Victoria is expected to extend its snap, seven-day lockdown as health authorities remain concerned over the community spread of the highly-infectious Indian Covid-19 variant.
There have been 54 locally acquired cases since the first were detected in Melbourne's north last Monday, with the Department of Health's testing chief Jeroen Weimar voicing his unease on Tuesday over how easily the virus is spreading between strangers.
Midnight on Thursday was initially pencilled in for an end date for the snap lockdown, but the state government is understood to be deliberating through plans to extend current restrictions.
Acting Premier James Merlino and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton are understood to be looking to extend the lockdown to at least early next week, the Herald Sun understands.
Expert calls for another week of lockdown
Leading UNSW epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws said she believes the lockdown should be extended by a minimum of seven days, warning it could be much longer.
“It’s growing and it’s growing fast and hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down,” she told news.com.au.
Speaking to Channel Nine's Today show on Wednesday morning, she said the outbreak was "very concerning".
"I think Victoria needs to steel themselves for at least another week or more."
Prof McLaws said it was a "race against time" to get people vaccinated to protect the state from the variant.
In Monday's 24-hour period to midnight, nine cases were identified. Prof McLaws has previously told Yahoo News Australia restrictions should remain if cases over a 14-day period exceed 100, while anything over 59 in that period should have state governments on high-alert.
Mr Merlino warned the outbreak of infection, which is spread across large parts of Melbourne, "may well get worse before it gets better".
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said he feared the lockdown would be "a lot longer" than initial plans.
Senior government ministers met to receive a high-level briefing on Tuesday night with a decision possible as early as Wednesday morning.
The concerning spread of the Indian variant 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 350 exposure sites across the state and 4800 primary close contacts, with 75 per cent of those returning a negative test.
On Tuesday evening, the Department of Health revealed an infected case had taken a camping trip into regional NSW, with authorities identifying several exposure sites in tourist hotspots north of the border.
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