As Victoria enters its third day of lockdown there is growing speculation about whether the “circuit breaker” restrictions will be extended beyond seven days.
The state’s outbreak rose to 35 on Saturday after five new Covid-19 cases were recorded.
More than 15,000 primary and secondary contacts have been forced into isolation as Victoria’s list of exposure sites soars past 150.
Authorities are particularly concerned about the number of “high-risk” venues being identified, such as pubs and clubs, leading to fears the state could see an explosion of infections in the coming days.
The lockdown, which allows Victorians just five reasons to leave their homes, is due to end at 11.59pm on June 3, but authorities have repeatedly said it is too early to know whether this will actually happen.
But even if the lockdown does end, it is looking like some of the tough restrictions will remain in place.
Mask rules for indoor activities are set to stay and new density limits will be brought in for venues, according to the Sunday Herald Sun.
The reopening of schools will reportedly depend on whether Victoria is experiencing uncontained transmission of the virus by midweek.
Under the current seven-day “circuit breaker” lockdown, residents are only allowed to leave their homes to get food and supplies, for authorised work, for care and caregiving, to exercise for up to two hours each day with one other person, and to get vaccinated.
A raft of other restrictions around masks, gatherings, venues and businesses are also in place.
Lockdown extension on the cards, expert says
Epidemiologist and World Health Organisation (WHO) adviser Professor Mary-Louise McLaws believes there is a very real chance the lockdown could be extended.
She told ABC’s Weekend Breakfast the seven-day lockdown covers one incubation period, and towards the end of the lockdown it may be decided it is necessary to extend it for another seven days.
“In outbreak management it’s normally two average incubation periods to get to zero and a really good idea of what is going on,” McLaws said.
“A seven-day lockdown probably would’ve been okay had it been fewer cases.”
Despite the low case numbers, McLaws also warned residents to expect an “uptick” in infections in the coming days.
She said “it does take a bit longer” to understand how many of the now 15,000 known contacts have contracted the virus.
“But I expect an uptick. In Northern Beaches when there was an outbreak it took six days to get to 30. Then it continues because of a very close knit community,” she said.
“The same thing happens in Melbourne. It’s a very close knit community. It’s a city that’s easy to get around and sadly it is easy to spread. It’s the city of most concern in Australia for explosions of cases.”
Victoria’s health minister Martin Foleyrefused to confirm on Saturday whether the lockdown would end on time or be extended.
He said the government had been “clear and upfront” that the restrictions were being constantly reviewed as new information about the outbreak came through.
“It is too early to make that announcement. Today the second day of seven days,” he said.
“We will continue to work through the evidence as it comes in, day by day, and keep Victorians informed and accountable through opportunities like this, through social media, through any other forms that can keep Victorians up-to-date with the evolving situation and more importantly, to keep Victorians engaged in what they can do to keep ourselves, our community, our state, safe.”
Victoria's list of exposure sites expands past 150
A Coles supermarket, a Taco Bell fast food restaurant, a university library and a popular tourist hangout are among new places added to Victoria’s growing list of coronavirus exposure sites.
One of the latest areas of concern is the Mornington Peninsula’s busiest tourist attraction.
The Peninsula Hot Springs at Fingal was added to the Tier 1 exposure list on Friday, eight days after an infectious person visited the reception area between 3pm and 3.45pm on May 21.
The Hot Springs closed for business on Thursday, May 27 and posted a notice on its website and social media advising customers it was “pressing pause on operations from 10pm, May 27 until 8am, June 4”.
On Saturday afternoon, further exposure site additions put the list at more than 150 venues.
Victorians have been urged to check the state government’s website for the full and frequently changing list.
On Saturday evening, a dedicated priority testing site was established at the Melbourne Showgrounds for Mount Ridley College students, staff and their families.
A Covid-19 update was sent to parents on Saturday evening, encouraging households to get tested by Sunday 8pm.
Pupils in Year 7 and 8, and teachers who educate those year levels, are being instructed to get tested and quarantine immediately even if they are not identified as a Tier 1 close contact.
The school remains closed and will be deep cleaned while the Department of Health completes a risk assessment.
A Mount Ridley College parent told the Herald Sun her “heart sank” when she got an email about a student at the Craigieburn school testing positive.
“I was in absolute shock, I was disgusted, just to receive a generic message, that wasn’t good enough,” Laura Petreski, whose son attends the school, told the publication.
“I wasn’t happy at all and the parents were panicking.
“When I got that email my heart sank down to my stomach.”
The number of sites exposed to coronavirus across Victoria has continuously expanded as the state endured its fourth major lockdown in 12 months.
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