Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has warned his state they are facing a greater challenge than in 2020 with the emergence of highly-contagious Covid-19 UK strains within quarantine facilities.
Melbourne’s five million people faced one of the most stringent lockdowns seen on the planet for several months last year after a peak of 725 daily cases, however Mr Andrews said on Thursday the threat posed after the virus leaked out of hotel quarantine via a worker has left health authorities with a challenge not yet faced.
“These mutant strains of this virus are an even greater challenge than all the things we faced during 2020,” he said on Thursday.
There has been a rise in hotel quarantine leaks across the country in recent months with many, including Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, questioning the program’s suitability in densely-populated areas.
Mr Andrews said it had now become a waiting game for when and where the next leak would arise.
“As I have said before many times, it is not about whether there will be transmission, it is about when,” he said.
Andrews hints at quarantine changes
Perth and two surrounding areas are currently in the midst of a five-day lockdown following a quarantine leak, and while Mr Andrews refrained from locking Melbourne down again, he said he would consider significant, further changes on top of the slight tightening of mask and gathering restrictions announced on Wednesday.
“The only way to eliminate that risk is to prevent anybody coming to Australia,” he told reporters.
“We are always looking to do more and do better, and I dare say tomorrow at National Cabinet there will be a high degree of interest both from first ministers as well as the AHPPC, other chief health officers.
“There may be some open questions not just for the hotel quarantine program here in Victoria but the program that is run here across the nation.
“Given how infectious this is, we want to go further in our model, and I won't rule out going further again in a few months.”
Mr Andrews said there had been no obvious breach of hotel quarantine protocols, saying the infected worker was a "model employee".
Australian Open preparations are on hold because of Melbourne's latest coronavirus scare, with 520 players and staff having to isolate and undergo testing.
All play was suspended at Melbourne Park on Thursday. The tournament is due to start in four days.
Professor Cheng said it was "unlikely" the Open would be cancelled but Mr Andrews warned the situation was still unfolding.
There were two new cases in hotel quarantine announced on Thursday, with 21 active cases and 13,675 tests processed in the previous 24 hours.
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