In relation to cases of coronavirus transmission between strangers, Victorians are at risk of being locked down for more than a week.
Victoria recorded three new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday – the fifth day of the seven-day lockdown on the state’s “breaker” – bringing the most recent outbreak to 54 active infections.
Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed that two of the new infections are close contacts of positive cases, while the other does not yet need to be linked directly.
State COVID test commander Jeroen Weimar said the man lived near Stratton Finance in Port Melbourne, where a number of positive cases worked.
“It’s exposed in the number of coffeeshops in the area that are frequented by Stratton Finance employees … that seems to be enough to spread the infection,” he said.
Mr. Weimar said there had been at least four cases of “stranger-to-stranger transmission” in this outbreak.
“People walk past each other in a small shop, they will display houses, they look at telephones in a Telstra shop,” he said.
“It’s a very fleeting contact, relatively speaking. You don’t know the other’s name and it’s very different from what we’ve seen before.”
While Mr Foley stressed that no decision had been made, Mr Foley said evidence of the increased infectivity and faster spread of the Indian variant would be included in a final call on whether the lockdown should be extended beyond Thursday.
“This is one of a series of pieces of evidence that the Chief Health Officer (Brett Sutton) and his team will carefully consider,” he said.
Professor Sutton’s public health team is very inclined to recommend an extension of the lockdown as senior government ministers received a high-level briefing Tuesday evening, according to several reports.
A spokeswoman for the state government declined to comment on the reports to AAP.
The increased risk of the Indian variant has prompted authorities to sound the alarm for 14 shopping centers across Melbourne, with visitors being urged to come forward for testing in the past two weeks.
There are more than 300 exposure sites across the state and 4,800 primary close contacts associated with the outbreak, with 75 percent of whom return a negative test.
In the meantime, all Victorian elderly and handicapped workers will soon be able to stand in line at the mass vaccination centers.
Senate estimates on Tuesday revealed that less than 10 percent of nursing home workers across Australia had been vaccinated through visits by the federal government.
Victoria’s Minister for Disability, Aging and Care, Luke Donnellan, said the state government would step in to encourage greater coverage with a five-day lightning strike.
Express lanes for elderly care and handicapped workers will be opened Wednesday through Sunday at 10 vaccination centers in Melbourne and the Victoria area.
The lifts operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and employees must provide proof of employment.
The move comes after an outbreak at Arcare Maidstone that is now genomically linked to a South Australian hotel quarantine leak that exposed gaps in private vaccinations for the elderly among workers and residents.
A COVID-positive 99-year-old resident received only one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, while only one in two other infected workers had their first vaccination.
Only 57 percent of Victorian private elderly care residents and 64 percent across the country are fully vaccinated, and 21 facilities across the country have yet to receive their first doses.
In February, the federal government promised vulnerable groups, including the elderly care, their first vaccination in the first six weeks of its introduction.
Of the 910 coronavirus deaths in Australia, 655 were Victorian elderly care residents.
Australian Associated Press