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COVID Victoria updates: Fears thousands exposed as exposure sites grow


#Health authorities are battling against a 10-day delay in detecting the first coronavirus cases in #Victoria.

#Health authorities are working around the clock to track down thousands of people from across the state who may have been exposed to the coronavirus in a desperate attempt to stamp out #Victoria’s new cluster.

#After 60 days of no new community transmissions, eight new positive cases were detected in 24 hours, sparking alarm among authorities who fear that number could soar.

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#Three new cases were detected on #Wednesday, and five more were detected on #Thursday.

#On #Thursday night more than 70 close contacts were identified, from #Leongatha to #Barwon #Heads, who had been ordered to self-isolate.

#But that number is expected to balloon with thousands of #Melburnians potentially exposed to the virus after three of the cases visited a busy shopping centre and a popular #Melbourne beach.

#Anyone who has visited a growing list of “exposure sites” has been ordered to get tested and isolate for 14 days or until they get a negative result.

The rapid escalation in cases prompted acting #Premier #Jacinta #Allan to move swiftly to impose new restrictions, mandating mask wearing indoors at all times, except in people’s own homes, and halving the number of visitors allowed in a home to 15, except for children under 12 months.

“We do apologise for this disruption,” #Ms #Allan said.

“However, these difficult decisions are about protecting the community, protecting and keeping case numbers low and doing everything we can to lock in the gains we made over the course of 2020.”

#Ms #Allan also announced a hard border closure with NSW from 11.59pm #Friday night, banning anyone from NSW coming to #Victoria.

“This is not an easy choice, closing borders and putting in place restrictions is never an easy choice to make, and certainly not one we wanted to make and be announcing on a day that is supposed to be about celebrating,” she said.

“We certainly do apologise to people who have put plans in place, who were looking forward to having events … but this is a necessary step, it’s on the advice that we’ve received.”

#Department of #Health and #Human #Services (DHHS) COVID-19 response commander #Jeroen #Weimar said that health teams believed the virus was brought to #Victoria by a person returning from NSW.

The #Herald #Sun understands the person did not visit #Sydney’s northern beaches.

#Mr #Weimar said the #Victorian probably contracted the virus between #December 17 and 19. They returned to #Victoria on #December 19, just ­before #Victoria introduced a permit system for re-entry to the state.

The person then dined at the #Smile #Buffalo #Thai restaurant in #Black #Rock on #December 21 with contact tracing revealing links from the restaurant to the first three positive cases.

The first case, a woman in her 40s from #Mentone, dined at the restaurant on the same evening.

#She is thought to have passed it on to a family member, a woman in her 70s, who lives in #Hallam.

The third case, a woman in her 40s from #Mitcham, had not personally dined at the restaurant but was a close contact of someone who had.

#Five additional cases emerged from the same close contact group, it was revealed on #Thursday.

“It highlights the highly infectious nature of the virus,” #Mr #Weimar said.

“Which is that two groups of people entirely unconnected with each other with no direct knowledge of each other in that particular cafe intersected with each other over a time window of about an hour and, it would appear, there has been a transmission of the virus,” he said.

#None of the positive cases became symptomatic for about six days, sparking concerns about the length of time the virus went undetected.

#Mr #Weimar said it was concerning that about 10 days had passed since the apparent transmission date.

“That means we’ve got 10 days of work to do … with the onward transmission that we will have seen,” he said.

The #Smile #Buffalo #Thai restaurant, the #Holy #Family #Parish #Church in #Doveton, several stores at #Fountain #Gate shopping centre and the #Mentone/Parkdale beach have all been marked as significant exposure sites.

“We expect the number of close contacts to continue to rise over the course of the next few days as we continue contact tracing work,” #Mr #Weimar said.

#Health #Minister #Martin #Foley said he wouldn’t rule out further restrictions being imposed as necessary in a bid to avoid a potential third wave.

“This is a very serious situation that #Victorians are facing, having sacrificed so much over the course of this year,” he said on #Thursday.

“You do not want to be caught on the wrong side of a rapidly evolving situation.

“Victorians, who have sacrificed so much, are not going to go back to a situation where we faced what we did in the past winter.”

TESTING SITES OVERWHELMED

#Thousands of #Victorians who attended coronavirus exposure sites flocked to get tested on #Thursday causing sites to become overwhelmed and close their doors early.

#Struggling cafes and restaurants were also forced to shut as they took precautions to deep clean their venues and send staff for testing.

