Mystery after four unconnected babies contract coronavirus in one state

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

Four babies are among the latest cases of coronavirus to be confirmed in Victoria.

Three of the babies are under 12 months and the fourth is a year old, with all being kept at home in isolation to recover with their families, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos told reporters on Tuesday.

“It’s known that one of the cases acquired the infection overseas. There is a thorough investigation under way in relation to how these children acquired COVID-19,” she said.

“I should stress it's not believed that this is a cluster, so it doesn't appear that this is one childcare centre, one group of children all known to each other.”

Four unconnected babies have tested positive for coronavirus in Victoria. Source: AAP

The young cases meant there were now five pre-school aged children confirmed to have COVID-19 in Victoria, Ms Mikakos said.

She added it was believed none of the children had any underlying medical conditions and, based on cases in children overseas, it was thought they would not suffer severe symptoms.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton emphasised the risk to children was extremely low and deaths were not likely.

“Overwhelmingly for children, especially those nine years and younger, the illness of COVID-19 is very very mild and deaths are virtually unheard of, so that should be a reassurance to any parent of young children,” he said.

“Clusters haven’t been reported in Australia, we’re still looking into this, but it doesn’t appear to be a cluster and the risk to these children is extremely low.”

He reminded the public it was important to remain “alert” to the potential risk of children transmitting the infection on to adults, but said instances of this had yet to be reported in Australia.

The children were not suffering severe symptoms and were recovering at home in isolation. Source: Getty Images

It comes as two people who worked at the Kmart in Chadstone shopping centre on Saturday tested positive to the virus, with the state's total now 917.

"We immediately closed the store as a safety precaution and commenced a thorough (sanitising) of the store. We are working closely with the department of health and have been advised that there is minimal risk to any customers," a spokeswoman said.

Healthcare workers including GPs are also among those diagnosed with the virus, including one who visited a Carlton aged care home to treat two residents last week. 

“People who have been in contact with the General Practitioner at Rathdowne Place have an extremely low risk of transmission,” an Australian Unity spokesman told AAP.

Another employee has gone into self-isolation, and six healthcare workers at Eastern Health were also confirmed as having the virus on Tuesday. 

A licensed venue in Fitzroy was hit with a $9913 fine after police found six staff serving two customers drinks at the weekend. It was the first on-the-spot fine issued for breaching social-distancing measures in Melbourne.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said the venue was "open for business totally" despite the ban on in-person dining at restaurants and bars.

“Unless you're living under a rock, or unless you're an idiot, it's quite clear the restrictions are there, the restrictions are to be abided by,” he said on Tuesday.

Individuals can be fined $1652 if they leave home for any reason that is not essential

Tougher rules

New social-distancing rules that came into force on Tuesday restrict public gatherings to two people.

People may only go out of their homes to buy essentials, exercise, seek medical attention or go to work or study if they can't do it from home.

Similar measures have been adopted in Western Australia and Queensland.

Of Victoria’s total 917 cases, 32 are suspected to be community transmissions. 

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, including four patients in intensive care, and 291 cases have recovered. 

The Victorian death toll remains at four.

- with AAP

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