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Victoria has held off on implementing tougher Covid restrictions, but acting premier James Merlino has warned the next 24 hours will be critical as authorities try to contain a growing Melbourne cluster.
There are 15 active locally acquired Covid-19 cases in the state – an increase of six since Tuesday afternoon.
Health authorities were concerned by the types of high-risk venues visited by positive cases, including an AFL match at the MCG, two venues in regional Victoria and bars in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Prahran.
Despite the increase in cases, Merlino said they had decided against immediately introducing further restrictions on top of measures announced on Tuesday.
“I want to be upfront with everyone this morning; I cannot rule out taking some further action,” Merlino said. “It’s fair to say the next 24 hours are going to be particularly critical in terms of whether we need to make further changes beyond those announced yesterday.”
The chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said it was reassuring that all of the cases had been linked.
“So we understand the relationships between all of them, we’ve got an explanation for how transmission has occurred,” Sutton said.
But he was concerned by the growing number of exposure sites.
“Certainly the fact that there have been exposures over a number of days that go back in time is a concern.
“It’s pretty clear that we have run down multiple generations of transmission,” Sutton said. “It’s been a lot of chasing to be done effectively because we have had those individuals out in the community for some days. So there are potential exposures that relate to some days ago.”
The bars of particular concern include Prahran’s Three Monkeys, with anyone who attended on 22 May between 9:10pm and 11pm, and on 23 May between 12:30am and 2am urged to test and isolate immediately. Anyone who attended Somewhere Bar, also in Prahran, between 10:30pm and 1am on 22 May is also considered a tier 1 contact.
The MCG was added to the tier 1 exposure site list overnight. An infectious person attended the Sunday 23 May match between Collingwood and Port Adelaide.
All patrons who were sitting in zone 4, level 1 of the Great Southern Stand in between bays M1 and M16 were contacted overnight and asked to immediately get tested and isolate.
“The AFL, in conjunction with all AFL venues nationally, have ensured each match has a Covid-safe event plan that is endorsed by the relevant state department of health,” the AFL said in a statement.
Victoria’s health minister, Martin Foley, said record numbers of people were turning out for testing, and had inquired about the vaccine.
“Yesterday we also saw a record number of calls to our vaccine hotline, and we want to see another record,” he said.
Sutton urged eligible Victorians to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“In terms of transmission risk, vaccination isn’t at the kind of levels that make a difference now to the speed of new generations of cases,” he said.
“We know many over 50 still have not had the vaccine and many will be booking now.
“Many turned up yesterday. There are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, who can get vaccinated now and should get vaccinated now. The concerns about clots, I understand. This is the same vaccine – the AstraZeneca vaccine – that has been given to the UK, where they have now gone down from over 60,000 cases per day to 2,500 cases per day.
“It is getting over its pandemic through this vaccine. There is always a risk with medications and as far as the clots go with AstraZeneca, that is a small risk. AstraZeneca provides extremely good protection against hospitalisation and serious illness, so it is just worthwhile to get that vaccine.
Merlino said Victorian authorities were still considering broadening the criteria for vaccination eligibility.
“The one positive out of all of this is the massive increase in the number of people coming out yesterday to get vaccinated,” he said. “Right now, we do not have a problem with the supply. As I have set a number of times at our state sites, we have got the capacity to do two to three times what we have been doing.”
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said two close contacts of Victorian cases had been identified in that state, and both had since tested negative. People arriving in NSW from the Greater Melbourne area must complete an online declaration form which confirms they have not attended one of the venues of concern. Those who have attended a venue of concern must contact NSW Health on 1800 943 553.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said the situation in Victoria “could happen in any state in Australia,” joining the calls urging eligible Australians to get vaccinated.
“People have not been vaccinated enough. We are still in the very initial stages of getting our population vaccinated.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Victoria not ruling out tougher restrictions after recording six new Covid cases | Melbourne