Melbourne’s tough lockdown is set to end on Friday but residents will still be confined by a raft of restrictions leading into the long weekend.
Victorian government sources say Melburnians will be banned from travelling beyond 25km from their home when the city moves to eased restrictions from 11.59pm on Thursday.
The measure will be implemented in a bid to prevent residents from flocking to regional parts of the state for the Queen’s Birthday weekend, the Herald Sun reports.
The capital city will likely move to the same restrictions currently in place in regional Victoria after it exited lockdown on Friday.
Masks are expected to remain mandatory indoors, while household visitors will remain banned.
Melbourne is on track to be reprieved from lockdown on Friday, but masks are expected to remain mandatory indoors
RESTRICTIONS EXPECTED IN MELBOURNE FROM FRIDAY
- No travel beyond 25km from home
- Masks required indoors
- Household visits banned
- Outdoor gatherings restricted to ten people
- Schools will reopen for in-class learning
- Cafes and restaurants will be limited to 50 customers
- Gyms will remain closed
Outdoor gatherings will likely be restricted to ten people, while capacity limits will be cast over venues, with cafes and restaurants limited to 50 customers.
It is anticipated that schools will reopen for in-class learning from next week, but gyms will remain closed.
Further eased restrictions are also expected to come into effect across regional Victoria from Friday.
The government was locked in ‘positive’ discussions with health officials on Tuesday night about plans to lift the lockdown. The details will be finalised on Wednesday.
The positive news about the city’s fourth lockdown ending comes amid explosive allegations about a hotel quarantine linked to an outbreak of the more infectious Delta Covid-19 strain.
Acting premier James Merlino said authorities had genomically linked the West Melbourne Delta cluster to a man in his 40s who arrived from Sri Lanka on May 8 and stayed in quarantine at the Novotel/Ibis hotel.
Melbourne resident Sarah Paparo, who lives at 408 Lonsdale Street in the apartment block that adjoins the Novotel/Ibis hotel, claimed medical waste and dirty linen labelled ‘terminal/positive cases’ was being stored in the building’s shared basement.
Ms Paparo believes her apartment block, which has roughly 450 residents, is ‘inextricably intertwined’ with the quarantine facility next door.
Photographs obtained by The Australian show yellow bins filled with dirty linen from positive cases in the carpark. The linen appears to be unbagged – despite assurances from the government it would be bagged and sanitised.
The carpark, which is technically owned by the hotel not the apartment building, is connected to a stairwell which leads to a separate carpark and a break room both used by hotel quarantine staff.
The stairwell is used by both residents and hotel quarantine staff, which Ms Paparo believes presents a serious risk of an outbreak.
Emma Cassar, the head of COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria, has insisted ‘there is no sharing of entries with residents’.
Government sources say that Melbourne is likely to have similar eased restrictions as those currently in place in Victoria, with capacity limits at venues. Pictured: a woman signs in using a QR code outside of the Foodbank pop up store in Melbourne on June 4
Authorities are still desperately trying to find out the missing link between the infected man at the Novotel/Ibis hotel and the West Melbourne Delta cluster.
Ms Cassar said the infected man mistakenly opened his hotel room door early in his stay, but it would not have been long enough to transmit the virus.
‘The last 24 hours have been a flurry of activity … to make sure we cover off all bases,’ she told ABC Radio.
She added health authorities are also tracking down the people who cleaned and restocked the plane that brought the infected man to Melbourne.
Two of the 12 residents who were on the same floor of the hotel as the infected man are also being followed up, as they did not have day 17 and 20 tests.
After testing positive on the same day he returned from overseas, the man was moved from the Novotel Ibis to the Holiday Inn ‘health hotel’ on May 9.
Gyms are likely to remain closed when the Victorian government announces Melbourne’s eased restrictions later this week
He completed 14 days of hotel quarantine and was released on May 23.
Genomic sequencing shows his infection is identical to one of two families linked to the North Melbourne Primary School, which has emerged as the epicentre of the West Melbourne outbreak.
However, it remains unclear how the virus was transmitted from the returned traveller – who lives in the Glen Eira area in the city’s southeast – to the infected family.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said there were four main theories, with the most likely being that the man transmitted the virus to a staff member while in transit or to a fellow guest.
That person has then gone on to infect someone in the community.
‘I am very surprised it got out. But this is what we have, and we need to work out what has happened here,’ Professor Cheng said.
Acting Police and Emergency Services Minister Danny Pearson said no one who came into contact with the man has tested positive so far, including fellow plane passengers and crew, Skybus and hotel quarantine staff and other hotel guests at the Novotel Ibis.
Students are likely to return to in-class learning from next week after the Queen’s birthday long weekend
Meanwhile, none of the guests at the Holiday Inn at the time of the man’s stay were infected with the Delta variant.
Mr Pearson said there was no indication that transmission had taken place inside either of the hotels as COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria continues to review CCTV footage and incident logs.
The latest incident is the sixth time coronavirus has breached Victoria’s coronavirus system, and the 22nd incident nationwide.
Victoria’s deadly second wave of COVID-19 last year was sparked from leaks in hotel quarantine, leading to a major overhaul of the system.
The revamped program restarted in December, only for it to be paused in February as a leak from the Holiday Inn grew to nearly 25 cases and triggered a three-day lockdown.
The ‘Delta’ Covid strain outbreak in West Melbourne has been linked to a man who stayed at the Holiday Inn (pictured) in May
Last week, Victoria secured federal government support to construct a purpose-built quarantine facility in the state.
Victoria reported two new local COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, both linked to existing outbreaks and with limited community exposure.
One is a child linked to the West Melbourne outbreak, while the other is a household contact of a worker linked to the Arcare Maidstone cluster.
The state’s COVID-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said a string of new exposure sites added to the list of more than 270 on Monday evening were linked to the new cases.
Some 22,814 Victorians were tested on Monday and 21,192 received a vaccine dose at state-run sites.