Victoria has recorded only four new community cases of Covid-19 as the state’s almost seven million locals endure another week of crippling lockdown restrictions.
Health officials on Friday morning confirmed the four local cases along with two in hotel quarantine from 47,462 tests conducted over the past 24 hours.
The announcement comes as it emerged university students have been asked to come forward to work as contact tracers for Victoria’s Department of Health.
The email to students at the University of Melbourne’s School of Population and Global Health made an ‘urgent call-out for medical, nursing and allied health students to help with contact tracing’, The Australian reported.
Students were told they would be offered paid roles calling potentially infected residents and entering data – with the option of more work after the outbreak of the higly-contagious Indian variant of the virus was under control.
The new cluster emerged on Monday when a man from Whittlesea mysteriously tested positive, the state’s first locally-acquired infection in nearly three months, and has already spiralled to 30 cases within a matter of days.
Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino said contact tracers had been left stunned by the rate at which the B.1.617 mutation was transmitting between cases.
A queue for testing is pictured in Melbourne on Thursday. University students have been asked to put their hand up to work as contact tracers for Victoria’s Department of Health
‘The serial interval, that is how long it takes between the onset of symptoms in the first and secondary cases, is averaging just over a day,’ he said.
‘To put that in some perspective, the usual transmission is about five to six days. We’re seeing not only how quick it is, but how contagious it is as well.’
More than 10,000 primary and secondary contacts have been identified across 150 exposure sites – sparking fears Victoria’s latest outbreak could spiral out of control.
As of midnight on Thursday, Victorians can only leave home for five reasons – to shop for food and essential items, provide or receive care, exercise, work or study if they can’t from home, and to get vaccinated.
Genomic sequencing has linked the new cases to a returned traveller who arrived in Australia Covid-free before unknowingly catching the double mutant Indian strain in Adelaide quarantine.
After completing his two weeks in isolation the traveller returned home to Melbourne before testing positive to the virus.
But it is still not known how the virulent Indian strain spread from the traveller to others in Melbourne.
A near-deserted Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne on Friday. Victorians can only leave home for five reasons – to shop for food and essential items, provide or receive care, exercise, work or study if they can’t from home, and to get vaccinated
Empty seats at a cafe in Melbourne on Thursday. Victoria is undergoing a seven-day lockdown from midnight on Thursday night until 11.59pm Thursday June 3
A terrifying map has revealed which Melbourne suburbs have been infected with coronavirus, as the entire state of Victoria hunkers down for yet another brutal lockdown
Despite the lockdown, which is caused by the same strain wreaking havoc across the Indian subcontinent as well as in the UK, a flight from India quietly landed in Melbourne on Thursday night.
It is likely to raise questions as to why a plane-load of people from a country riddled with Covid is landing in a city already struggling with its own outbreak of the strain.
Qantas flight QF112 from New Delhi repatriated 150 Australian citizens from virus-ravaged India on Thursday afternoon, where 315,000 people have died so far.
Flights from India had originally been billed to land only at the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory after a travel ban on the country lifted, far away from busy cities where leaks are becoming commonplace.
Planes from the country began to bypass the facility and land in major cities on Tuesday, with the first arriving in Sydney and its passengers put into hotel quarantine.
Mapping data from Melbourne’s Department of Health shows the majority of cases linked to the Whittlesea cluster are scattered in the northern suburbs of the city, as well as in the CBD and the southeast.
But on top of the 19 postcodes that have recorded at least one positive case, there are soon to be upwards of 150 public exposure sites spread all over Melbourne and in some regional areas including Bendigo.
Despite the outbreak being genomically linked to a double mutant Indian strain of the virus, about 150 people on Qantas flight QF112 touched down in Melbourne this afternoon from New Delhi via Darwin as part of repatriation flights from Covid-stricken India (pictured)
Victoria on Friday confirmed four local cases along with two in hotel quarantine (pictured, a Melbourne shopper stocks up before the lockdown)
Returning travelers from Covid-stricken India are taken straight from the plane to quarantine in hotels on May 27, in Melbourne – despite the city being hours away from lockdown
Epping, in Melbourne’s north in the postcode of 3076, is the hardest hit area with eight active cases.
Bundoora and Kingsbury with the postcode 3083, and also in the north of the city, has been struck with two cases.
It’s Victoria’s fourth lockdown since the pandemic took hold in March 2020.
The returned traveller who unknowingly caught the virus in Adelaide’s hotel quarantine system – before testing negative and flying home – arrived in Melbourne on May 4.
Experts are concerned about the length of time between his arrival and the first new detected case on Monday, meaning the virus may have been out in the community for more than two weeks.
A snap lockdown was announced after the number of cases linked to the Whittlesea cluster rose from 15 to 26.
More than 117 public exposure sites including two stadiums have left 14,000 people forced to isolate so far, with supermarkets, bars and shops also on alert.
