STATE ON ‘HIGH ALERT’: Victoria lifts Covid-19 lockdown with a catch
Victoria’s plans to lift lockdown tonight will still go ahead, with strict mask rules in place, despite the emergence of four new local cases with no identifiable source.
Acting Premier James Merlino said the state will continue to take “cautious next steps” from 11:59pm tonight, by easing restrictions, adding that the state is “moving ahead but we are on high alert”.
As an added precaution, he said masks will now still be mandatory at all times while outdoors.
“We’ve always said that, when we could ease restrictions, based on that advice, we would,” he said.
“We also said yesterday – and we’ve been saying every single day – this is not over yet and the risks of this virus will be a factor in our lives in the long term and in the short term so in the short, that means we are moving ahead but we are on high alert and the public health advice is very, very clear.”
Four new mystery cases — all from the same household in Melbourne’s northern suburbs — have added a hurdle to the road out of lockdown for Victoria.
On Tuesday, senior Victorian government sources told the Herald Sun the one thing that could force authorities to keep lockdown restrictions in place would be a “significant” rise in mystery cases.
“We are certainly on course to lift the lockdown as scheduled,” one senior source told the publication. “Unless there is a massive shock, we would be expecting that to happen.”
Today authorities said the health advice tells them they can go ahead with the easing of restrictions.
Deputy chief health officer Prof Allen Cheng the four new cases have not yet been linked to any outbreak — adding that they are the “strongest reminder that we are, by no means, out of the woods yet”.
“As yet, we don’t know where they’ve acquired the infection from. They’re not identified as close contacts,” he said.
“The first man, a man in his 80s, was tested on 8 June and got his result yesterday. The other members of the household tested positive yesterday as well.
“We’re already tested several close contact of these cases outside of the household and they’ve all come back negative but obviously will remain in quarantine.”
He said he was anxious to find out how the family had been infected.
“As I’ve said before, what we get down to small numbers, what happens next is very dependent on how the last cases are, who they do and how infectious they are,” he said.
“Over the last fortnight, there have been very limited opportunities for people to transmit infection during lockdown and obviously what I am anxious about is whoever gave infection to both these groups is identified quickly and doesn’t have the opportunity to transmit to other people.”
There are now 78 active cases and 180 exposure sites across the state.
Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed the new changes to lockdown on Wednesday.
It comes after thousands of regional Victorians were being urged to monitor for Covid-19 symptoms after viral fragments were found in sewage in Bendigo.
Residents and recent visitors to the suburbs of California Gully, Eaglehawk, Epsom, Huntly, Jackass Flat, Maiden Gully, Marong, North Bendigo and Sailors Gully between June 3 and 7 should get tested if any Covid-19 symptoms develop.
The Victorian Department of Health said the detection of fragments of coronavirus was of “interest” as there were no confirmed cases in the area.
Despite the good news that Melbourne will ease out of lockdown Victoria chief health officer Brett Sutton was still cautious.
“We have to recognise it remains a reasonably volatile situation,” he said.
“The idea of a snap back to absolutely no restrictions whatsoever, no one has done that after significant community transmission.
“We have to move by increments, safely, but with the minimum restrictions that we know will continue to control this.”