Melbourne on the brink as virus breaks out
Restrictions are back in Victoria after a hotel quarantine worker who was part of the tennis program in Melbourne tested positive for COVID-19.
In a late night press conference on Wednesday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the return of mask mandates and restrictions on gatherings.
He said the infected worker was a 26-year-old man from Melbourne's Noble Park who was a resident support officer for the Australian Open quarantine program.
He last worked at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on January 29 and returned a negative test after his shift. He subsequently developed symptoms and returned a positive test for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
Victoria will revert to the New Year's Eve restrictions seen after the Black Rock cluster from 11.59pm Wednesday, Mr Andrews said. This means the cap on private gatherings in homes will be reduced from 30 to 15 people, masks must be worn indoors and the expanded office capacity due to be introduced on Monday is on pause.
Mr Andrews said that between 500 and 600 Australian Open players or officials and others are considered casual contacts and will be forced to isolate until they test negative.
Early exhibition matches scheduled for Thursday have also been cancelled, but Mr Andrews said "at this stage, there's no impact to the tournament proper".
"This is one case, there's no need for people to panic," said the Premier. "There's no need to be alarmed. We Victorians know what to do. And we have proven as state very successful at managing those sorts of outbreaks, these sorts of issues."
The hotel worker visited at least 14 sites in Victoria between Friday and Monday - Club Noble in Noble Park, Aces Sporting Club in Keysborough, North Point Cafe in Brighton, Kmart Keysborough, Kmart Brandon Park, Coles Springvale, Bunnings Springvale, Melbourne Golf Academy in Heatherton, Exford Hotel Melbourne, Kebab Kingz West Melbourne, Lululemon at DFO Moorabbin, Woolworths Springvale, Nakama Workshop in Clayton South and Sharetea in Springvale.
He was at Club Noble for a social event for Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers.
"We have to assume that this person has infected others," Mr Andrews said, adding that "testing of this individual indicates that he probably had a high viral load".
The Premier said everyone who may have been at the Tier 1 exposure sites at the times listed must get tested first thing in the morning and isolate for 14 days, with testing sites open from 8am to meet demand. Authorities are also speaking to the man's close contacts and some will be tested overnight.
New statewide restrictions come into effect from 11:59pm tonight, 3 February.— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) February 3, 2021
- The limit on the number of people gathering in a household will be reduced from 30 to 15, meaning the household members plus 15 visitors (excluding children under 12 months of age). pic.twitter.com/J1tvBRQxrr
The worker is now in isolation at a health hotel and contact tracers are working with him to gather information on his movements and contact anyone who may have been exposed.
Mr Andrews said "we have to assume" it is the highly contagious and more deadly UK variant, since the strain had infected some of the guests at the hotel.
The Premier said the case "may have an impact on tomorrow's play in the lead-up event [for the Australian Open] but at this stage, there's no impact to the tournament proper."
Mr Andrews said that was "important to us" but the main issue was public health and public safety, which was why authorities had moved so quickly.
"If people are sick and don't get tested and go about their business, it's a problem for all of us," he said.
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"To go about your business when you're sick, that puts everything at risk, for you, your family, for someone you'll never meet.
"Come and get tested if you've been at one of these sites, I can't be any clearer than that, it is the most important thing to really take control of this."
Mr Andrews said it was still not clear how the worker contracted COVID in a case that will be recorded as a community transmission, one day after Victoria recorded 28 days in a row without a locally acquired infection.
"We can't particularly determine how it is the person became infected given that they produced negative test results," he said.
"All of that will become clearer with a combination of CCTV footage, genomic sequencing, further testing, all of that coronavirus detective work that already well and truly underway."
A Hotel Quarantine worker at the Grand Hyatt Hotel has tested positive to coronavirus (COVID-19).— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) February 3, 2021
Anyone who has visited these exposure sites during the times below must immediately isolate, get a coronavirus (COVID-19) test, and remain isolated for 14 days. pic.twitter.com/BNpSOEcpHY
Victoria's Department of Health on Wednesday evening sad that public health teams were investigating and close contacts are being notified. The 75 per cent "return to work" cap in both public and private sectors scheduled for Monday will be paused and the current cap of 50 per cent will remain in place.
Residents were urged to take a mask if leaving their homes, but children under 12 do not need one.
Last time hotel quarantine breaches were seen in Melbourne in July, Victoria was placed into a strict six-week lockdown.
The news comes as health authorities are investigating possible transmission of the highly contagious UK coronavirus variant between residents at Melbourne's Park Royal Hotel.
A family of five who arrived on January 20 at the Park Royal Hotel were tested for COVID on January 23 and found to be positive.
A woman in the room across from them, who has been there since January 11, then tested positive to an identical strain on January 27.
Minister police Lisa Neville revealed the "working assumption" was that the viral load of the family of five who were in one of the rooms was "so high" it escaped into the corridor when they opened the door.
"And the only reason that people open doors - there's no interaction with staff - is to pick up their food or drop their old laundry out," she said.
The positive cases have been moved to a health hotel and remain in strict isolation.
In his interview with news.com.au on Wednesday night, Scott Morrison said: "There's been a lot of speculation about this sort of idea of aerosol transmission. Often when it's suspected, we often find there was contact between people."
We are aware of a new positive case of coronavirus (COVID-19) in a Hotel Quarantine worker. Our public health teams are investigating and close contacts are being notified. More details will be provided throughout the evening.— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) February 3, 2021
"I think they're all they're doing is suggesting that they haven't yet found any evidence of contact between the two groups of people."
It comes after a West Australian hotel quarantine security guard contracted COVID-19, sending the state into a five-day lockdown.
Authorities believe the guard may have contracted COVID-19 in a "chance event" after it was revealed he did not deliver medication to the room of an infectious person. The WA Health Minister said the guard was not wearing a mask while on duty, which was consistent with health advice at the time.
In July last year, Melbourne was forced to return to strict lockdown for a six-week period after a spike in cases was linked to serious infection control breaches in the hotel quarantine system.
Coronavirus outbreaks at Melbourne's Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza Hotel, where returned travellers were being quarantined, led to 99 per cent of Victoria's second wave of COVID-19 cases and 801 deaths.
Anyone who has visited these Tier 1 exposure sites during these times must immediately isolate, get a coronavirus (COVID-19) test, and remain isolated for 14 days.
Friday 29th January
Exford Hotel in Melbourne
23:00 - 23:35
Kebab Kingz West Melbourne
23:24pm - 00:15
Saturday 30th January 2021
Club Noble in Noble Park
14:36 - 15:30
Aces Sporting Club (Driving Range), Keysborough,
22:00 - 23:15
Sunday 31st January 2021
Northpoint cafe, Brighton
08:10 - 09:30
16:00 - 17:00
Kmart Brandon Park
16:35 - 17:10
17:00 - 18:00
Monday 1 February 2021
Nakama Workshop, Clayton South
11:15 - 12:00
11:28 - 12:15
Melbourne Golf Academy, Heatherton
17:19 - 18:36
Lululemon DFO Moorabbin
17:00 - 17:45
18.30 - 19:30
18:50 - 19:30
More updates, including exposure sites and possible changes to public health directions, will be provided throughout the evening and on Thursday.
Exposure sites will also be published here.
Major testing sites in Melbourne's South East will open early Thursday. Additional lanes will open for drive-through testing sites. Rapid Response Team sites will also be set up.
For more information on where to get tested, call the 24-hour coronavirus Hotline at 1800 675 398 or visit the coronavirus (COVID-19) Victoria website.
Originally published as Vic hotel worker tests positive for COVID