Close contacts of known COVID-19 cases in Victoria must now be tested before leaving quarantine or face another 10 days in isolation.
- Health Minister Martin Foley says only a “very small” number of people refused testing
- Premier Daniel Andrews says Melbourne won’t take the full third step next week, but says more social rules may be eased
- He says regional Victoria could see some business restrictions lifted
The state has recorded 12 new cases of COVID-19 and one further death, keeping Melbourne’s 14-day average higher than the previous target for the next step of eased restrictions.
The city’s fortnightly average of daily cases has fallen from 9.4 to 9.3, while in regional Victoria it remains the same at 0.4.
The number of cases in Melbourne with an unknown source in the two weeks to October 8 sits at 10.
Those identified as close contacts of known cases are already required to quarantine for a fortnight, but the new rules will give the state the power to keep them for a further 10 days if they refuse a test on the 11th day.
Health Minister Martin Foley said the end of the extra 10-day period was when health authorities could be “absolutely sure” the incubation period of the virus had passed.
He said it was “a very, very small number of people” who had so far refused testing while in quarantine.
But he said while the state dealt with the “stubborn tail of the second wave”, health teams needed to be given the tools to “drive this infection rate away”.
The state is also introducing a fine of nearly $10,000 for regional Victorian businesses who do not take “reasonable steps” to ensure their customers are legally allowed to be outside of Melbourne.
Under the city’s current restrictions, permitted workers are allowed to leave the city but must follow Melbourne restrictions while in regional Victoria.
An outbreak in Kilmore, north of Melbourne, started when a person with coronavirus linked the Chadstone outbreak in Melbourne’s south-east dined at the town’s Oddfellows Cafe while infectious. The rules only permitted them to order takeaway.
Mr Foley praised the “amazing work” Oddfellows management did to respond to the outbreak at the cafe, but said “we want to make sure that those businesses are given a positive incentive” to make sure guests were following restrictions.
The rules will come into effect at 11:59pm today, October 11.
The Government has extended its state of emergency and state of disaster for a further four weeks.
Government may abandon third step for ‘3A’ restrictions
A fortnight after he said the state was ahead of schedule to ease restrictions, Premier Daniel Andrews again warned the next step would not be as big as hoped.
But he suggested people in Melbourne would be given greater freedom of movement from October 19, and regional Victorian businesses may have some rules lifted.
He said there would be “significant” movement but any next steps “had to be safe”.
“They will allow us to move more freely. They will allow us to connect more easily with those that we love the most,” he said.
The targets for the third step in Melbourne had been a rolling 14-day case average of five or lower, and a total maximum number of five “mystery” cases over a fortnight.
Mr Andrews said instead of the full third step, which would have meant significant easing of restrictions for businesses, it would more likely be a case of a “three A” or “three minus” in Melbourne and a “three plus” in regional Victoria.
Regional Victoria is currently living under the third step of the roadmap, and has had its next steps tied to statewide case numbers.
Mr Andrews said there are “some opportunities” for business in regional Victoria but that he did not want to give people “a sense of false hope” before plans were set in stone.
Box Hill Hospital outbreak grows
After weeks of falling, the 14-day average rose yesterday, moving from 9.4 to 9.5 after the state recorded 14 infections. There were 11 cases confirmed on both Thursday and Friday.
Outbreaks linked to Chadstone Shopping Centre, Box Hill Hospital and Kilmore, north of Melbourne, have been behind some of the infections.
Two of the new cases are linked to the Box Hill outbreak, which brings the total to 12.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said while 10 of the new cases were officially considered ‘under investigation’, health authorities did have some detail on their situation.
Professor Sutton said the Chadstone outbreak was now linked to 33 cases after one new infection was added to the cluster.
He said health authorities were trying to work out the details of the origin of the infections, and that eight of the new cases were linked to two family outbreaks in the western suburbs.
Five cases are linked to one household, while three infections are linked to three people across two houses.
There are five active cases in regional Victoria, all located in the Mitchell Shire, which covers Kilmore.
He said there were two mystery cases, where the source of the infection could not be found, in postcodes 3147 and 3037.
Professor Sutton said it might be “extraordinarily difficult” to completely drive numbers down to zero in the state, but said “I think it’s possible”.