It was back to business as usual at McDonald’s in Fawkner this morning, despite a virus cluster there.
It was back to business as usual at McDonald’s in Fawkner this morning, despite a virus cluster there.

COVID cases increase in two main clusters

Nine new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Victoria this morning - five of which have stemmed from the spread of the state's two worst clusters.

Another three employees from the Cedar Meats abattoir in Melbourne have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of people infected from the outbreak to 64 staff and 26 close contacts.

The state's chief health officer Brett Sutton told 3AW this morning he'd learnt his lesson from the abattoir outbreak, saying workplaces would now be shut down as soon as a single case is detected.

"I think even two linked cases is probably enough to shut a place down and probably regardless of its size," Dr Sutton told the radio program.

"We were proportionate in as much as we said 'everyone should be tested, consider everyone a close contact'. But maybe we shouldn't have waited for a third linked case."

Dr Sutton said while was a big call to make, in future an entire facility would be closed down - regardless of the number of employees.

"I think (I would act quicker in the future), I think the very first linked cases that suggest transmission has occurred at the workplace, I think that could be a prompt to shut it all down."

 

Victoria's Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton told 3AW he’d learnt his lesson following the Cedar Meats abattoir outbreak. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross
Victoria's Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton told 3AW he’d learnt his lesson following the Cedar Meats abattoir outbreak. Picture: AAP Image/James Ross

The virus cluster linked to Fawkner McDonald's - the other outbreak of biggest concern in Victoria - grew again this morning, with two household contacts of staff members testing positive to the virus.

The new cases takes the number of cases linked to the outbreak to eight, with four staff and four close contacts catching COVID.

Nearly 100 employees are in isolation, but that didn't stop cars packing the drive-thru of a McDonald's in Melbourne's north this morning after it reopened its doors.

"Today's increase in cases illustrates once again that while we have been flattening the curve, our battle against COVID-19 is far from over," Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton told reporters yesterday, after the number of infections doubled from three to six.

"While it is encouraging that we can begin to a cautious path to normalcy, this is not an invitation to indulge in potential risky behaviours."

After closing for a deep clean last Friday, the store reopened yesterday with workers brought in from other McDonald's restaurants while regular staff wait for their results, a McDonald's spokeswoman said.

"We are checking in with each of the affected employees daily and confirm they are self-isolating at home with mild to no symptoms," she said.

"We continue to work collaboratively with the Department of Health … While the majority of our employees' test results have so far returned negative, we cannot, of course, guarantee there may not be another positive result in the coming days."

The first case linked to the outlet - an employee - tested positive for coronavirus last Thursday. The worker told the Health Department's contact tracers they had not attended work while infectious and McDonald's said they last worked on April 30.

After a second employee tested positive on Friday "after working one shift" and a third employee tested positive on Tuesday, 92 other workers were tested as a precaution and "have been instructed not to return to work for 14 days".

While the Department of Health have said the likelihood of a customer contracting the virus is "very low", one Fawkner McDonald's customer told Nine News yesterday she wasn't aware of the outbreak before ordering.

"I feel as if I need to go home and clean up, that's what I feel like," she said.

 

 

 

McDonald's has introduced a "contactless" handover, where a crew member places the food bag on the counter shelf for customers to pick up.

However, concerns have been raised over the continued operation of touchscreen, self-serve order kiosks, with research showing COVID-19 can survive on hard surfaces like the screens for 24 to 72 hours.

"I'm not sure touch screens are any more dangerous than any other high-tough public surfaces that remain in use. But if people are going to remain using them, they should be properly sanitised in order to minimise the risk of passing infections along," University of Sydney virology expert Dr Hannah Sassi told The Age.

"If it's feasible for an establishment to safely and properly function without the use of touch screens, then that might be a good option for them to protect their workers and customers."

A McDonald's spokeswoman told the publication an "antimicrobial film with advisory stickers" had been added to each ordering machine.


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