Victoria records just two new local Covid-19 cases with lockdown in Melbourne to continue

Victoria has recorded just four new Covid-19 cases as one of its top doctors admits the lockdown in Melbourne will continue despite the low number of new infections.

State health officials announced two new cases on Sunday were locally acquired, with aged care facility Arcare later revealing its Maidstone facility in Melbourne’s inner west also had two new infections.

Acting Premier James Merlino said the cases were primary close contacts of existing cases and included a person in their 50s linked to the Port Melbourne finance exposure site and a primary school teacher linked to the West Melbourne cluster.

In the aged care facility, one case is a 79-year-old resident who was staying in a room close to two other residents who previously tested positive to the virus.

‘The resident, who has had both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, is asymptomatic but will be transferred to hospital for public health reasons,’ he said.

Victoria has recorded just two new Covid-19 cases with a top doctor admitting the lockdown in Melbourne will continue despite the low number of cases (pictured, people queueing for vaccines on Saturday)

Melbourne will remain in lockdown until Thursday despite officially recording just two new local cases on Sunday

Melbourne will remain in lockdown until Thursday despite officially recording just two new local cases on Sunday

The second is an agency nurse who had been working at the facility on Saturday. They had already received their first dose of the vaccine.

The new cases bring the total number of active cases in the state to 85, with 72 in the Melbourne cluster that has brought the city into lockdown for a fourth time.

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Should Victoria’s lockdown end?

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Victoria’s deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng said he doesn’t expect the lockdown in Melbourne – which was extended until Thursday – will be lifted sooner despite the relatively low number of cases.

He said health authorities were still trying to determine the source of the Indian Delta strain outbreak – a highly infectious and contagious variant of the virus.

‘We are still continuing to look at all possibilities, particularly, as you say, I think the Wollert case is now going back quite some time now so I think any hidden transmission from that is probably less likely,’ he said.

Mr Merlino added he would wait for the advice from health authorities before even considering easing restrictions.

‘We know that the Delta variant is 50 per cent more infectious than what we were dealing with last year’ he said.

During a press conference on Sunday, Victoria's deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng said he doesn't expect the lockdown in Melbourne - which was extended until Thursday - will be lifted sooner in light of the low number of cases

During a press conference on Sunday, Victoria’s deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng said he doesn’t expect the lockdown in Melbourne – which was extended until Thursday – will be lifted sooner in light of the low number of cases

The extension of the state of emergency powers doesn't necessarily mean lockdown will remain in place until July 1, but gives the government the power to do so

The extension of the state of emergency powers doesn’t necessarily mean lockdown will remain in place until July 1, but gives the government the power to do so

‘The last thing we want to see is this variant of the virus getting out, and becoming uncontrollable.’

The list of exposure sites has also grown to almost 400 with another venue added to the list.

One of the new cases identified had visited Thornbury Market from 10.30am to 11.30am on June 1.

Professor Cheng asked anyone who had been at the venue at the time to immediately get tested.

‘It is a pretty precautionary one because we think the symptoms were on the edge of happening but they are both tier two sites so if you’ve been at either of those, please get tested and isolate,’ he said.

Despite the low number of cases recorded overnight health authorities have extended their state of emergency powers while Melbourne residents have been forced to push through an extended lockdown until Thursday

Despite the low number of cases recorded overnight health authorities have extended their state of emergency powers while Melbourne residents have been forced to push through an extended lockdown until Thursday

News of the continuing lockdown has previously drawn heavy criticism from residents and businesses and led them to question when the draconian restrictions will be lifted for good.

Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford has also held meetings with industry leaders and urged them to start campaigning for their staff to get vaccinated so life can return to normal.

‘Our small businesses have paid a high price keeping the community safe – the best thing we can now do for them is get vaccinated,’ she told Herald Sun.

On Tuesday, Victoria’s under fire Labor government signed off to extend its state of emergency powers for another four weeks – meaning the Andrews regime can hold almost seven million Australians in lockdown until July 1.

Greater Melbourne remains in lockdown with residents and businesses unhappy politicians are sitting back and letting health officers decide what will be done

Greater Melbourne remains in lockdown with residents and businesses unhappy politicians are sitting back and letting health officers decide what will be done

The extension of the state of emergency powers does not mean lockdown will remain in place until July 1, but it does give the government the power to do so.

On Thursday, when the lockdown is due to end, the government could either decide to extend it – or to ease restrictions as it did for regional Victoria.

Health Minister Martin Foley made the decision to extend the state of emergency after holding talks with Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, who has been described by senior figures in the Victorian government as a ‘catastrophist’.

The Andrews Government first brought in the state of emergency on March 16, 2020.

It was initially set to remain in place for four weeks, but has since been extended 17 times.

Victoria recorded five new local infections on Saturday, bringing the state's outbreak to 70 cases

Victoria recorded five new local infections on Saturday, bringing the state’s outbreak to 70 cases

TIMELINE TO DISASTER

May 3: An infected guest staying in the adjacent room of a Wollert man infects him as he leaves a South Australian hotel bound for Melbourne.

May 7: Melbourne city restaurant the Curry Vault is officially listed as a tier 1 public exposure site six days after the man had dined at the venue.

