Victoria has recorded its highest daily jump in locally acquired Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, with 75 people testing positive and only one confirmed to be a returned international traveller.
“I think it will get worse before it gets better,” the state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said.
“It is a concerning number. But it is very hard to make predictions in this space.”
He suggested that similar numbers could be expected in the days to come.
Victoria’s health minister, Jenny Mikakos, said on Monday most cases were from hotspot suburbs in the city’s north and west.
“Many of the cases that have come through today are overwhelmingly concentrated in those priority suburbs. We’ve got many cases across the inner northern suburbs and the western suburbs of Melbourne, but not exclusively.”
Coronavirus Victoria: everything we know about Melbourne’s Covid-19 clusters
At the height of the first wave, Victoria reached 111 new cases in a day, but a much smaller proportion contracted the disease locally.
A week ago, Victoria was generally recording case numbers in the teens.
Of Monday’s cases, 14 were connected to existing or new outbreaks, 37 were discovered in routine testing and 23 are still under investigation.
Six previously reported cases were confirmed to have been contracted through community transmission where contact tracing could not establish the source of the infection.
There were two new family outbreaks in Truganinna in Melbourne’s west, with five cases, and in the Patterson Lakes-Lysterfield area in Melbourne’s south-east, with four cases.
The Stamford Plaza hotel cluster gained three cases, and the Wollert cluster grew by one. Four cases were added to the North Melbourne cluster, which has now been linked to the Brimbank family cluster. This is believed to bring the combined total of these outbreaks to 31.
Monday marks day five of the 10-day testing blitz in Melbourne’s hotspot suburbs, with 15,000 tests conducted in the past 24 hours.
Sutton said he would not announce the lockdown of any suburb on Monday, but it was still under consideration.
“Whether or not a legal direction [is needed] I think is a conversation to be had over the next couple of days. We are not there yet. But we do know that the solution is there already, with these people not having unnecessary contacts across multiple households, across multiple settings. That will control transmission,” he said.
Sutton suggested suburb lockdowns could cause infected people to travel into non-infected areas if they became frustrated with restrictions.
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“We don’t want to drive people out of suburban areas into new unaffected areas. So there is a balancing act in terms of making the call on a lockdown,” he said.
“We know that it is a real challenge for businesses, it is a real challenge for people in their homes if that is what is required. But it is absolutely an option and we flagged the possibility of using it and we will use it if it is required,” he said.
However, Sutton flagged that future lockdowns could be more household-focused than previous restrictions.
“We have to think through what will make a difference in this current challenge … We know that transmission is occurring across households and it is people seeing too many others across too many vulnerable settings where transmission is occurring,” he said.
“We know that for a lot of our settings, restaurants and other places that have really taken up the Covid-safe code, if you like, that the risk of transmission in those settings is well-managed, and so it may not look the same in terms of shutting down a lot of those settings because that is not where transmission is occurring.”
Sutton said the numbers were “absolutely concerning” and indicated outbreaks occurring “across multiple households, across work and other settings”.
He suggested people were still not heeding warnings to stay home if even slightly sick.
“What we are seeing is transmission across settings because people are still going out with symptoms,” he said
Mikakos also said a number of schools would be deep-cleaned, following staff or students testing positive.
“The schools are Queen of Peace Parish primary in Altona, Aitken Hill primary school in Craigieburn, Maribyrnong College, Footscray high school, Port Phillip specialist school, Al-Taqwa College in Truganina,” she said.
These schools did not need to be closed down, as the Victorian school holidays mean there is no one on campus this week, but students and staff may have been infectious in the last days of term two.
A childcare centre in Abbotsford has been close for cleaning, and close contacts of a healthcare worker at the Melbourne Clinic in Richmond are being contacted after they tested positive to the virus.
The Lifeblood Redcross processing facility will also be cleaned after a staff member contracted the virus.