February 21, 2024

Victoria records no local coronavirus cases, six infections in hotel quarantine

Victoria has recorded no locally acquired coronavirus cases for the fourth day in a row,…

Victoria records no local coronavirus cases, six infections in hotel quarantine

Victoria has recorded no locally acquired coronavirus cases for the fourth day in a row, with six COVID-19 infections in hotel quarantine.

There were 23,412 test results received on Saturday, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said.

There are now 45 active cases in Victoria, including people in hotel quarantine.

At a press conference, Health Minister Martin Foley said one of the six new infections was an international flight crew member, while the rest were returned travellers.

Mr Foley thanked everyone who was tested for the “extraordinarily strong” turnout.

Victorians in Brisbane told to sit tight

Victorians who are in the Brisbane “red zone” are still urged to stay there until at least 6:00pm on Monday, while people who returned to Victoria from January 2 have been told to get tested and isolate at home.

Mr Foley said it was “reassuring” to see Queensland had not recorded any locally acquired coronavirus infections today or yesterday.

He reiterated that Victoria still supported the Commonwealth’s hotspot declaration for the Greater Brisbane area and that the state would “await further advice from our Queensland colleagues” before making any decision on the border closure.

Seventeen flights arrived in Melbourne from locked-down Brisbane yesterday.

People in protective masks stand next to a bench where more people in full PPE sit.
Travellers were interviewed on arrival at Melbourne airport on Saturday.(ABC News)

“DHHS authorised officers worked with 96 travellers yesterday to facilitate home isolation for those who people who came to Melbourne airport,” he said.

“Just pointing out that was in breach of the Queensland Chief Health Officer’s directions,” Mr Foley said.

COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said he would have “more to say in the coming days” about the thousands of people stuck in NSW who want to return to Victoria.

“We will look to bring you back as safely and as quickly as we possibly can.”

He said almost 900 exemptions from people in NSW had been processed since the exemption process opened.

Mr Weimar said the state would not consider easing restrictions — introduced on December 30 — until the state had recorded “a number of further days” without local transmission and with high testing numbers.

He said a number of close contacts linked to the Black Rock cluster were about to receive their day 11 test, and authorities wanted to make sure no virus had come in from NSW or Queensland.

The possible relaxation of restrictions would be a matter for the Chief Health Officer, he added.

‘Risk of further transmission remains’, CHO says

The new streak without cases comes after the cluster linked to a restaurant in Black Rock, in Melbourne’s south-east, rose to 27 cases.

The last infections linked to the cluster were announced on Tuesday.

A separate case announced on Wednesday prompted a public health alert for the MCG and Chadstone Shopping Centre, after a man tested positive for the virus after attending both sites.

Authorities do not believe the man is linked to the Black Rock cluster and it is being treated as a mystery case.

People wait at a pedestrian crossing, most wearing face masks.
Victoria tightened its rules slightly in response to the Black Rock cluster.(ABC News: Barrie Pullen)

While genomic sequencing has confirmed the locally acquired cases are all linked to Sydney’s coronavirus outbreak, contact tracers have not yet determined the “index cases” for how the virus got into Victoria.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the results announced on Saturday — no new locally acquired cases from 28,337 tests — showed “top-notch” cluster management.

“But it’s not over yet and every cluster brings its own challenges,” he said on Twitter.

He said the long list of exposure sites, which is updated on the DHHS’s website as cases are confirmed, means “the risk of further transmission remains”.

People standing around at an airport.
More than 90 people who had been in Queensland hot spot areas arrived at Melbourne Airport on Saturday.(ABC News: Rudy De Santis)

Air crew ‘one of the highest hit rates’

Mr Weimar said the flight crew member who had tested positive was now quarantining at a flight crew hotel.

Most of the crew were turned over within 24 or 48 hours, he said, while positive cases would be put on a crew-only flight.

He said there had been two instances in recent days where positive cases had been identified when the air crew were already on the flight when the positive result came through.

He said the crew were escorted off the plane, the flight was cancelled and close colleagues were also put in quarantine.

“We’ve now tested over 1,600 international aircrew over the last few weeks or so,” he said.

“We test every international air crew upon arrival and we’ve now detected 11 positive cases in international air crew, one of the highest hit rates that we’ve seen of any cohort and a key areas of risk.”