News Coronavirus Jump in COVID cases puts Melbourne’s key targets in jeopardy
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Jump in COVID cases puts Melbourne’s key targets in jeopardy

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The Chadstone coronavirus cluster continued to grow on Monday.
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Victoria has posted 15 more coronavirus infections – its highest daily count in nearly a week – as concerns grow about whether Melbourne will meet its target for virus rules to be eased within a fortnight.

There was also another COVID death on Tuesday, taking the state’s toll to 807. The national toll is 895.

Tuesday’s tally is the highest since 15 were also reported on October 1, and came after chief health officer Brett Sutton said it was “line ball” whether Melbourne would meet its targets by October 19.

The city’s benchmark 14-day average is down to 10.6. Under its proposed path out of lockdown, Melbourne’s average must be below five for it to take the next step.

Asked on Monday – when Victoria had just nine cases – if the city was on track, Professor Sutton said: “My gut feeling is it will be a line ball. It’s not certain one way or the other.”

The plan also requires fewer than five mystery cases statewide for a fortnight before rules will be wound back. On Tuesday, that figure for Melbourne was 13, while it was zero in regional Victoria.

But Professor Sutton said the state could move to the next stage even if it didn’t meet that target, depending on circumstances.

“We’d have to see exactly where we were at at that time, including the trend. Because if all five of the cases are in the first week of that fortnight and we have seven or eight or nine days prior to the 19th that has absolutely no mystery cases, that’s a positive,” he said.

Premier Daniel Andrews will give more details in a briefing later on Tuesday.

Of most recent concern to Victorian health authorities is a cluster centred on a butcher’s at Chadstone Shopping Centre. By Monday, it had grown to 24 infections, including family members, staff and customers.

All of those cases were active.

Three more sites were also added to the state’s high-risk locations list on Monday: Leo’s Fine Food and Wine Supermarket in Glen Iris, Aldi in West Footscray and White Line Tyres in Benalla.

Anyone with symptoms is urged to be tested.

There were early reports on Monday of one new case in the regional city of Shepparton, but it came from a rapid results test that is not considered as accurate, according to Professor Sutton. A later test confirmed the person was negative.

In other announcements on Monday, all Victorian students will be back in the classroom by the end of October. The state government said year 7 students would return to face-to-face learning on October 12 alongside all primary school and senior school students.

About 164,000 students in years 8 to 10 will return from October 26.

-with AAP