A final call on extending Victoria’s “circuit breaker” lockdown could soon be handed down after state government and health officials reportedly discussed options into the night.
Entering day six of the statewide shutdown, alarm bells are ringing after a newly identified COVID-19 case travelled between Victoria and NSW and mounting evidence of “stranger-to-stranger transmission”.
COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said there were four to five instances in the state’s latest 54-case outbreak of people contracting the virus from “fleeting contact”.
“They do not know each other’s names and that is very different from what we have seen before,” Mr Weimar told reporters on Tuesday.
Health Minister Martin Foley said the current variant’s heightened infectiousness and faster spread would factor into the decision to extend the seven-day lockdown beyond Thursday or not.
“That is one of a range of pieces of evidence the chief health officer and his team will weigh carefully,” he said.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton’s public health team was strongly leaning toward recommending a lockdown extension, according to media reports, as senior government ministers met to receive a high-level briefing on Tuesday night.
A state government spokeswoman declined to confirm details to AAP but a final call could be ticked off as early as Wednesday morning.
The concerning spread of a variant first detected in India has also prompted authorities to encourage visitors to 14 shopping hubs across Melbourne over the past two weeks to come forward for testing.
“We are now keen to start to drain the swamp to see what else is out there,” Mr Weimar said.
“Is there anybody else out there we haven’t caught? Is there anybody else not caught by exposure sites?”
There are now more than 320 exposure sites across the state and 4800 primary close contacts, with 75 per cent of those returning a negative test.
It comes as Victorian aged care and disability workers will be able to jump the queue at 10 vaccination centres across the state from Wednesday as part of a five-day jab blitz.
Express lanes exclusively for aged care and disability staff will open from 9am to 4pm, with workers needing to show proof of employment.
It follows the three-case Arcare Maidstone outbreak, now genomically linked to a South Australian hotel quarantine leak, exposing gaps in private aged care vaccinations among workers and residents.
In Senate estimates on Tuesday, it emerged that less than 10 per cent of nursing home staff across Australia have been vaccinated through federal government visits.