May 11: A Woolworths supermarket in Epping, in Melbourne’s north-west, is notified the infected person who had left SA quarantine had visited the store three days earlier.

May 22: A banking transaction is blamed for Victorian health authorities listing the wrong supermarket – it should have been Woolworths Epping North.

May 27: The Victorian government announces a seven-day lockdown in a bid to curb the state’s growing coronavirus outbreak.

May 28: Victoria finally introduces a single mandatory QR code tracking system.

May 31: Arcare Maidstone residents are locked down and placed into self-isolation after a female healthcare worker at the facility tested positive.

June 3: Melbourne’s week long lockdown is extended a further week.

The state emergency was signed off to ‘assist with measures designed to ‘flatten the curve’ of Covid-19 and give our health system the best chance of managing the virus’, Mr Andrews – who is currently on medical leave – said last year.

The powers of the order include ‘detaining people, restricting movement and preventing entry to premises’, through lockdowns, mandatory mask wearing and hotel quarantine.

Mr Foley remained tight lipped about when a decision will be made on extending the state’s lockdown.

‘There is no simple answer,’ he said, when asked about a potential date.

‘Clearly, as we approach next Thursday, the kind of facts we have been going through here, the evidence, what cases (we are) aware (of), either linked or unlinked, have we got the support around them.

‘How we got the evidence that Professor Lewin was talking about, as to knowing where they’ve come from.’

The entire state was first locked down at the end of May for seven days – due to end on June 3 – but just one day before residents planned to return to their semi-normal lives, the government announced Greater Melbourne would be forced to stay locked inside their houses for an additional seven days.

The extension of the state of emergency powers doesn't mean lockdown will remain in place until July 1, but gives the government the power to do so

The extension of the state of emergency powers doesn’t mean lockdown will remain in place until July 1, but gives the government the power to do so

With the new Indian ‘Delta’ variant that has wreaked havoc amongst a billion-strong population overseas being detected in the state, residents fear the leading health officers may extend the dreaded lockdown again.

This is despite the highest number of infections on a single day in the latest outbreak, which started on May 4, being 12 – with every other day reporting total community transmission of between three to six cases despite tens of thousands of tests.

During Victoria’s emergency lockdown meeting almost two weeks ago Mr Andrews – the North Face-wearing voice of reason throughout the state’s most gruelling 2020 lockdown – was nowhere to be seen, either in person or on Zoom, when it was decided that drastic measures would need to be taken.

As he is still recovering from a spinal injury, Mr Andrews had spoken Mr Merlino earlier that day and was waiting for more updates after the meeting concluded.

Instead it was Prof Sutton who led the fast-paced one hour discussion before it was decided the state would be locked down the following day when cases were linked to the infectious Indian Kappa variant.

The news was understandably a disappointment for the business sector, who were never consulted.

RESTRICTIONS IN VICTORIA FROM 11.59PM ON JUNE 3

Changes will come in for all Victorians from 11.59pm on June 3, with rules relaxed in regional Victoria but few changes for Melbourne

Under the strict rules in Melbourne, there are a number of restrictions:

Stay-at-home order with just five reasons to leave the house:

– Shopping for necessary goods and services

– Going to work or permitted education

– Exercise with a two-hour limit

– Medical reasons and care giving

– Getting vaccinated

As well as this, there will be serious restrictions on people’s personal life, business, work and school:

– No visitors to your home other than an intimate partner. Single bubbles will be permitted. If you live alone, you can make a bubble with another person.

– 10km travel limit for exercise and shopping

– Compulsory masks indoors and outdoors unless in the home

– No public gatherings.

– Restaurants, pubs, and cafes can provide takeaway only.

– Essential retail, so supermarkets, food stores, petrol stations, banks, bottle shops and pharmacies, other retail stores can provide click and collect.

– Childcare and kinders will be open as per the last circuit breaker lockdown earlier this year.

– Approved professional sporting events will proceed but proceed without crowds.

– Schools are remote learning, except for vulnerable children, children of authorised workers, Year 11s and Year 12s

– Higher education will move to remote learning only.

– Community support and recreation, accommodation, but there will be some exemptions that apply.

– Hotels, clubs, TABs and the casino will be closed.

– Indoor and outdoor entertainment venues, swimming pools, spas, saunas, indoor and outdoor springs, community venues, drive in cinemas, amusements parks and arcades, creative studios, art galleries and museums, tourism, tours, and transport, and auctions can only happen online.

– Aged care facilities, no visitors except for limited reasons.

– In our hospitals, visitors only for end of life, to support a partner during birth, or a parent accompanying a child.

– In terms of ceremonies, funerals, a maximum of 10 people plus those running the service.

– Weddings cannot proceed unless end of life or deportation reasons apply.

– Religious activities will not proceed other than through broadcast with a maximum of five people.

For regional Victoria:

– Stay-at-home order removed

– No travel limit, but can only go to Melbourne for a permitted reasons (healthcare, emergencies etc)

– Outdoor gatherings can be 10 people

– Food and hospitality open for food only, max 50 people inside

– Retail and beauty open

– 10 at weddings and 50 at funerals

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