News State Victoria News Possible ‘super spreader’ as Victoria’s coronavirus spike continues

Possible ‘super spreader’ as Victoria’s coronavirus spike continues

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Victoria’s Health Minister says the state’s concerning coronavirus resurgence may be traced to a single ‘super spreader’ as the spike recorded another 66 infections Friday.

Victoria has now experienced 18 consecutive days of double-digit infection figures in case numbers, although the latest numbers represent a slight dip from Thursday’s high or 73.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said she received a briefing of a genomic sequencing report on Tuesday that seemed to suggest a single source of infection for many of the cases across the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne.

“It appears to be even potentially a super spreader that has caused this upsurge in cases,” Ms Mikakos said.

“We don’t have the full picture yet, and as [Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton] explained the other day, not all of these cases have yet been subject to genomic sequencing. We need to enable that process to be completed and to be provided to the judicial inquiry in the fullness of time,” she added.

Tests refused

Ms Mikakos said 10 additional testing centres were being added to 22 in suburbs identified as coronavirus hotspots as more than 24,000 coronavirus tests were completed on Thursday.

There have been more than 880,000 tests carried out since January 1, but more than 10,000 people have refused to be tested..

A team of about 1500 people continued to door-knock in hotspot suburbs, encouraging residents to have a coronavirus test, the Premier said.

Victorian has 442 active coronavirus infections, with 2368 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state since the pandemic began.

Of the new cases, 28 are under investigation, 17 are connected to contained or known outbreaks, 20 were discovered through routine testing, while another is linked to hotel quarantine.

Mr Andrews has not ruled out expanding the current lockdown of 10 Melbourne postcodes to take in other suburbs.

Emergency worker cases

The latest figures were confirmed amid news that two emergency workers at a hospital in Melbourne’s north have tested positive to the deadly virus.

In an email to staff, Northern Hospital in Epping recommended that all emergency department employees have swab tests.

The directive comes after the first fines were issued for breaching restrictions in Melbourne’s coronavirus hot spots.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said seven people had been nabbed for failing to comply with restrictions.

A group of five were “out and about” with drugs and weapons, so they were charged with those offences, as well as not complying with restrictions.

A woman from a restricted postcode was “chilling with her friends” in the CBD while another person caught outside their area was also fined.

“We’ve got seven but we’ve also got a lot of other data to come in, so there’s maybe more out there,” Mr Patton told 3AW Radio on Thursday.

The commissioner said police were fairly pleased with the behaviour of the community in the restricted areas, but reminded Melburnians the window for tolerance against breaches would be minimal.

The police force also proved not immune against infection after an officer tested positive to the coronavirus, closing a Victorian police station and putting six officers in isolation.

Werribee Police Station in Melbourne’s west was temporarily closed for cleaning on Wednesday and reopened on Thursday after the officer tested positive.

Victoria Police said the officer felt unwell while on planned leave and had not been at work since June 21.

Six colleagues of the infected officer have gone into isolation and will be tested as a precautionary measure.

Investigations are under way to identify whether members of the community had contact with the officer.

Return to schools under review

With 17 schools closed in recent weeks for cleaning, Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he will review whether students in the locked-down areas should return to school.

Meanwhile, Coles has been forced to impose a two-pack limit on products including butter, cheese and fresh milk in Victoria, Tasmania and parts of NSW after several staff members at its Laverton distribution centre tested positive to COVID-19.

If this second wave is not stabilised, many people may die from coronavirus in Victoria, Professor Sutton warned.

Many of the new cases are localised in Melbourne’s inner north and west, where more than 300,000 residents in 10 postcodes will remain in lockdown until July 29.

Professor Sutton said “not unexpectedly” the number of patients in hospital had grown to 20, with four people in intensive care.

A large proportion of the state’s recent cases have been traced back to infection control breaches by security staff at hotels hosting returned travellers.

The state government confirmed on Thursday veteran judge Jennifer Coate will lead an inquiry into Victoria’s hotel quarantine program.

Masks mandatory

Commuters on Victoria’s public transport network should be forced to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a union says.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union is demanding masks be mandatory and made available to all passengers on Melbourne’s public transport network amid the state’s ballooning coronavirus crisis.

The union wrote to the state government on Thursday asking for an urgent meeting with transport officials and operators.

“If we want to be on top of the virus, we must implement preventative measures especially in areas of high congestion,” RTBU branch secretary Luba Grigorovitch said.

-with AAP