Victorian coronavirus cases rise by 75 as Melbourne heads towards second infection peak

| 29.06,20. 02:18 PM |

Victorian coronavirus cases rise by 75 as Melbourne heads towards second infection peak


Ambulances have been sent to some of the priority hotspots to assist in the testing blitz.(ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier)


Victoria is experiencing a "concerning" upward trend in coronavirus infections, with 75 new cases identified overnight.

The state's Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the latest cases were "overwhelmingly concentrated" in 10 Melbourne suburbs identified as community transmission hotspots.

"Obviously we are concerned by the increasing number and the upward trend and are monitoring the situation very closely," Ms Mikakos said.

Ms Mikakos said the 75 cases could be broken down into the following categories:

One case is a returned traveller in hotel quarantine
14 cases are linked to outbreaks (positive results in those tested as close contacts of existing cases)
37 cases were detected through routine testing (people presenting to general testing sites set up by health authorities)
23 cases are still under investigation (cases which came in late in the reporting day and are yet to be investigated and allocated to another category)
The total number of cases in Victoria since the pandemic began now stands at 2,099.

"We've got many cases across the inner-northern suburbs and the western suburbs of Melbourne, but not exclusively," Ms Mikakos said.

"And it's important to reiterate to the community that you are not immune from catching coronavirus by virtue of the postcode that you live in."

Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said nothing was "off the table" in terms of getting the outbreak under control.

"I think it will get worse before it gets better," he said.

"It is a concerning number. But it is very hard to make reductions in this space."

The outbreak has led to the AFL match on Thursday between Richmond and West Coast on the Gold Coast to be postponed after Queensland introduced new restrictions on sports teams from Victorian coronavirus hotspots.

The logistical challenge around suburban lockdowns
A testing blitz is underway in ten suburban hotspots:

Keilor Downs
Broadmeadows
Maidstone
Albanvale
Sunshine West
Brunswick West
Fawkner
Reservoir
Hallam
Pakenham
The aim is to test half of the residents in each suburb to try and lock down the spread of the virus.

Professor Sutton said health authorities were still going through thousands of tests and more time was needed to see if the increased messaging from the Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS] would change people's behaviour.

He said Victoria's effective reproduction number, or Reff, had come down from 2.5 last week but it was not yet below one, which is where it needed to be to drive down cases.

Any possible lockdown in a suburban hotspot would be a significant logistical challenge because people could just move to a different house if their suburb was put into lockdown, he said.

"But it is an option and we will use it if required," he said.

"It would be a significant logistical exercise to manage a stay-at-home that's about particular suburbs or government areas."

Professor Sutton stood by the decision to ease restrictions in June despite the rise in cases over the last 12 days.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would speak to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews today to offer whatever additional resources were needed to fight the worrying surge in cases.

"The increasing number of cases we're seeing in Victoria, while of great concern, is not surprising given the nature of the outbreak we're seeing at the moment," he said.

"Premier Andrews has the full support of myself and every premier and chief minister in the country."

While not wanting to point the finger at any particular demographic group, the data showed that 37 per cent of the cases were in people in their 20s and 30s, Ms Mikakos said.

"We are seeing more young people getting together with their mates contracting this virus and then taking it home to their families," she said.

"I would say to those young people you might only get mild symptoms … but if you give it to an elderly family member or someone else in the community with chronic health conditions, you are putting their life at risk."

Hotel cluster at Stamford Plaza grows to 23
Ms Mikakos said health authorities had discovered a link between the northern Melbourne family outbreak, also known as the H&M outbreak, and the Brimbank family outbreak.

Four new cases are linked to that outbreak and health authorities are investigating, Ms Mikakos said.

Three cases were detected in security staff from the Stamford Plaza in Melbourne's CBD, all of whom were already in quarantine.

It takes the total number of cases linked to the Stamford Plaza outbreak to 23.

On Sunday, Premier Daniel Andrews said the outbreak at the hotel may be linked to staff who shared a cigarette lighter and carpooled to work.

One more case was detected as part of the the Wollert outbreak in Melbourne's outer-north, taking total cases for that outbreak to 10.

A new outbreak has been detected among a family from Patterson Lakes in Melbourne's south-east, with four people so far diagnosed with the virus.

Ms Mikakos said three more cases had also been linked to a family outbreak in Truganina in Melbourne's west, bringing that total to five.

"We also have a number of cases linked to schools. It's been school holidays and those schools are closed and will be thoroughly cleaned and there will be contract tracing undertaken with staff and students," Ms Mikakos said.

The schools are:

Queen of Peace Parish Primary in Altona Meadows
Aitken Hill Primary in Craigieburn
Maribyrnong College
Footscray High School, Kinnear St campus
Port Phillip Specialist School
Al-Taqwa College in Truginina
Two Guardian Childcare and Education centres in Abbotsford and Pascoe Vale have been closed for cleaning after a child and a staffer were diagnosed with coronavirus.

A health care worker from the Melbourne Clinic in Richmond and a staff member from Lifeblood Red Cross processing facility in the CBD have both been diagnosed with coronavirus.

New saliva test easier but less accurate

Ms Mikakos said saliva testing was being concentrated in priority suburbs and returned travellers in hotel quarantine to ensure children and people who refused a throat swab through the nose were able to be tested.

On Sunday, Mr Andrews said some parents with children in hotel quarantine had refused to have their children tested because the throat swab was uncomfortable.

Sharon Lewin from the Doherty Institute said the saliva test had an 87 per cent success rate.

"We think it plays a role in bolstering testing reach across the state. [Especially] in people who have trouble with the throat swab," Professor Lewin said.

"The gold standard is, of course, the throat swab but we think this plays a role.

"It's much better to have this done than no test at all."

Professor Lewin said to validate the saliva test, 600 patients from the Royal Melbourne Hospital had a nasal and saliva test.

The saliva test picked up 87 per cent of the 39 positive tests detected.

Professor Lewin said the lower success rate was because there are lower levels of virus in saliva compared to the nose.

Victoria 'on the edge' of being able to manage outbreaks
Earlier, Professor Sutton said Victoria was experiencing a second peak of cases, with double-digit daily case increases for most of the past fortnight.

He said the state was "right on the edge" of being able to manage the peak in cases, which accelerated after restrictions were eased.

A fresh blitz aiming to test 100,000 Victorians over a 10-day period is now underway and Professor Sutton said if the surge did get out of control "it will not be from a lack of effort".

Professor Sutton also said new advice about the benefits of wearing masks, where social distancing was not possible such as on public transport, was on the way.

"It's pretty clear wearing a mask might provide a bit more physical distance between you and others as they see you wearing it," he said.

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