Victoria is once again on edge after the state’s health department reported two “likely positive cases” of COVID-19 in Melbourne.
The Department of Health has launched a full investigation as it urgently attempts to identify the source of the new infections in the city’s northern suburbs.
In a tweet on Monday just after 10am, the department said: “It’s currently understood the two individuals are connected”.
“A full investigation is underway into these results, and initial public health actions are being put in place while both individuals isolate and are urgently retested.
“We will communicate any specific public health actions the community needs to undertake as soon as possible when investigations and case interviews are complete.”
If confirmed, the two suspect cases could bring Victoria’s 86-day run of no community transmission to an end.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton on Friday said there may be an active but undiagnosed infectious case in Melbourne’s north after traces were picked up in wastewater in the Epping and Wollert area on Thursday.
On Friday, the department admitted it had listed the wrong supermarket as an exposure site during an outbreak earlier this month.
People had been warned of potential exposure at Woolworths in Epping a fortnight ago after a Victorian man contracted coronavirus in Adelaide’s hotel quarantine.
The department acknowledged its error, identifying the correct site as Woolworths Epping North, three kilometres away.
They said anyone who was at Woolworths Epping North on Saturday May 8 between 5.40pm and 6.38pm must get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.
Importance of mass vaccination
Victorian-based federal cabinet minister Dan Tehan said the government would support Victorian efforts to deal with the two possible cases.
“The potential outbreak of these two cases shows … we still need to make sure we are vaccinating against it,” he told Sky News.
Having recently visited the UK, he said what was happening there showed the benefits of mass vaccination.
“They are, with confidence, looking to open their economy and their way of life.”
Interstate travel and vaccine passports
The latest setback in Victoria comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces stiff opposition on plans to allow vaccinated Australians to travel between states in the event of coronavirus lockdowns.
The prime minister will pitch his internal passport idea to national cabinet later this week.
Cabinet minister Simon Birmingham said the plan would give Australians greater certainty in terms of what benefits they received from being vaccinated.
But, the proposal would also deny freedom of movement to the many Australians who refuse to be immunised.
Premiers and chief ministers are not sold on the interstate passports and neither is federal backbencher Matt Canavan, who says freedom of movement is an Australian birthright.
Labor has described the passport idea as a “thought bubble”.
Senator Birmingham said he was focused on keeping internal borders open rather than responding to closures.
“First and foremost, I want to make sure we keep the borders open by keeping COVID-19 suppressed,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
“That is the priority, to make sure the states and territories have no excuse or reason to close those borders.
“It’s not unreasonable though to be talking through with the states and territories whether or not those vaccinated Australians are able to move more freely or not.”
About 3.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have so far been administered, through a mix of AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs.
“There have been many uncertainties in the vaccine rollout to date and we need to continue to be honest about the fact we can’t control every aspect of global supply,” he said.
“We can’t control whether there are unexpected impacts in relation to health or other factors or advice that impact the vaccine rollout.”
There are fears the rollout has been hampered by complacency and vaccine hesitancy, particularly in relation to the AstraZeneca jab.
Senator Birmingham is urging people not to wait for alternative vaccines to arrive.
“Australians aged over 50 who have concerns or hesitancy should sit down and talk to their GP,” he said.
Australian Medical Association president Omar Khorshid stressed the need for vaccination urgency, saying it was only a matter of time before another outbreak.
“There isn’t a good vaccine and a bad vaccine. They’re both excellent vaccines,” he told reporters.
“Go out and get vaccinated as soon as you can. The more people that are vaccinated, the lesser the impact that will be.”