Victoria’s five-day coronavirus lockdown is expected to end at midnight on Wednesday – but at least some restrictions will remain, experts have warned.
Senior government ministers met on Tuesday night to discuss the lifting of restrictions, which were sparked by an outbreak of the UK strain at Melbourne Airport’s Holiday Inn where returned travellers were being quarantined.
Another meeting is due on Wednesday morning, when Premier Daniel Andrews and his ministers will consider any new locally-acquired cases before authorising plans to release the state from lockdown.
Australian Open crowds are expected to return to Rod Laver Arena on Thursday but with further restrictions. Pictured is a women’s quarter final match in action at the deserted venue on Wednesday
While some restrictions are expected remain, including mandatory face masks and limited crowds at the Australian Open, Melbourne epidemiologists are optimistic lockdown will end at midnight as planned.
Limitations are indoor gatherings and visitors to the home are also expected to remain in place.
‘I was kind of pessimistic on Sunday and Monday but I’m getting more optimistic now,’ University of Melbourne’s Professor Nancy Baxter told the Herald Sun.
Deakin University Chair of Epidemiology Professor Catherine Bennett believes the latest outbreak has been contained, as it has been at least 10 days since the spreading events at the Holiday Inn and a private family function in Coburg.
Epidemiologists believed the latest outbreak in Victoria has been contained. Pictured are workers assist people leaving the Holiday Inn on February 16,
‘Everything that we have seen to date has been linked to one of those. That’s really good,’ Professor Bennett told the publication.
‘The chance of seeing cases outside these inner rings is diminishing by the day.’
Schools are expected to reopen on Thursday.
Tennis fans will also likely return to Melbourne Park for the last four days of the Australian Open, but with further restrictions on numbers.
Mr Andrews said on Tuesday his government was ‘well placed to make changes’ and there was some ‘very promising, early signs’.
Victorians will still be required to wear masks indoors and follow rules regarding household limits, in a return to similar pre-lockdown restrictions
However Mr Andrews added he was in no position to definitively commit to that, due to the unpredictability of the next 24 hours.
The premier said it was safer to always assume there is a handful of Covid cases unknown to authorities.
‘You’d always prefer no new cases, but it is fair to say … this strategy is working.
‘We will get these rules off as quickly and safely as we possibly can.’
The outbreak at the Holiday Inn sits at 19 cases.
The entire state of Victoria was plunged into a snap five day lockdown on February 12 in response to an outbreak at Melbourne Airport’s Holiday Inn which has since grown to 19 cases (crowds at the Australian Open were banned following the announcement)
The starting point of the cluster can be traced back to a family of three who had returned from overseas and tested positive for Covid.
A returned traveller in the family was allegedly using a nebuliser to treat his chronic asthma and said he was given permission by health authorities to use the medical device.
It is believed the nebuliser allowed coronavirus-carrying particles to become airborne and infect a food and beverage worker, a security officer and a resident who has since left hotel quarantine.
Last Wednesday dozens of guests at the Holiday Inn were moved to another quarantine hotel, while 130 staff were told to isolate at home.
A food and beverage worker from the Holiday Inn who tested negative on February 7, but tested positive three days later, is believed to be the source of another cluster close-by.
The worker’s partner and a family member also tested positive and all attended a function at Sydney Road in Coburg on February 6, which has resulted in more cases.
Victoria, which has recorded 20,640 cases and 820 deaths since the start of the pandemic, closed schools and banned private gatherings four days ago while making masks mandatory everywhere in response to the outbreak.
The Melbourne Airport Holiday Inn (pictured) Covid-19 cluster has grown to 19 cases
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said the government is ‘well placed to make changes’
The state endured one of the world’s longest lockdowns last year after an outbreak that killed more than 800 people, the vast majority of the national death toll.
Brisbane and Perth recently underwent similar snap lockdowns in response to cases of the UK strain leaking from hotel quarantine.
In both instances the outbreak was quickly contained, which is likely what Daniel Andrews is hoping to have achieved on Wednesday morning.