Victoria’s Covid outbreak “may get worse before it gets better,” the acting premier James Merlino said, as the number of active cases in the state climbed above 50 and extended into two aged care facilities, leading Merlino to warn an extended lockdown could not be ruled out.
Five cases are now linked to aged care, including two staff and one resident at Arcare Maidstone. The resident had received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, however one of the staff infected did not receive the vaccine as she was on personal leave on the day vaccinations at the home occurred. The son of one of the staff has also tested positive.
A staff member at the BlueCross aged care facility at Western Gardens tested positive on 30 May, sending the home into lockdown. All residents were told they must remain in their rooms.
There were 11 new cases of Covid-19 announced on Monday. However, six of those positive cases were returned on Monday morning after the 24-hour reporting period and will be included in Tuesday’s official numbers.
“In the past 24 hours we identified many more points of concern,” Merlino said.
“In addition to the very worrying cases in private aged care, we are very concerned about the number of other high-risk exposure sites. We are seeing a small number of cases infecting a large number of contacts.
“There is no doubt the situation is incredibly serious. The next few days remain critical. I want to be very clear with everyone: this outbreak may well get worse before it gets better.”
The Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, said the resident infected in the Arcare outbreak is a woman in her 90s, where the initial case worked.
“She is asymptomatic and has been transferred to a separate hospital that we have established precisely for this risk,” Foley said. “Our thoughts are clearly with the resident, with the workforce and communities and families they are all a part of … indeed, our thoughts are with everyone who is impacted by this virus.”
A staff member at Arcare also worked at the BlueCross facility, Foley said, triggering the BlueCross staff and residents to be tested, and uncovering a case at that facility.
Victoria’s Covid-19 testing commander, Jeroen Weimar, outlined new exposure sites authorities are particularly concerned about, including JMD Grocers & Sweets Indian supermarket in Epping, Healthy India grocery in Reservoir, Inday Filipino Asian Store in Footscray market, and Thai Huy Butcher in Footscray Market.
“These exposure sites are a major concern for us,” Weimar said. “If you been to any of exposure sites – and check again because they change all the time, particularly those small local grocery stores in the northern suburbs – if you been to those locations in any time over the last two weeks, please go and get tested today.”
Asked whether greater Melbourne would be separated from regional and rural Victoria, as occurred during Victoria’s second wave of the virus, the chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said this “will be determined as we go through a review of the situation day by day, it is not out of the question”.
Sutton said the possibility of lockdown being extended beyond Thursday was a “day by day” prospect.
“These are concerning numbers and concerning settings,” he said. “We’ve gone from a single case of the beginning of the month to 4,200 primary close contacts. It has been a rapidly moving virus and the transmission that has occurred in those high-risk settings has been very substantial. So we have to take it as a day by day prospect.”