plan” starting Monday would involve widespread testing, including for people without symptoms at Keilor Downs College and Albanvale Primary School.
A team of 50 health officials would also be doorknocking, starting with the Brimbank and Cardinia council areas, to increase community engagement in hotspots areas, she said.
Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said people should avoid the local hotspots, or not leave from them if they lived there. Authorities are particularly concerned about school holiday travel, with the winter break beginning in Victoria on Friday.
“We really need to say, look, reconsider travel or don’t make plans to travel into these hotspot areas in particular, because it would be a very significant thing for there to be reestablished community transmission in rural NSW or some other parts where that can be avoided,” Professor Sutton said.
Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy also said people who lived in those areas should stay home.
“If you live in one of those areas, we don’t want you to fly to visit your family in Sydney or to go to country Victoria and potentially spread the virus,” Professor Murphy said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has also urged people not to travel to Melbourne “unless it is absolutely essential”.
“The border between NSW and Victoria will continue to stay open,” she said.
“However, … nobody from NSW should be travelling to those hot spots.
“Reconsider your plans. Reconsider what you’re doing. But certainly, Melbourne is a discretion. We would recommend people not at this stage travel to Melbourne unless they have to.”
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said WA authorities were monitoring the Victorian outbreak.
“Clearly it makes you have second thoughts,” he told 6PR radio.
“This community spread in Victoria has now been going on for about a week and they can’t track it down.
“They’ve actually shut down parts of their economy they had reopened. So that’s the risk – if you get the virus back you then have to start shutting down again.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has not ruled out opening borders to select states.
Her government won’t make a final decision until after national cabinet meets on Friday.