Five Melbourne residents have sparked COVID-19 alarms interstate and overseas after flouting lockdown and border rules.
Three people were caught in New Zealand after travelling from Melbourne to Sydney and then flying overseas. Their coronavirus tests have so far been negative but they have been taken to quarantine.
Of more pressing concern for authorities is the likely possibility a woman who left Melbourne for a road trip through three states spread the coronavirus.
On Thursday morning, Queensland and NSW residents can expect to hear more from health authorities who are tracking the movements of the woman and her husband.
The wife tested positive for COVID-19 at Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast after spending several days travelling with her husband through regional Victoria and NSW.
Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young has said it is possible the woman was infectious when she left Melbourne on June 1, when Victoria was in a hard lockdown.
Authorities have already identified six close contacts of the woman.
They include her husband who, despite testing negative, could become infected given how much time the pair spent in the car together, Dr Young said.
While the couple isolates at the Sunshine Coast University Hospital, regional centres in NSW and Queensland are on alert as a list of COVID-exposure sites in the two states is expected to grow.
During their road trip through NSW, the infected woman and her partner stopped in several regional centres, including Gillenbah, Dubbo, Forbes and Moree.
Eleven venues in the four towns have been identified by NSW Health as potential exposure sites, with more expected.
Among them are a Shell petrol station and the Reading Cinemas in Dubbo, a Caltex in Gillenbah, a Woolworths in Moree, and cafes.
Moree mayor Katrina Humphries said she was “shocked and saddened” their town might have been exposed to the virus.
“Moree will get through this. We will have a few anxious days and be inconvenienced. However, if we do get any positive results back we need to be mindful and caring of our community,” Cr Humphries.
“This is no fault of any of our residents, and if anyone becomes ill we need to look out for them and give them moral support.”
Anyone who attended the 11 listed venues must immediately get tested and isolate.
NSW Health is also urging anyone who has been in any of the four affected towns to monitor for symptoms and get tested if any develop.
Pop-up testing clinics will be set up and opening hours extended to support the increase in testing.
Queensland’s list of exposure sites include a McDonald’s in Goondiwindi, where the couple crossed the border from NSW, and sites on the Sunshine Coast, including at Moffat Beach, Kings Beach, Buddina, Baringa and Caloundra.
The couple also travelled through Toowoomba, west of Brisbane.
The list of exposure sites is on the Queensland Heath website and will inevitably grow.
The Sunshine Coast region has been sent double the amount of coronavirus vaccine it normally receives. Dr Young has urged residents to get their shots, and front up for testing if they develop symptoms.
Queensland Police Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski has promised to investigate why the couple left Melbourne during the latest lockdown, and warned that anyone who defied health directives could end up in court.
Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said much would depend on the results of testing in the next few days.
“If you have been to one of the exposure sites, whether you have symptoms or not, we would like you to come forward and get tested,” she said.
Victoria’s health department said an emergency meeting of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee was held on Wednesday night.
It also raised the prospect of Victorian exposure sites related to the woman’s positive case.
“Any critical information will be provided to the public as soon as possible when case interviews for any potential Victorian exposure sites can commence,” the health department said.
Four new exposure sites across three suburbs were listed just before midnight on Thursday.
A BP service station and a Bunnings in Thomastown, and a Coles in Bundoora have been listed as tier two sites.
Anyone who visited at the specified times must get tested and isolate until they return a negative result.
Marco Fine Food & Groceries in Reservoir has been listed as tier one, meaning anyone who visited it on Tuesday afternoon must get tested and quarantine for 14 days. regardless of whether they have a negative result.