Victoria records two new local COVID cases, possible source for Delta cluster found

Victoria has recorded two new locally acquired cases of coronavirus, with around 83 active cases in the outbreak.

Both new cases are linked to the current outbreak.

One is a child linked to the West Melbourne outbreak, and the other is a close contact of a case at Arcare Maidstone.

The child diagnosed yesterday is a student at North Melbourne Primary School, but is in a different year level to two previous cases identified at the school.

A large number of contacts at this school have now been upgraded from Tier 2 to Tier 1, meaning they must get tested and quarantine for 14 days.

The COVID-19 vaccination hub at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre has also been listed as a Tier 3 exposure site for between 3:15pm and 4:00pm on June 7.

Victoria’s COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar said a positive case attended the vaccination centre yesterday.

Mr Weimar said the person went to have a COVID test and then presented at the vaccination centre, but was told to leave and isolate.

Mr Weimar said he was confident there was no wider risk to the public.

Advice for Tier 3 sites is to monitor for symptoms.

Possible source found in Delta outbreak

Acting Premier James Merlino said one of the “missing pieces” of the puzzle had been the origins of the Delta outbreak and authorities had been running genomic sequencing to try to identify the source, likely in hotel quarantine.

“I can confirm today that we have now found a match between a returned traveller who entered hotel quarantine in Melbourne on the 8th of May and this cluster,” he said.

The returned traveller arrived in Melbourne from Sir Lanka and immediately tested positive for COVID-19.

Acting Emergency Services Minister Danny Pearson offered this timeline:

  • May 8: Traveller arrived from Sri Lanka and tested positive
  • May 9: He was transferred from the Novotel Ibis quarantine hotel to the Holiday Inn health hotel
  • May 23: Completed 14-day hotel quarantine and was released

Mr Pearson said 24 people who were on the same flight as the man tested negative for coronavirus, and no other person quarantining at the same hotel as the man tested positive for the Delta strain.

“While we are continuing to review CCTV and incident logs again, I can also confirm that so far there is no reported or obvious breach of infection prevention control protocols or anything else that would indicate a transmission has happened inside the hotel,” Mr Pearson said.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said health authorities were investigating four possible scenarios that could explain how the man was linked to the current outbreak:

  • The man was infected by another passenger on his flight from Sri Lanka
  • The man transmitted the virus after he was released from quarantine
  • Transmission occurred to staff who were transporting the man
  • The man somehow infected another resident of his quarantine hotel

Professor Cheng said the man was correctly tested and cleared when he left hotel quarantine.

“However, we’re still following up the contacts of this gentleman after his discharge to make sure that there was no transmission after that,” he said.

All 12 residents who had been on the same floor as the man in quarantine had also returned negative tests before being released, and at least 10 of them had a post-discharge swab which was negative.

Professor Cheng said the discovery of the Delta source in Victoria had also clarified the likely sequence of events in the West Melbourne outbreak.

“We had been working on the likely scenario that the family that had been in Jervis Bay had been the first case in this outbreak,” he said

The results reported today were detected among 22,814 tests processed on Monday, as the state delivered 21,192 vaccination doses at state-run sites.

Victoria ‘on track’ to ease restrictions

The Melbourne lockdown is due to end at 11:59pm Thursday, and Mr Merlino today said the authorities were “on track” to announce an easing of restrictions.

“Our contact tracing team has done exactly what we needed them to do. They have found the cases, they have tracked them down and they have isolated them,” he said.

“Thanks to their outstanding work, we remain on track to later in this week announce, as we have said we planned to do all along, further easings of restrictions in regional Victoria and careful easings of restrictions in Melbourne.”

Mr Merlino said “nothing about today” changed those plans.

The health department recorded eleven new cases on Sunday, but many of those were people already isolating, and all were linked to known cases.

A photo of North Melbourne Primary School.
Two of the confirmed cases in Victoria’s outbreak are students at North Melbourne Primary School.(ABC News: Kyle Harley)

Several children are among the cases in the West Melbourne cluster, but University of Melbourne paediatrics Professor Fiona Russell said there was no need to expedite the vaccination of children.

“In the context that we’ve got a global shortage of vaccine when most frontliners haven’t even vaccinated, you have to really go through due process in terms of what the benefits are and the direct benefits to children versus the risk,” she said.

“It may be in some point in the future we may need to vaccinate children, but we’re not there yet.”

Several Melbourne shops have been added to the list of more than 300 exposure sites, including an IGA supermarket in Southbank and 7-Eleven stores in Yarraville and Maribyrnong.

‘Encouring’ case numbers in recent days

Victoria’s Tourism and Major Events Minister, Martin Pakula, said there were positive signs ahead of a ruling later this week on whether Melbourne’s lockdown would be eased.

“Today’s numbers are encouraging, yesterday’s numbers were more encouraging than they may have looked on face value because they were all linked,” he said

Mr Pakula said he expected crowds to be allowed at AFL games in Melbourne when the current lockdown was eased.

“I don’t expect that we will be going back to 85 per cent [capacity] or anything of that nature, but I do expect that we’ll have AFL games back in Victoria sooner rather than later,” he said.