News Coronavirus Stranger-to-stranger cases key to Victorian lockdown decision, other states also on alert

Stranger-to-stranger cases key to Victorian lockdown decision, other states also on alert

Melbourne coronavirus
Stranger-to-stranger transmission means you could catch COVID-19 after a brief chat with your barista. Photo: Getty
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Victorian health authorities are strongly leaning towards recommending the state stay in lockdown after evidence emerged of “stranger-to-stranger” virus transmission.

Senior government ministers met in a high-level briefing on Tuesday night and a final call on extending stay-at-home orders could be ticked off as early as Wednesday morning.

News some rural locations have been classified as tier one exposure sites would undoubtedly play into whether a “ring of steel” separation between Melbourne and regional areas would be possible this time.

Victorians are not the only ones on edge. There are now alerts for NSW after it emerged a Victorian with the coronavirus went camping at Jervis Bay.

That person also stopped at country petrol stations and tourist spots.

Western Australian authorities are also tracing a case detected there. That infection is believed to have spread through hotel quarantine.

This outbreak is ‘fast-moving’

Victoria’s COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said the state was grappling with what was likely the “fastest-moving outbreak” to hit Australia.

There are more than 350 exposure sites across the state and 54 active cases, one in 10 of whom have caught the virus from a stranger.

About 10 new exposure sites were added to the list at 8pm on Tuesday.

The Coles on Spencer Street in Docklands is a tier one site, with an infected case visiting the supermarket on May 30.

Other sites include Officeworks on Russell Street in Melbourne’s CBD, Craigieburn Central shopping centre, and the men’s public toilets on Bourke Street.

A case also visited the BP service station in Euroa, 165 kilometres from Melbourne.

That is listed as a tier one site – meaning anyone there at the same time as that person must quarantine for two weeks.

The BP truck stop in Glenrowan, 75 kilometres north-east of Euroa, has been named as a tier two site.

  • Click here to view Victoria’s list of exposure sites

News that a traveller was infectious with COVID-19 while moving between Victoria and NSW has sparked alarm. 

Euroa BP
The BP service station in Euroa is now a tier one exposure site. Photo: Google Maps

What’s being factored in

With all this in mind, there is fading hope that Melbourne’s restrictions will end as planned at 11.59pm on Thursday.

Victoria’s public health team has been weighing up the infectiousness of the Indian variant and the risk posed by possible unlinked cases.

The Age reports a source close to the government said chief health officer Brett Sutton’s team was “leaning strongly toward” recommending a lockdown extension.

One cabinet minister told the paper the state government was increasingly concerned about airborne transmission, saying a new mystery case or any more cases of “fleeting transmission” would inevitably result in Victoria’s lockdown continuing beyond its original Thursday deadline.

Another minister, speaking to The Age before Tuesday night’s briefing, said it was likely Victorians would have to endure more days at home.

Professor Sutton said earlier that the Indian variant of the virus was “an absolute beast” because “it has moved faster than any other strain we’ve dealt with”.

“We’re seeing transmission in settings and circumstances we’ve never seen before,” he said.

Four or five infected Victorians were thought to have caught the virus from “fleeting contact”, testing commander Mr Weimar said.

“They do not know each other’s names and that is very different from what we have seen before,” he added.

NSW on alert

NSW Health is boosting coronavirus testing in the Jervis Bay area and has issued a list of venues of concern after a potentially infectious person visited from Melbourne.

Victorian health officials notified NSW Health of the confirmed case who visited Jervis Bay, Goulburn, Hyams Beach and Vincentia on May 23 and 24.

The person reported symptoms from May 25, having driven back to Melbourne on May 24.

NSW Health is urging anyone who visited the venues of concern at the times listed to get in contact, to get tested and to isolate until they receive further instructions.

  • Click here to see NSW’s venues of concern

The venues include the Green Patch campground and Booderee National Park at Jervis Bay, the Cooked Goose Cafe at Hyams Beach, Coles Vincentia Shopping Village and Trapper’s Bakery and Shell Coles Express Big Merino at Goulburn.

WA infection

The WA Health Department is investigating how a person staying in a Perth quarantine hotel became infected with COVID-19.

It confirmed the virus was transmitted between two guests in neighbouring rooms at the Pan Pacific Hotel.

What authorities don’t know is how the virus jumped from one person to the other.

One of the men flew into Perth from Colombia and was found to be positive on May 23.

A man in the room next door had arrived in Perth on May 16 and had tested negative to COVID-19 twice before he tested positive on his day 13 test.

The Pan Pacific Hotel had previously advised WA Health that its rooms were “negative pressure”.

In April, Perth was plunged into a short lockdown after transmission within the Mercure Hotel in Perth.

-with agencies