Victoria’s coronavirus outbreak has grown further, with nine more cases on Tuesday.
However, in some good news for millions of locked-down Victorians, the latest update includes six cases already confirmed on Monday.
The outbreak that has sparked the state lockdown has grown to 54 infections.
Tuesday’s data came from 42,000 tests across Victoria – and amid increasing fears about the virus’ spread into Melbourne’s aged-care facilities.
At least two staff and one aged-care resident have already been diagnosed with COVID, while several homes across Melbourne were locked down after exposure to infected workers.
Victorian authorities have not yet confirmed if there are any more aged-care infections among Tuesday’s cases. They are expected to give more details at a briefing later in the day.
Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck told Senate estimates hearings on Tuesday that there were no new cases from the sector among Victoria’s latest infections.
There are also more exposure sites, with a shopping centre, Aldi supermarket and Subway added to a list that has topped 300. There are also concerns about Footscray Market, in Melbourne’s inner-west, where several stalls are listed.
Tuesday’s update came after Acting Premier James Merlino warned on Monday that Victoria’s COVID outbreak could get worse before it got better – and refused to rule out extending the statewide lockdown that is due to end on Thursday night.
As of Monday, none of Victoria’s active cases live in regional areas of the state, although there are exposure sites outside Melbourne.
Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, would not discount a return of the “ring of steel” – road border checkpoints that stood for weeks in 2020 as the regions recovered from the second wave quicker than Melbourne.
“It will be determined as we go through a review of the situation day by day. It is not out of the question,” he said.
A 99-year-old female resident at Arcare Maidstone was among three new cases on Monday linked to the home in the city’s north-west.
She was within the area where a COVID-positive female healthcare employee worked, and has been moved to hospital with mild symptoms.
The other two cases included the staffer’s son and an unvaccinated colleague, who also worked at BlueCross Western Gardens in Sunshine from Wednesday to Friday.
Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley resisted the temptation to criticise the federal government for repealing a ban on private aged-care staff working across multiple sites last November.
But the Commonwealth is facing heavy scrutiny for vaccination rates among Arcare Maidstone residents and staff, as well as other private-run facilities.
Early on Tuesday, Senator Colbeck was forced to admit he did not know how many staff in the sector had been vaccinated against COVID. Despite that, Senator Colbeck said the federal government remained “comfortable” with the rollout.
On Friday, national cabinet will consider a proposal to make vaccination mandatory for all aged and disability care workers.
Federal MP Bill Shorten, whose electorate of Maribyrnong takes in the Maidstone facility, said workers in both the public and private systems should have been vaccinated by now.
“It is disgraceful that residents and aged-care workers and the same with people with severe disabilities and disability workers have not yet been vaccinated,” Mr Shorten told Nine Network on Tuesday.
“The anxiety on people is shocking.”
Arcare Maidstone and Blue Cross Western Gardens residents remain locked down. Nearby, the Royal Freemasons’ Coppin and Footscray sites returned to more relaxed settings after staff and residents returned negative test results.
Two Melbourne schools – Coburg’s Mercy College and Methodist Ladies College in Kew – were shut on Monday, due to COVID-19 scares, further complicating the resumption of remote learning for students.