A Melbourne meat-processing facility at the epicentre of a growing cluster of coronavirus cases in Victoria recorded its first case more than a month ago.
There are now 45 cases of the deadly respiratory infection linked to Cedar Meats in Brooklyn, west Melbourne.
Authorities initially suggested the first case was identified on April 24, but have now confessed an employee contracted the virus three weeks earlier, on April 2.
Health authorities did not consider his place of work an area for concern, because he ‘had not been an work while infectious.’
There have now been 45 cases of the deadly respiratory infection linked to Cedar Meats in Brooklyn, west Melbourne
Medics are now testing at drive-through clinics, including this one at Footscray, Melbourne
The second case linked to the abattoir was diagnosed on April 24 and it wasn’t until April 29 that the department took additional actions, including testing all staff.
Prior to that, staff were not ordered to quarantine or get tested themselves, despite another employee testing positive.
Cedar Meats general manager Tony Kairouz said one of his 350 employees had been rushed to Sunshine Hospital for an unrelated issue – he had severed his thumb – and was identified as a coronavirus carrier on April 27.
Following a quick succession of newly diagnosed cases between April 24 and 27, health authorities took extra precautions at the facility, including widespread testing and eventually shutting the business down entirely for a deep clean.
Medics are still working to establish the source of infection.
Two weeks prior to the spike in cases, Cedar Meats fulfilled an order of mutton which was shipped to Wuhan, China.
Cedar Meats general manager Tony Kairouz said one of his 350 employees had been rushed to Sunshine Hospital for an unrelated issue – he had severed his thumb – and was identified as a coronavirus carrier on April 27
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 6,849
New South Wales: 3,035
Western Australia: 551
South Australia: 438
Australian Capital Territory: 107
Northern Territory: 29
TOTAL CASES: 6,849
On Tuesday, health authorities identified 17 new cases in Victoria. Of those, 11 were linked to the Cedar Meats cluster.
Nineteen cases were identified there on Monday.
The new cases announced on Tuesday brought the state’s total so far to 1,423 although only 112 are active.
‘The increase in cases illustrates once again that while we have been flattening the curve, our battle against COVID-19 is far from over,’ Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said.
Premier Daniel Andrews is set to maintain all social distancing restrictions until May 11 based on expert advice.
The national cabinet will meet on Friday to discuss national guidelines to relax these measures.
To obtain more detailed information about whether Victoria should follow other states and lift some of these restrictions, the government is aiming to achieve 100,000 tests in two weeks.
The blitz has resulted in 55,000 people tested so far.
The Victorian Government has set up additional COVID-19 testing clinics across Melbourne in a bid to test up to 100,000 people in two weeks
A mother helps her daughter with protective face mask on George Street, Sydney amid the pandemic
Meanwhile, the state government continued distributing financial aid that has scuttled hopes of a 2020/21 budget surplus.
‘Essentially, the state will be running deficit positions. I don’t think there’s much surprise about that,’ Treasurer Tim Pallas said on Tuesday.
On a day when he was meant to deliver Victoria’s now-delayed budget, Mr Pallas also revealed an extra $491 million in virus relief measures.
Businesses participating in the federal government’s JobKeeper scheme will be exempt from payroll tax, at a cost of about $225 million to the state.
They also won’t have to pay WorkCover premiums on payments to their employees if their staff are currently stood down, costing the state about $200 million.
Victoria’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee has begun a public inquiry into the Andrews government’s response to the pandemic.