‘Ready ourselves’: Sutton’s grim warning

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    Victorians are bracing themselves after four new cases in Melbourne, one likely to be “quite infectious”, surprised a community and ended the state’s 87-day Covid-free streak. But it’s not just Victorians that need to worry who has warned Australians to risk further outbreaks over the colder months across the country.

    In Melbourne, testing sites were open late on Monday night as officials raced to identify the origin of the new cases, warning there could be a “missing link”. While the testing center’s opening hours were extended, 7 News reporter Melina Sarris said it took 45-minutes at her local site while on Google, searches for Covid tests skyrocketed. Mr. Sutton noted that Victoria’s latest cluster wasn’t surprising considering that “we’ve barely gone a fortnight across Australia without some flag” and urged more Aussies to get vaccinated.

    Two “likely” cases detected on Monday morning in Melbourne’s north have been confirmed as positive results. A further two family members have since tested positive, it was revealed in the afternoon. The four cases include a male in his 30s, a woman in his 70s, a woman in her 70s, and a preschool-aged child from the Whittlesea area.

    Sutton

    The concerning source of the infection remains a mystery, but it is hoped genomic sequencing may provide some answers. Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said there was currently nothing to link the family to Melbourne’s previous coronavirus scare, which occurred after a man became infected while he was in hotel quarantine in South Australia before flying into the city and returning to his home in Wollert earlier this month.

    “The dates do not line up immediately, so we cannot rule out if there is a missing link out there,” he said. Traces of COVID-19 were licked up in wastewater in the Epping and Wollert areas. Last Thursday, almost three weeks after the city reported the positive Covid case of the man who became infected in Adelaide hotel quarantine. In the meantime, Mr. Sutton warned the state could see more patients.

    The first case was “likely quite infectious”, he said Monday, adding residents “have to ready ourselves”. The concern is that the infectious man, who was displaying symptoms on May 20 but was likely contagious as early as May 18, had been out in the community for three days. “The viral load was high, and with close contacts becoming positive, he is likely to be quite infectious,” Professor Sutton said.

    “There (was) not a huge number of close contacts, but we have to go through the interview process to identify anyone else. “We have to ready ourselves for any other positives, and when there are close contacts who do become positive, that raises the possibility that even a casual contact could become positive as well.” He pleaded with Victorians to “never be complacent” and warned, “we will always be at risk until we have high vaccination coverage”.

    But he also warned the colder months ahead spell trouble for the entire country and that it will become “harder to prevent further cases” across the nation. “The transmission potential will be greater now than it was when we spent more time outdoors, where we distanced better, where we wore masks more often,” he said. “All of those behaviors are useful to remind ourselves and really try and do that again, especially in a couple of weeks ahead of us.”

    No new restrictions have been enforced, but more exposure sites are expected to be added to the list. Currently, the Jump! Swim School in Bundoora and the busy Highpoint Shopping Centre in Maribyrnong remain Tier 1 exposure sites. Officials warn to “get tested immediately and stay isolated until further notice”. A Woolworths and 7-Eleven are included in the Tier 2 sites.

    States react

    Anyone in Queensland who has been to one of the declared COVID-19 exposure sites in Victoria during the risk period specified is automatically required to quarantine, Queensland Health announced Monday night. Queensland chief health officer Dr. Jeannette Young said the Interstate Exposure Venues Direction would apply to people in Queensland who had been to any of these locations.

    “In light of these new cases, I urge everyone to reconsider their need to travel to Melbourne’s northern suburbs,” Dr. Young said. “From 1am Wednesday, if you are entering Queensland and have been to any of the Victorian exposure sites at the time specified, you will need to quarantine for 14 days in government-arranged accommodation.

    “If you have been to any of these sites and are already in Queensland, you must immediately travel by private transport directly to your home or accommodation and quarantine. “You also need to complete the Queensland Health online contact tracing self-assessment form and get tested immediately. “This direction is in place to protect the health and safety of Queenslanders and visitors.”

    Everyone is encouraged to monitor the Queensland Health interstate exposure venue lists for 14 days after they arrive to ensure no new venues have been added. Meanwhile, the Northern Territory only requires those who have visited Tier 1 sites to quarantine. In New South Wales, people arriving in Sydney from the Greater Melbourne area are reminded that they must complete a declaration that confirms they have not attended one of the venues of concern.

    The declaration form is available on the Service NSW website and can be completed 24 hours before entering NSW or on arrival. NSW Health will be contacting people who have met declarations to ask them to check the Victoria Department of Health and Human Services website and immediately follow the outlined public health advice.

    If you have been in Victoria since May 10 and attended any of the venues identified at times listed, please contact NSW Health immediately on 1800 943 553. Anyone now in West Australia who visited exposure sites must get tested directly and quarantined for 14 days from the date of exposure.

    All other travelers from Victoria should monitor the list of exposure sites for updates, and if you develop symptoms, get tested and isolate until you receive a negative result. In South Australia, from 8.25pm May 24, if you visited any of Tier 1 or Tier 2 exposure locations at the specified dates and times, you are not permitted to enter South Australia. This excludes people escaping domestic violence. With NewsWire’s Rhiannon Tuffield

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