News State Victoria News Mask rules return, New Year’s Eve parties scaled back, amid Victorian outbreak fears
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Mask rules return, New Year’s Eve parties scaled back, amid Victorian outbreak fears

Victorian Transport Minister Jacinta Allan, filling in for Premier Daniel Andrews, announced indoor masks will be mandatory again. Photo: Facebook
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Victorians must wear masks inside again and new restrictions are in place for New Year’s Eve celebrations as the state moves to fight off the risk of coronavirus continuing to spread from interstate.

Three women who tested positive in Melbourne have been linked to a returned traveller from New South Wales.

Another three people connected to those women have now tested positive, Victoria’s testing chief Jeroen Weimar said on Thursday morning.

“We will throw everything at this,” Mr Weimar said.

So far, 52 people have been identified as close contacts, and they reside across the state in as far as Leongatha in the east to Barwon Heads on the Bellarine Peninsula.

It is understood that people in these areas have been socialising with contacts over the Christmas period and are now staying in holiday homes in those areas.

Victorian authorities have identified the Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant in Black Rock and the Holy Family Catholic Church in Doveton as the most likely sites of transmission.

That’s on top of a series of locations released by the health department late on Wednesday, with exposure dates between December 21 and December 28.

They included:

  • Katlialo restaurant in Eaton Mall in Oakleigh;
  • Mentone/Parkdale Beach;
  • Century City Walk and Mocha Jo’s in Glen Waverley;
  • Kmart, Big W Target, Millers, King of Gifts and Lacoste stores at the Fountain Gate Shopping Centre

Minister for Transport, Jacinta Allan, standing in for Premier Daniel Andrews, has confirmed tighter restrictions would be in place from 5pm on New Year’s Eve.

“Tonight is New Year’s Eve and every Victorian deserves the right to mark what has been the most challenging year for all of us,” Ms Allan said.

“However…(coronavirus) doesn’t end at midnight.

“We do apologise…but this is a necessary step.”

From 5pm, masks will be mandatory indoors except in a resident’s own house.

Many group New Year’s Eve party plans will have to change, with home visitor limits reduced to 15 per day instead of 30.

“We’re now asking people to wear a mask if they are indoors in any location that’s not their home,” Ms Allan said.

Authorities are urging Victorians to rethink their plans to travel to New South Wales.

“This is a very dynamic situation, we are monitoring it very very closely,” Ms Allan said.

The new cases bring Victoria’s 61-day streak of no new COVID-19 cases to an end.

New South Wales cluster

The latest people to test positive for coronavirus in New South Wales are believed to have been together at a Christmas party, but authorities are desperately trying to determine how the unlinked cluster broke out.

An increase of 18 cases and the emergence of a new ‘Croydon cluster’ on Wednesday have again put the spotlight on whether NSW went hard enough when the first case was detected.

Health authorities are warning that all Australians need to stay vigilant in coming days as the virus may have spread to other parts of the country.

Already there are signs it has.

On Wednesday night, a spokesman for the Victorian government confirmed authorities believed three new cases in their state were linked to the Sydney cluster.

Victoria has also announced tighter border restrictions with NSW, adding to bans on the northern beaches, Greater Sydney and central coast.

From Friday, anyone travelling from Wollongong and the Blue Mountains in NSW will not be allowed to enter Victoria.

Anyone already in Victoria who travelled to those regions since December 27 should get tested and stay at home until their results come back.

Despite the run, celebrations for the new year in Victoria were already going to be muted on Thursday night.

“It has been a very hard year and we have done an incredible thing as Victorians – let’s not risk it as we celebrate the end of 2020,” Police Minister Lisa Neville said.

Meanwhile, a NSW woman, 57, has been arrested after speeding through a checkpoint in East Gippsland on Wednesday.

The woman is from Bateau Bay on the NSW Central Coast, a designated red zone.

Police had to use a tyre deflation device to stop her car.

-with AAP