#In #Parkdale, dozens of cars queued outside a pop-up testing centre, with some forced to wait for up to two hours for a voluntary test.

#Jan #Everett, who had been at exposure site #Mentone beach, was frustrated with the wait times.

“The queue is actually ridiculous,” she said.

“I’m sad the cases are linked to #Sydney’s northern beaches. I am so tired of people breaking the rules. #People have become very complacent, we need to wake up.”

#Leigh #Pritchard, from #Keysborough, woke up with symptoms but was knocked back from a #Dandenong site as wait times blew out to more than three hours.

“It seems reactive, there is no leadership,” he said.

“It doesn’t seem like we have the systems in place to deal with the virus. #This feels like any other cold, but I knew I had to do the right thing.”

#After growing tired of the #Parkdale testing queue, he drove to #Rosebud after a mate tipped him off to a shorter wait.

#In #Glen #Waverley, popular cafe #Mocha #Jo’s cafe voluntarily shut its doors after being announced as an exposure site.

“Our little hood has been hit again,” owner #Christo said.

“As a precaution we are closing on #Thursday and #Friday. #We have asked team members to get tested and we have arranged a deep clean of the restaurant. #We believe this is the right thing to do.”

The owner of #Smile #Buffalo #Thai in #Black #Rock said she was “shocked” her restaurant had become an exposure site and subsequently had to cancel two lucrative NYE dinner sittings, costing thousands in lost revenue.

#Staff at #Glen #Waverley’s #Piatella bar, next door to exposure site #Century #City walk, said they were taking extra cleaning precautions.

#Waitress #Tharushi #Colamba said she “panicked” when she heard the news.

#But at #Westfield #Fountain #Gate, it was business as usual — even for exposure sites #Kmart and #Big W.

#Westfield cleaning employees told the #Herald #Sun they knew nothing of the DHHS memo issued on #Wednesday night. “We haven’t been told anything, it is concerning,” one said.

#In #Doveton, the #Holy #Family #Parish abruptly cancelled all services for the foreseeable future.

#Across #Melbourne, many who queued to be tested shared concerns about the potential of a third wave.

#Parkdale’s #Lloyd #Campbell said queuing was a “small price to pay” for freedom.

#Paul #Davis from #Dingley added: “It’s just peak 2020, what do you do.”

PUSH TO SPEED UP VIRUS VACCINE

#Pressure is mounting on the federal government to speed up its vaccination time frame as countries around the world begin injecting their frontline workers and the most vulnerable.

The UK this week rubber-stamped the #AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after beginning a rollout of the #Pfizer shot last month.

#Australia has ordered 50 million doses of the #AstraZeneca vaccine — to be manufactured in #Australia by CSL — but federal #Health #Minister #Greg #Hunt said the first doses would not be given until #March.

A #Morrison government backbencher told the #Herald #Sun that #Mr #Hunt was “playing chicken” with the health of #Australia by not speeding up the process.

“They are making a ­mistake not rolling out the vaccine,” he said.

“The #Health #Minister is playing chicken with the public’s health by not rolling out the vaccine.

“With already millions of doses around the world being administered and no issues, it’s time to start vaccinating, at the very least our vulnerable people.”

#Former #World #Health #Organisation epidemiologist #Adrian #Esterman said the most recent outbreak and ­subsequent border closures made a good case for speeding up the rollout, if it was safe to do so.

“Shouldn’t the government think about starting vaccination earlier?” he said.

#But infectious disease expert #Professor #Peter #Collignon warned the process should not be rushed in #Australia.

“There are issues about safety and efficacy of the vaccine that mean the approval process in #Australia is appropriate,” he said.

“There are other countries in the world where the virus is running rampant that need the vaccine far more quickly than us.”

#Opposition leader #Anthony #Albanese last week also called on the government to expedite the process.

A spokeswoman for the federal #Department of #Health said no jab would be approved until it had been deemed safe and effective by the Therapeutic #Goods #Administration.

#More than 117 million doses of possible vaccines have been purchased by #Australia ­already.

A state government spokeswoman said work was already being done to make sure the vaccine could be rolled out as soon as it was ­approved.



[ source link ]
https://www.heraldsun.com.au/coronavirus/fears-thousands-exposed-to-coronavirus-in-victoria-as-authorities-battle-10day-delay/news-story/6fa2bce6a120f1539ada6ea4199a9862?nk=90f195e76d2385f0c646191b28ab12af-1609450314

#COVID ##Victoria #updates ##Fears #thousands #exposed #exposure #sites #grow

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