A further six cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the regional Victorian town of Shepparton, taking the total for the outbreak to seven.
Thousands of people in the town and surrounding areas have been forced into isolation, and several school campuses have closed, after a man in his 30s tested positive on Friday morning.
The new cases have been detected after the Premier Daniel Andrews refused to rule out a wider lockdown for regional Victoria.
Earlier on Friday, Mr Andrews said Victoria was on the verge of an exploding Delta outbreak, with its immediate path decided by the choices people make as soon as this weekend.
Victoria had 55 new local COVID-19 cases on Friday, 30 of whom had been in the community while infectious.
Contact tracers have identified the source of infection for 49 of the cases, who include the first in regional Victoria in the current outbreak and a police officer from Melbourne’s east.
The six new Shepparton cases are in addition to those numbers.
It is understood they are family members of the first case, but do not live in the same house.
The state’s COVID response chief Jeroen Weimar said the man has two children at St Mel’s Primary in Shepparton, which has been closed for deep cleaning.
More than 2000 students from all four campuses of Greater Shepparton Secondary College have also been identified as tier one close contacts.
Students and their families have been told to remain at home until they receive further orders from the health department, and not to leave even to get tested.
The Shepparton Tutoring Centre on Wyndham Street has also been listed as a tier one exposure site.
Goulburn Valley Health says contact tracing was underway in the town and people would be notified of any exposure sites. Two new drive-through testing sites are being set up.
By late Friday afternoon, businesses in regional Victoria – including commercial and industrial equipment supplier Delecca’s – were emerging as exposure sites. Elsewhere, the Victorian cabinet was reportedly meeting to discuss the new outbreak in central Victoria.
The developments came on what Mr Andrews had already described as a “bad day” for Victoria.
“I have no restriction announcements to make, no rule changes to make today” he said.
“But I can’t rule that out.”
Last week, there were a spate of breaches across Melbourne, including an organised takeaway pub crawl in Richmond and an engagement party in Caulfield North attended by 69 guests.
“We cannot have a weekend this weekend like last weekend. We must all follow these rules and find it within ourselves to push through this,” Mr Andrews said.
“I know it’s incredibly difficult, but so is having thousands of people in hospital, and that’s what we are faced with. That is what we will all confront.”
He urged Melburnians to abide by lockdown restrictions, which include five reasons to leave home, a five-kilometre travel limit for exercise and shopping, a 9pm-5am curfew and mandatory masks both indoors and outdoors.
Mr Andrews said contact tracers were working harder than ever to get ahead of the virus.
“It’s not just delicate, it’s not a tipping point, we are right on the edge of this getting away from us,” he said.
“The question really is, do we spiral out of control or don’t we?
“It’s not because contact tracing are not doing everything they can, they are, it’s not because we didn’t lock down fast enough, we did.
“It’s this Delta variant, it’s so wildly infectious it will find every breach of every rule and it will potentially spread because of that.”
Victoria has 15 COVID patients in hospital, including six in intensive care. But Mr Andrews warned numbers would rise if the outbreak got away.
“We’ve had it before, but not with Delta. And if we get it again, it will mean that kids will get this, people of all ages will get this,” he said.
“People who are fit and healthy will finish up in hospital. And people will die. And not someone you’ve never heard of. And not someone who was in the twilight of their life but people who are otherwise healthy.”
Two overseas-acquired cases were also detected in hotel quarantine on Friday, taking the total number of Victorian infections to 57 for the second day in a row.
Regional Victoria came out of lockdown more than a week ago, with Mr Andrews citing a “degree of containment” around the Melbourne outbreak.
But there have been repeated wastewater detections of the virus in Shepparton, dating back to as early as August 9. Similar detections have also caused concern at Lakes Entrance in Gippsland, with virus fragments picked up between August 8 and 11.
Mr Weimar also said 13 of Friday’s cases were linked to a multicultural youth centre at Broadmeadows.
“The earliest case and earliest onset of symptoms goes all the way back to August 11,” he said.
“I’m glad we found it, but we now have 13 cases in one hit.”
Friday’s results came from 48,273 test results in the previous 24 hours, while 28,601 vaccine doses were given at state-run hubs.
Victoria has more than 530 exposure sites, including a vaccination hub in Frankston and dozens of supermarkets and other essential shops across Melbourne. See them all here.
Melbourne’s lockdown is due to last until at least September 2.