'Stranger' cases may keep Vic in lockdown

·3-min read

Concerning cases of coronavirus transmission between strangers are threatening to keep Victorians in lockdown longer than a week.

Victoria recorded three new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday - the fifth day of the state's seven-day "circuit breaker" lockdown - bringing the latest outbreak to 54 active infections.

Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed two of the new infections are close contacts of positive cases, while the other is yet to be linked directly.

The state's COVID testing commander Jeroen Weimar said the man lives near Stratton Finance in Port Melbourne, where a number of positive cases worked.

"He has exposure in the number of coffee shops around there also frequented by Stratton Finance employees ... that appears to be enough to get the infection across," he said.

Mr Weimar said there have been at least four instances of "stranger-to-stranger transmission" in this outbreak.

"People are brushing past each other in a small shop, they are going to display homes, they are looking at phones in a Telstra shop," he said.

"This is very, relatively speaking, fleeting contact. They do not know each other's names and that is very different from what we have seen before."

While stressing no decision has been made, Mr Foley said evidence of the Indian variant's heightened infectiousness and faster spread would factor into a final call on whether to extend the lockdown beyond Thursday.

"That is one of a range of pieces of evidence the chief health officer (Brett Sutton) and his team will weigh carefully," he said.

Professor Sutton's public health team is strongly leaning toward recommending a lockdown extension as senior government ministers received a high-level briefing on Tuesday night, according to multiple reports.

A state government spokeswoman declined to comment to AAP on the reports.

The Indian variant's increased risk has prompted authorities to raise the alarm for 14 shopping hubs across Melbourne, with visitors over the past two weeks urged to come forward for testing.

There are more than 300 exposure sites across the state and 4800 primary close contacts linked to the outbreak, with 75 per cent of those returning a negative test.

Meanwhile, all Victorian aged care and disability workers will soon be able to jump the queue at mass vaccination centres.

In Senate estimates on Tuesday, it was revealed less than 10 per cent of nursing home staff across Australia have been vaccinated through federal government visits.

Victoria's Disability, Ageing and Carers Minister Luke Donnellan said the state government would step in to stimulate greater coverage with a five-day blitz.

From Wednesday to Sunday, express lanes will be opened for aged care and disability workers at 10 vaccination centres across Melbourne and regional Victoria.

The lanes will operate from 9am to 4pm, with workers needing to show proof of employment.

The move comes after an outbreak at Arcare Maidstone, now genomically linked to a South Australian hotel quarantine leak, highlighted gaps in private aged care vaccinations among workers and residents.

A COVID-positive 99-year-old resident received just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, while only one of two other infected workers has had their first jab.

Just 57 per cent of Victorian private aged care residents and 64 per cent nationwide are fully vaccinated, and 21 facilities across the country are yet to have their first doses.

In February, the federal government pledged vulnerable groups including those in aged care would get their first jab over the initial six weeks of the rollout.

Of Australia's 910 coronavirus deaths, 655 were residents in Victorian aged care.