Homes and social settings have made up a significant proportion of Victoria’s coronavirus outbreaks during the state’s second wave, while abattoirs and warehouses remain some of the workplaces hardest hit by the virus.
On Wednesday, the country had its deadliest day of the pandemic, with 21 COVID-19 deaths and 410 new cases in Victoria.
There have been 15,646 confirmed cases of the virus in the state, about half of which are still active infections.
What the government classes as “other” outbreaks – student accommodation, backpacker hostels, social settings, families and home settings – have accounted for 5004 cases from June 1-August 11.
Those infections are spread across 369 outbreak settings in Victoria.
When the state halted the easing of restrictions in mid-June, the Premier said rising COVID-19 infections were being driven by family-to-family transmission.
By mid-July, and following the reintroduction of Stage 3 restrictions in Melbourne and the neighbouring Mitchell shire, authorities said new infections were being driven by transmission in workplaces.
Now, under Stage 4 restrictions, about a quarter of a million Victorians have been stood down from their jobs or told to stay home from work as entire industries close in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
Thursday marks a week since the bulk of the new workplace rules came into effect, which Premier Daniel Andrews said on Wednesday were “the most significant elements of Stage 4”.
“With compliance up … and these measures in place, our experts remain firm in the view that this will drive the numbers down,” he said.
Coronavirus clusters linked to warehouses, schools
The government data reveals there were 551 coronavirus infections linked to 14 abattoirs from June 1-August 11.
Several of the state’s largest outbreaks have been in meat processing facilities, including regional Victoria’s biggest cluster.
The JBS food processing company this week confirmed it was closing its Brooklyn abattoir, which has been linked to at least 138 cases, indefinitely.
“The persistent community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria and the directives from DHHS have meant it is impossible to operate JBS Brooklyn in the current COVID environment,” the company said.
During the same June to August period, 439 cases were linked to 43 outbreaks at Victorian warehouses, and 172 cases were linked to nine food distribution centres.
Other workplace settings hit by the virus between the start of June and this week have been retail, with 80 cases across 14 sites and supermarkets, with 84 infections linked to 11 clusters.
There have been 630 cases linked to 69 school outbreaks.
The vast majority of the cases at schools are understood to be related to transmission in the community, rather than within the classroom.
Nursing homes remain of grave concern to authorities, with nearly 2000 currently active coronavirus cases linked to the sector.
More than 1000 healthcare workers currently have the virus, but the Premier said early analysis showed the “majority of healthcare workers are acquiring coronavirus outside of the workplace”.
Mr Andrews told Wednesday’s daily media briefing a more detailed breakdown would be provided about how and where transmission was occurring in outbreak settings.
Hotel quarantine divisions continue
Flaws in Victoria’s hotel quarantine program continue to be in the spotlight after days of conflicting political statements about the involvement of defence force personnel in the scheme.
An inquiry is investigating whether every case in the state’s second wave can be traced back to the botched program.
Questions have been raised about the use of private security companies and subcontractors to guard returned travellers, and why police or ADF officers were not used in their place.
Mr Andrews said on Monday it was “fundamentally incorrect” to say ADF staff were on offer but Victoria said no.
His comments were swiftly disputed by Defence Minister Linda Reynolds – and her comments were then contradicted by a statement from Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner.
The dispute has prompted state opposition leader Michael O’Brien to step up pressure on the government and call for the Premier’s resignation.
The ABC understands in March, 100 ADF personnel were put on standby to be deployed to Victoria to assist with hotel quarantine.
The ADF was involved in the planning for the scheme but officers not used by the Victorian government until later in the year.