Regional Victoria is set to go back into lockdown with restrictions in Melbourne tightened even further to stop the spread of the state’s Delta outbreak.
Premier Daniel Andrews held an urgent Cabinet meeting on Friday evening amid fears Covid-19 has leaked further into regional Victoria after 17 new cases were found in Shepparton.
A coronavirus exposure site has also emerged at a machinery hire company in Bendigo – 150km north of Melbourne.
Among the new restrictions being considered by the state government is an unprecedented ban on takeaway food and coffee in Melbourne, a tightening of the city’s 5km travel rule for shopping and exercise and a ban on all construction activity.
Childcare centres could also be restricted to essential workers and residents banned from leaving hot spots unless they test negative to the virus, The Herald Sun reported.
The 17 new cases in Shepparton were in addition to 55 in Melbourne announced by Premier Andrews on Friday morning.
The whole of Victoria is set to go back into lockdown as Covid-19 continues to spread into regional parts of the state. Pictured is a pedestrian in Melbourne as the city endures its sixth coronavirus lockdown
Restrictions in Melbourne are set to be tightened even further after Daniel Andrews on Friday refused to rule out a hardening of the city’s lockdown
Thousands of locals in the city, 181km northwest of Melbourne, and surrounding areas were forced into isolation and several school campuses have closed after a man in his 30s tested positive on Friday morning.
The Shepparton man has two children at St Mel’s Primary in Shepparton, which has been closed for deep cleaning.
He is isolating at home and his family has also been tested.
Since then, another 16 cases, including family members from two households, have been linked to him, Goulburn Valley Health chief executive Matt Sharp said.
‘Clearly this is an area of concern for us at the minute as we move as fast as we can through the contact tracing process,’ Mr Sharp said.
Friday’s additional cases come as Mr Andrews refused to dismiss expanding Melbourne’s lockdown to regional Victoria.
The premier sent a warning to the people of Victoria saying the state is at a tipping point and could soon be facing the same problem as Sydney if the virus ‘gets away from us’
Mr Andrews hit back at people criticising the strictness of Victoria’s sixth lockdown, including the unpopular decision to close all children’s playgrounds in Melbourne despite widespread backlash and no conclusive evidence of Delta transmission.
‘The government is playing its part, we locked down early, we couldn’t have locked down any earlier,’ he said defiantly during Friday’s Covid briefing.
‘We went hard. I can’t be clearer with the people of Melbourne.
‘If we have a weekend this weekend like we did last weekend, then next week we’ll look like Sydney. It’s as simple as that.’
The health department confirmed 49 of the locally acquired cases are linked to known outbreaks, while 25 were self-isolating throughout their infectious period.
It means 30 people were infectious in the community – also known as ‘wild’ cases – and the source of six is yet to be identified.
‘Earlier in the week we talked about a tipping point, this is very, very serious,’ Premier Andrews said.
‘This is what it will look like if this gets away from us – hundreds and hundreds of cases every day and potentially thousands in hospital.
‘Anyone who speaks to a nurse in a Covid ward they will tell you stories you’ll never forget.
The infected person, who did not have symptoms at the time, attended the Frankston Community Vaccination Hub at Bayside Centre on Monday before testing positive on Thursday
The Premier said ‘nothing is off the table’ in regards to harsher restrictions, citing Shepparton as an area officials are closely monitoring.
‘I can’t rule out making further changes in a whole range of different areas,’ he said.
‘No decisions have been made but I am being very clear with people despite the lengths we’ve gone to… the rules are only as good as the effort everyone puts into following them so I can’t rule that out, no.’
Mr Andrews said the state was sitting on a ‘knife’s edge’, urging Victorians to follow protocol or face an explosion in cases.
‘I am asking you in your own interest, we cannot have a weekend this weekend like we had last weekend,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘If we get it again, it will mean kids get it, people of all ages will get it, people who are fit and healthy, they will die. That’s what is at stake here,’ Premier Andrews said
‘This is difficult, but so is having thousands of people in hospital. That is what we are facing.
‘If we get it again, it will mean kids get it, people of all ages will get it, people who are fit and healthy, they will die. That’s what is at stake here.’
Premier Andrews’ stark warning comes as a coronavirus vaccination hub in Melbourne’s southeast has been declared an exposure site after a positive case visited to get their jab.
The infected person, who did not have symptoms at the time, went to the Frankston Community Vaccination Hub at Bayside Centre on Monday before testing positive on Thursday.
The Peninsula Health-run site has been declared a tier-two exposure site from 11.30am to 12.45pm on Monday, though remains open for those with a vaccination booking.
The Premier said the state’s status is currently sitting on a knife edge, saying Victorians must follow protocol immediately or face another critical situation
Meanwhile an outbreak with several cases at Glenroy West Primary School plunged 50 families and staff from York St kindergarten, which is on the same site, into isolation.
A teacher at the kindergarten reportedly refused to be tested for Covid-19, forcing the potentially-exposed families to repeat their 14-day isolation.
The teacher was at the school from August 6 to August 12 and the kindergarten is listed as a close contact exposure site for seven days from August 6.
The teacher will face no consequences for refusing the test as there is now law surrounding mandatory testing, even though Mr Andrews suggested it was the sensible thing to do.
‘If you’re asked to test because there’s a sense you may have the virus, and we want to rule you out … but also look after the safety of people you’ve been with, some of whom might be little kids, I don’t think that’s such a big ask,’ he said.
Mr Andrews underlined the danger of the Delta variant towards children, saying people need to start taking the latest outbreak seriously.
‘There are 700 kids that have Covid in NSW. No children in our country are vaccinated,’ he said Friday morning.
‘As a parent to every other parent, that should be motivation enough. We can’t be certain how this virus effects kids.’
An outbreak with several cases at Glenroy West Primary School (pictured) also plunged 50 families and staff from York St kindergarten, which is on the same site, into isolation
With 30 people in the community for the entirety of their infectious period in Friday’s figures, there are serious concerns numbers could continue skyrocket.
Premier Andrews says 38 of the 44 cases confirmed in isolation on Thursday were linked to the Al-Taqwa College outbreak, and with day 13 results set to come in the numbers will remain relatively high but not alarming.
‘The story that sits behind those numbers is in fact more important than the numbers alone,’ he said.
On Thursday, the state recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases since last year’s deadly second wave after dozens of day-13 tests were returned from isolating close contacts.
About 3,000 primary close contacts left isolation on Wednesday, with 57 new cases reported on Thursday.
There are more than 530 exposure sites in Victoria, with a number of new sites added in Ashburton, Altona North and Newport on Thursday evening.
Melbourne is just over two weeks into its sixth lockdown, which has been extended until September 2.