A healthcare worker walks along a line of cars lined up at the Albert Park COVID-19 testing facility in Melbourne on Thursday as the city’s outbreak grew yet again
Men get their haircut at a barbershop in Melbourne hours ahead of the city’s lockdown, which will see all non-essential shops closed
MELBOURNE POSTCODES HIT WITH COVID-19 CASES
Eight active cases
Two active cases
Bundoora, Kinsbury (3083)
One active case
Yarraville and Yarraville West (3013)
Calder Park, Delahey, Hillside, Sydenham and Taylors Hill (3037)
Gladstone Park, Gowanbrae and Tullamarine (3043)
Gilberton, Preston, Preston Lower, Preston South and Preston West
Alphington and Fairfield (3078)
Cotham and Kew (3101)
Hawksburn and Toorak (3142)
Glen Iris and Tooronga (3146)
Bonbeach, Chelsea, Chelsea Heights and Edithvale (3196)
South Melbourne (3205)
Berwick and Harkaway (3806)
Botanic Ridge, Cannons Creek, Cranbourne, Cranbourne East, Cranbourne North, Cranbourne South, Cranbourne West, Devon Meadows, Junction Village, Sandhurst and Skye (3977)
The 5km travel limit has also been reimposed for exercise and shopping, as well as the compulsory use of masks both indoors and outdoors where social distancing is not possible.
All non-essential retail will close but essential stores such as supermarkets, bottle shops and pharmacies will stay open. Cafes and restaurants will only be able to offer take-away.
Childcare and kindergartens will stay open, but schools will close and turn to remote learning.
With the state brought to a standstill and panic-buyers stripping supermarket shelves, anti-lockdown protestors flocked to the Melbourne CBD in their final hours of freedom.
Many fear the lockdown will be extended beyond the seven days if the cluster spreads out of control, similar to what happened in June last year.
That lockdown ended up lasting for more than three months.
The state government’s announcement sparked outrage from some furious Victorians, many still reeling from last year’s 112-day Melbourne lockdown.
Returning travelers on a repatriation flight from Indian are taken straight from the plane to quarantine in hotels on Thursday in Melbourne despite the city being under siege with its own outbreak – which began in Adelaide hotel quarantine
With the state about to be brought to a standstill, panic-buyers stripping supermarket shelves (pictured, a Coles store in Melbourne on Thursday night)
Anti-lockdown protesters gather outside of the Victorian State Parliament in Melbourne on Thursday hours ahead of the restrictions being imposed
Protestors of all ages and different walks of life gathered in large numbers outside Flinders Street Station on Thursday night for an anti-lockdown rally organised at the 11th hour by a campaign group called Reignite Democracy Australia.
Some passing motorists honked in support of the large gathering before protestors marched down the street chanting, carrying signs and waving Australian flags en route to state parliament.
A number of speakers addressed the crowd who were marching their final hours of freedom before lockdown was enforced at midnight.
A heavy police presence, including the riot squad, lined the streets and patrolled the busy Flinders Street station to keep a close eye on proceedings.
Many protestors slammed the government for a perceived lack of transparency about the infected cases, while others seemed to be against vaccinations.
Protestors (pictured on Thursday night) gathered at Flinders Street Station before storming the streets to spread their message
Healthcare workers are seen at the Albert Park Covid-19 testing facility in Melbourne on Thursday with 14,000 people ordered to get tested so far after attending exposure sites
NEW STAGE THREE RESTRICTIONS IN VICTORIA
An emergency seven-day lockdown will begin at 00.01 on Friday.
Under the strict new rules to stop Melbourne’s coronavirus cluster from getting out of control, there are a number of restrictions:
Stay-at-home order with just five reasons to leave the house:
– Shopping for necessary goods and services
– Going to work or permitted education
– Exercise with a two-hour limit
– Medical reasons and care giving
– Getting vaccinated
As well as this, there will be serious restrictions on people’s personal life, business, work and school:
– No visitors to your home other than an intimate partner. Single bubbles will be permitted. If you live alone, you can make a bubble with another person.
– 5km travel limit for exercise and shopping
– Compulsory masks indoors and outdoors unless in the home
– No public gatherings.
– Restaurants, pubs, and cafes can provide takeaway only.
– Essential retail, so supermarkets, food stores, petrol stations, banks, bottle shops and pharmacies, other retail stores can provide click and collect.
– Childcare and kinders will be open as per the last circuit breaker lockdown earlier this year.
– Approved professional sporting events will proceed but proceed without crowds.
– Schools will move to remote learning, except for vulnerable children, and children of authorised workers.
– Higher education will move to remote learning only.
– Community support and recreation, accommodation, but there will be some exemptions that apply.
– Hotels, clubs, TABs and the casino will be closed.
– Indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, swimming pools, spas, saunas, indoor and outdoor springs, community venues, drive in cinemas, amusements parks and arcades, creative studios, art galleries and museums, tourism, tours, and transport, and auctions can only happen online.
– Aged care facilities, no visitors except for limited reasons.
– In our hospitals, visitors only for end of life, to support a partner during birth, or a parent accompanying a child.
– In terms of ceremonies, funerals, a maximum of 10 people plus those running the service.
– Weddings cannot proceed unless end of life or deportation reasons apply.
– Religious activities will not proceed other than through broadcast with a maximum of five people.