A locally acquired coronavirus case reported by Victoria’s health authorities today has been linked back to the Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn outbreak, bringing the cluster to 14 cases.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the new case was a friend of a worker at the quarantine hotel, and that their test result came back positive overnight.
Andrews added that within eight hours of the notification, 38 of their close contacts had also been told to self-isolate.
He said 996 primary close contacts linked to the outbreak had been identified and there were now 20 active cases in Victoria.
Health authorities had received 20,116 test results in the previous 24 hours, he said.
Andrews said 11 of the 12 staff from Brunetti Cafe at Melbourne Airport’s Terminal 4, where an employee worked while he was infectious, had tested negative, which was “positive news”.
“That is very significant given that they were at the highest risk of exposure given their proximity to the affected co-worker,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had agreed to suspend international flights to Victoria for the duration of the lockdown, he said.
Five more flights carrying about 100 people were scheduled to land by midnight tonight, he said.
“They’ll be taken care of but no further flights beyond those five until at the earliest next Thursday,” he said.
‘A lot of pain out there’
The Holiday Inn cluster prompted a snap five-day lockdown the State Government said was an important circuit-breaker to try to stop the spread of the highly infectious UK strain.
Under stage four restrictions, Victorians cannot leave their homes except to shop for essential items, for care and care-giving, for two hours of exercise and for essential work.
Masks must be worn at all times, except inside the home, and residents must remain within a 5 kilometre radius from home.
Schools and universities are closed and people should work from home if they can.
Andrews said he knew Victorians did not want to be in this position.
“But I can’t have a situation where, in two weeks time, we look back and we wish we had taken these decisions now,” he said.
“I know there’s a lot of pain out there. I will have more to say about support for business and for others who have been negatively impacted by this absolutely necessary public health measure.”
Seven new exposure sites were listed on the Department of Health’s website overnight including: Coates Hire Werribee, in Hoppers Crossing; Caltex Woolworths, Hoppers Crossing; the Craigieburn train line; the 513 bus route from Eltham to Glenroy; the 901 bus route from Frankston to Melbourne Airport; Stowe Australia in South Melbourne; and an unnamed function centre on Sydney Road Coburg.
Authorities believe up to 5000 people passed through Terminal 4 at Melbourne Airport – an exposure site that is also linked to the Holiday Inn outbreak – on Tuesday between 4:45am and 2:00pm (local time).
International passenger flights into Melbourne will be frozen for the duration of the lockdown.
Anyone who has visited these sites at those key times needs to immediately isolate, get tested and remain in isolation for 14 days, the Department of Health said.
‘Challenging’ spread of UK variant
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said yesterday the outbreak at the Holiday Inn, which started with a family of three, was “moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country over the course of these last 12 months”.
Two people were arrested following an anti-lockdown protest at the Australian Open and outside Parliament on Friday evening, calling for Mr Andrews to be sacked.
One man was arrested for assaulting a police officer and another was arrested for breaching his bail conditions.
Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne, said the lockdown was necessary because the virus was moving so quickly it was difficult for contact tracers to keep up.
“The concerning part is that it appears the time from when you are infected to when you can infect somebody else may also be shorter,” he said.
“If that’s the case then we have a really difficult situation on our hands. It’s a big, big challenge.
“We do need to seriously review out hotel quarantine system as well as get on top of the current situation.”
He said it was a “system problem” and the Federal Government needed to take the lead in creating more specialised facilities for returned travellers like the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory.