'Short and sharp': Daunting lockdown calls despite promising case news

Victoria may need to follow in the footsteps of South Australia with a “short and sharp” lockdown to curtail the spread of its new coronavirus cluster, the ABC’s leading medical commentator says.

The Department of Health and Human Service’s testing chief Jeroen Weimar confirmed the five locally acquired cases detailed in Friday’s numbers were all reported to the media on Thursday, with the total of known local cases remaining at eight.

However Dr Norman Swan expressed concerns over how long the virus had been circulating in the community.

On Thursday health authorities believed the eight cases were linked to Sydney’s Avalon cluster. However the border to Sydney was shut 11 days ago on December 20.

“These cases have been circulating for about 10 days before they were discovered. Therefore, the spread that could've occurred is really worrying,” Dr Swan told ABC News Breakfast.

Mr Weimar echoed Dr Swan’s concerns at Friday’s press conference.

“[There is ] great cause for concern that this may have been chains of transmission going back to that point and could go wider to what we do at the point in time,” he said.

Dr Norman Swan fears a disastrous third wave in Australia. Source: ABC
Dr Norman Swan says Victoria may benefit from a short and sharp set of heightened restrictions. Source: ABC

Dr Swan said the state could benefit from a swift action to eliminate the virus once again from the state after enjoying a two-month period without the virus in the community.

I suspect it won't take much for them to go to an even more severe control measure [than border closures].

“But that would be very hard psychologically on Victoria. It doesn't have to be for very long, short and sharp like South Australia in some ways.

“Just to get this - just to clip this.”

He said the next two or three days would prove vital in determining how far the virus had spread in the community, with sewage testing a valuable tool with low case levels.

More cases expected from close contacts

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mr Weimar praised the work of contact tracers and thanked the close contacts of the latest cases for their cooperation.

“One hundred and seventy primary contacts we have identified of those eight people. It has been a phenomenal piece of detective and research work by our contact tracing teams,” Mr Weimar said.

“All those individuals are now under isolation orders, they are all being tested and isolating for 14 days.

“I will expect that we will see more cases come out of the 170 close contacts and also the numbers continue to increase in terms of secondary contacts,” he said.

He warned it was “not just a Melbourne issue” and said health authorities were bracing for cases to pop up across Victoria.

Premier reassures Victorian public state is ready

On Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews took to Twitter to reassure the Victorian public his government is ready to handle new outbreaks.

“We always knew there would be cases and clusters. We have plans and systems in place to deal with precisely this scenario – and those are already well underway,” he said.

He hinted further measures will be applied, stressing Victoria must “take this seriously and act quickly”.

Melburnians are waking up to the end of lockdown on Wednesday. Source: Getty
Melbourne is on high alert after cases were detected in the community following two months without a local case. Source: Getty

“The more we can do to stop the spread, the easier that task is for everyone,” he said.

Victoria has eight active locally acquired cases, with three emerging on Wednesday night.

All are directly or indirectly linked to the Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant in Black Rock on December 21, which was attended by a NSW returned traveller.

That traveller returned before border permits were in place and was being tested on Thursday.

It was also revealed on Friday that wastewater samples taken from Lakes Entrance on December 29 recorded traces of the virus, prompting calls for anyone in that area with symptoms to get tested.

Victoria's testing chief Jeroen Weimar said early information indicated a potential exposure window between December 17 and 19.

On New Year’s Eve, revellers packed several Melbourne locations to welcome in the New Year despite the latest cluster of cases.

UPDATE: On Friday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed that two cases from Victoria’s recent outbreak visited the NSW South Coast, prompting alerts for a restaurant and cafe on the south coast.

The two cases have since been confirmed by Victorian health authorities, the ABC reported, taking the latest Victorian cluster from eight known cases to ten.

with AAP

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