News Coronavirus Vic crisis talks to consider snap lockdown amid worsening virus outbreak

Vic crisis talks to consider snap lockdown amid worsening virus outbreak

melbourne airport outbreak
Victoria has paused international arrivals as the state battles a coronavirus outbreak with a five-day lockdown. Photo: Getty
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The Victorian cabinet is meeting to consider a snap five-day lockdown to stamp out Melbourne’s Holiday Inn virus cluster.

The emergency meeting was called for 11.45am on Friday (AEDT), amid reports Victoria Police had already been briefed about the state government’s next move as the outbreak grew to 13.

Victoria’s emergency chiefs were also meeting about the same time.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed Victorian officials had been involved in a phone hook-up with interstate counterparts earlier on Friday.

It is not yet known if any lockdown would apply only to greater Melbourne or to the wider state.

Confirmation of the crisis talks came after five new COVID cases linked to the quarantine hotel outbreak were confirmed by the Health Department on Friday morning.

“Both are household primary close contacts of previously announced cases,” the department posted on Twitter.

On Friday, the department said one case was formally reported after midnight. It was included in Thursday’s data as public health actions began then, including the case interview.

“The five cases listed are the cases confirmed publicly yesterday … The Holiday Inn outbreak total remains at 13,” it said.

The quarantine hotel cluster first emerged on Sunday, with confirmation of a virus infection in an authorised officer working at the Holiday Inn.

The outbreak now includes a female assistant manager at the hotel and two men, both partners of female workers who earlier tested positive to COVID-19. Two confirmed infections announced late on Thursday night are also in close contacts of people already diagnosed with the virus.

One of the men may be linked to Camberwell Grammar School, in Melbourne’s east.

The cluster also includes a family of three who were in hotel quarantine at the Holiday Inn. They are all COVID positive and one, who has underlying health conditions, is in intensive care.

This week’s rapid growth in the outbreak raised tensions across Melbourne about the prospect of a return to lockdown.

Victorian government advisers met on Thursday to consider how this might happen, the Herald Sun reported on Friday, citing an unnamed source with knowledge of the discussions.

Later, the ABC reported that meetings had continued on Friday morning, with “all options on the table”.

In another sign a lockdown was likely, federal MPs in Melbourne have been told to rush to Canberra by midnight Friday.

“Based on the evolving situation in Melbourne from the Holiday Inn COVID-19 outbreak, it is highly recommended that any senators who are in the greater Melbourne area bring forward their travel plans to arrive in Canberra today, Friday 12 February 2021,” the Usher of the Black Rod wrote to senators.

“There are currently no border restrictions for Victoria with the ACT, except for individuals who have been in the nominated exposure sites connected with the outbreak. However, this could change at short notice.

“We understand the chief health officers are meeting to discuss the developing situation.”

Premier Daniel Andrews will give a briefing at 1pm on Friday.

Quizzed on the outbreak and potential lockdown on a visit to Melbourne on Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had not been briefed on it.

“I will not speculate on what the Premier may or may not do,” he said.

“I will let the Premier make his announcements and to weigh up the things that he has to weigh up in making any decisions that they will make here in Victoria.”

However, Mr Morrison said he supported a “proportionate response” to the hotel cluster, such as seen in recent quarantine outbreaks in Brisbane and Perth.

Friday’s crisis talks came amid fears the Victorian outbreak might have spread interstate after an airport cafe was listed as an exposure site. Brunetti cafe, which is in the domestic terminal four at the airport, confirmed in an email to staff that the infected person was a worker.

The alert period for the cafe is 4.45am-1.15pm on February 9, prompting concerns that it might have been visited by people flying interstate.

Anyone who visited the cafe during that time needs to get a COVID-19 test and isolate for 14 days.

  • See an updated list of Victorian exposure sites here

As yet, there is no community transmission of the virus from the quarantine cluster.

On Thursday, Victorian testing commander Jeroen Weimar said authorities were “right on top” of the outbreak, picking up cases among identified contacts who had tested negative just days earlier.

His “working assumption” was that all the cases had the more transmissible British variant of COVID-19, complicating the containment job for officials. Genomic testing for the first 11 infections has confirmed that.

“This is by no means over,” Mr Weimar said.

“We are still in the opening quarter of the Holiday Inn outbreak, I’m afraid. We’ve got a lot more work to do.”

-with AAP