A coronavirus cluster linked to a restaurant in Melbourne’s south-east has grown to 18 as Victorian authorities confirm the outbreak is “directly linked” to New South Wales.
Victoria recorded 10 locally acquired coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said on Saturday morning.
The new cases were detected from 18,337 test results.
Of the 10 local cases, two were announced yesterday – two Victorians who were tested in New South Wales after travelling through Lakes Entrance. The cases are now being managed by Victoria.
All of the infections are linked to the Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant in Black Rock – known as the “Mentone-Mitcham cluster” – Health Minister Martin Foley said.
Foley said genomic sequencing tests had established Victoria’s outbreak cases were “directly linked to the New South Wales cluster”.
DHHS Covid-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar said the genomic sequencing showed the 18 infections were all connected to the original Northern Beaches-Croydon cluster in New South Wales.
“At this point in time, all these cases are linked,” Weimar said.
Weimar said there was now a “large spatial spread” of exposure sites across Victoria “all the way to Lakes Entrance and just about every point in between”.
Exposure sites were listed in Melbourne, Lakes Entrance in Gippsland and Strathbogie, north of Melbourne, with a site in Camberwell likely to be added to the list today, he said.
Long lines formed at testing sites across Melbourne and the state on Saturday morning, with some people reporting being turned away by 9.00am.
Weimar suggested people come to the testing queues with plenty of water and “diversionary materials” as they were likely to face significant wait times.
Air crew member and returned traveller test positive in hotel quarantine
A further two infections were recorded in hotel quarantine.
One was a returned traveller in mandatory quarantine, and the other is an air crew member, Foley said.
There are now 29 confirmed active cases across Victoria.
In response to the outbreak, masks are again mandatory indoors across Victoria, person limits on gatherings have been reduced and the state has slammed its border shut to anyone who has been in NSW.
Long lines were seen at border checkpoints on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day as people scrambled to get home before the cut-off.
Foley said the government made “no apologies for closing the border”, but acknowledged the disruption that had caused and planned to work through the bubble arrangements in the next few days for those communities.
Airport arrivals who ‘absconded’ face $19k fine
Two people who flew into Melbourne from Canberra on Friday and “absconded” from authorised officers at the airport have been found in Goulburn, NSW, and could be fined $19,000 each, Foley said.
Victoria Police overnight appealed for the public’s help to find the pair, saying they ran off after authorised officers informed them they must isolate for 14 days.
“They absconded, disappeared in a vehicle, and were next heard of in Goulburn,” Foley said.
He said the pair would be fined at least $19,000 but could also face further action for breaches of public health directions.
“This is a very serious matter,” Foley said.
Weimar said an additional 70 people had been taken into mandatory quarantine since yesterday. They were among a group of people returning from NSW with incomplete or unclear permit information.
“We had about 70 people turning up at the airport yesterday on a variety of flights with a variety of documentation,” he said.
“Of the 70 individuals that went into hotel quarantine, they were not able to establish that they had the necessary permits in place that would allow them to quarantine at home for 14 days.”
He said authorities would work with those 70 people to determine whether they could safely quarantine at home.
Seven new cases recorded in NSW
New South Wales has recorded seven new cases of community transmission of Covid-19.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said four of them were from the household of an existing case and all bar one could be linked to an already announced case.
The final case is still under investigation, she said.
She said almost 32,000 people came forward for testing in the last 24 hours.