Thirty new cases of Covid-19 were identified in Victoria overnight following a testing blitz that is underway in hotspot suburbs.
It comes as the Northern Territory chief minister announced that Victorians who live in or who have passed through hotspot locations must stay out of the territory. The NT will push ahead with plans to lift border restrictions from 17 July but quarantine measures will remain in place for anyone travelling from designated coronavirus hotspots and anyone found to have lied on a statutory declaration about living in a hotspot could face a jail term of up to three years.
Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, Dr Annaliese van Diemen, said on Friday that of the new cases in the state, seven were linked to known outbreaks while five were detected in hotel quarantine. A further five were detected through routine testing, with further investigations underway to establish if those cases are linked to outbreaks or community transmission. Meanwhile, 13 of the new cases remain are under investigation.
Van Diemen said health authorities were working closely with supermarket chain Coles to undertake contact tracing for two cases that worked at the distribution centre in Laverton. She said one of those cases was very clearly linked to a large outbreak within a family in Keilor Downs. A further cohort of Coles staff are now in quarantine.
“We are testing the entire cohort of workers, because it is a very large group of workers and we really don’t want to take any chances with our essential food suppliers at this point in time,” she said.
A healthcare worker at the Orygen youth mental health facility has also been diagnosed, and is believed to have worked while infectious and possibly asymptomatic. That inpatient facility, in Footscray, is now in lockdown, with patients quarantined to their rooms while cleaning and testing is underway.
Van Diemen said the main driver of the clusters that have emerged over the past nine days had been household parties and gatherings including where, in some cases, people visited each other despite waiting for test results or experiencing symptoms.
Meanwhile, a testing blitz is continuing across Keilor Downs, Broadmeadows, Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Hallam, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir and Pakenham. Anyone in those locations can get a test even if they are showing no symptoms. However, only those showing symptoms need to self-isolate until they receive test results and recover.
The response to the testing, which involves public health workers door-knocking residents and inviting them to mobile testing vans on their streets, had been positive, Van Diemen said. However, some people had declined tests, which are not compulsory. It was too early to say why some people were not taking up testing offers, she said, but public health teams were collecting that data.
“We would like everybody to get tested in those areas,” she said. “We would like to really emphasise the message that it is important to get tested and important for us to find every case in those areas. We understand why people might have reservations but we are trying to make it is absolutely easy for everybody possible to get tested.”
At the moment, there are no restrictions on people from hotspots moving within the state unless they are sick. “The overall baseline proportion of cases in Victoria is still very low,” Van Diemen said. “The chance that anyone in these hotspots has Covid is low, but our message is not about specific individuals from hotspots, it’s about the behaviour of the population at large, not going out if you are sick, getting tested and maintaining physical distancing and hand hygiene wherever you are.”
Meanwhile in NSW, six new cases of were diagnosed in the 24 hours to 25 June, the state health department said on Friday. One case is a 12-year-old student of Camden high school. Five other new cases are those of returned travellers.
“In line with the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, NSW Health strongly discourages travel to and from areas of Victoria with Covid-19 outbreaks until control of community transmission has been contained,” the department said.