• Rikki Lambert

Victoria re-imposing restrictions while neighbouring states react on borders


Victoria is grappling with the extent of new restrictions it will impose as a result of a family outbreak in Whittlesea in Melbourne's northern suburbs.


The state announced on Tuesday morning that it has recorded one new virus case - a man in his 60s in the Whittlesea area - has been found to be "closely related" to the Wollert infection earlier this month. The Wollert case arose after a family returned home from India via hotel quarantine in South Australia, where it is suspected they contracted the virus from another guest in the hotel.


Arrivals to New South Wales from Melbourne will need to confirm they haven't attended a COVID-19 exposure site after an outbreak in the city's north.


There were reports early on Tuesday afternoon that New Zealand would impose snap restrictions on travellers from Victoria due to the incident.


Health authorities race to contain potential infections from the four family members, comprising part of Victoria's 13 active cases, with the rest in hotel quarantine.


Health authorities have now identified 10 exposure sites


Testing sites serving the city's north were straining to cope with demand as people heeded public health advice over the new cases.


Officials hope genomic sequencing will establish the source of four new COVID-19 cases among a family in the city's north.


South Australian hotel quarantine link


A report into how a Victorian man caught COVID-19 while in hotel quarantine in Adelaide will be made public 'soon', South Australian health officials say, but is still awaiting final approval.


The man's case is believed to be linked to the latest cluster of infections in Melbourne's North, which grew to five on Tuesday.


Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Emily Kirkpatrick said it was important for there to be complete transparency in the operation of the hotel quarantine system.

"It's very, very important that we emphasise that hotel quarantine is a high-risk business and we have to make sure whatever reports we put out to the community have been verified and provide accurate information.
"It absolutely will be made public. I would hope within the next 48 hours that we have some findings that we will be able to put out to the community."

Victorian restrictions and major events


The Victorian government is also determining whether crowds will be limited at Melbourne sports events. The top two-ranked AFL teams - the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne - are due to meet on Friday night at Marvel Stadium.


The government announced new restrictions to be in force from 6pm Tuesday. These include five-visitor limits for private gatherings, 30 for public gatherings and masks being worn inside.


However, limitations to bars and restaurants remain unchanged, giving hope that fans can still attend the highly-anticipated AFL clash.


Acting Premier James Merlino said on Tuesday morning authorities were reviewing the situation with more specifics on sports crowds to be announced in the coming days.

It could mean a reduction in crowd capacities or games to be played without fans.


Other AFL matches scheduled in Melbourne this weekend include Saturday games featuring Collingwood and Geelong at the MCG and St Kilda and North Melbourne at Marvel.


Richmond host Adelaide at the MCG on Sunday while in the NRL Melbourne Storm are interstate until early June, as are Melbourne's Super Netball teams.


There are two A-League games slated for AAMI Park this weekend while in the NBL South East Melbourne Phoenix are set to host Cairns on Saturday night at John Cain Arena.


Victorian case details


The five confirmed cases in Whittlesea have the B1617 variant of the virus first identified in India, health authorities have confirmed.


Schools and workplaces will stay open and there are no changes to current density rules.


Hospital and aged care visitor restrictions will apply across Victoria.


Victorian Chief Medical Officer Dr Brett Sutton said on Tuesday:

"We shouldn't be complacent about this variant. It is at least as infectious as the so-called UK or Canterbury (variant)"

Health authorities have now identified 10 exposure sites as they race to contain the Whittlesea outbreak.


Testing sites serving the city's north were struggling to cope with demand as people heeded public health advice.


Health Minister Martin Foley said the 10 exposure sites are listed on the Department of Health website, including Highpoint - the third-largest shopping centre in the state.


The entire shopping centre is currently listed as a 'tier one' exposure site, but Mr Foley says it will likely be reduced to particular stores once contact tracers are done interviewing confirmed cases and CCTV is reviewed.


He expects the list of exposure sites will grow in the coming days.


Nando's Epping and Woolworths Epping North joined Jump! Swim Schools Bundoora and Highpoint Shopping Centre as tier one exposure sites in the new outbreak, meaning anyone who attended those places at specified times must be tested and isolate for 14 days.


Futsal Brunswick, Epping North Shopping Centre, House and Party at Epping, Urban Diner Food Court at Pacific Epping Shopping Centre, Shells Coles Express Reservoir and BT Connor Reserve are tier two sites, meaning affected people must get tested and isolate until they have a negative result.


The family cluster - originally involving a man in his 30s, a man in 70s, a woman in her 70s and a preschool-age child from three households in the Whittlesea area - emerged on Monday.


The health department last week admitted it had listed the wrong supermarket as an exposure site when the Wollert man tested positive.


More household contacts of the new cases have been put into isolation despite testing negative so far.


The latest cases snapped Victoria's 86-day streak without a locally acquired case.


Victoria has 14 active cases, with the rest in hotel quarantine, and 14,892 tests in the 24 hours to Tuesday.


Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said on Tuesday that the Victorian public were nervous after the government blundered on the supermarket exposure site and "seems to be making some pretty basic errors" on contact tracing:

"The last thing Victoria can afford is going back into lockdown."

New South Wales reaction


A record number of people in NSW stepped up to get vaccinated on Monday as the fresh COVID-19 cases in Melbourne emerged.


NSW Health is asking anyone arriving from Melbourne to confirm they have not attended a COVID-19 exposure site.


NSW Health said a record 12,524 vaccines were given in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, including 5337 at the mass vaccination centre at Sydney Olympic Park.


The total number of vaccines administered in NSW is now 1,111,814.


People in NSW who have been in Victoria since May 10 and attended one of the sites should contact authorities immediately, NSW Health said.


Anyone in NSW who has been in the Whittlesea Local Government Area - which includes Donnybrook, Epping, Lalor, Thomastown and Whittlesea - should also avoid aged care homes.


NSW recorded no new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday from 7262 tests.


Vaccination rates


As the states grapple with the low take-up of vaccinations, Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has told the media on Tuesday he is open to introducing incentives to try and boost immunisation rates, including the free beer and lottery tickets on offer overseas.


Professor Kelly said the novelty options would be considered but he hoped the main incentive for Australians to get vaccinated would be to remain healthy, protect others and return to a more normal lifestyle.

"All of these things are potentially on the table.
"At the moment, we know there is some hesitancy, particularly in the 50 to 69 age group. 
"We are rolling out extremely well in the over 70s. So there is something we need to consider there."

-- with AAP