Victoria Covid update: masks to remain mandatory outdoors in Melbourne after four new Covid cases detected

Melbourne’s lockdown will come to an end on Friday as planned but masks will remain mandatory outdoors, as the state recorded another four new locally acquired cases of coronavirus.

Queensland also recorded another case of Covid after the husband of a woman who travelled from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast and tested positive on Wednesday was also confirmed to have the virus. Queensland authorities said though the risk of an outbreak was low.

The new Melbourne cases are all from one family in the northern suburbs.

“I can confirm that the easing of restrictions that we announced yesterday will proceed as planned from 11.59pm tonight with one small exception for Melbourne. Masks will continue to be required to be worn outdoors in all circumstances,” the acting premier, James Merlino, said.

Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, Prof Allen Cheng, said the family had not yet been linked to any outbreak.

“As yet, we don’t know where they’ve acquired the infection from. They’re not identified as close contacts.

“We’re already tested several close contacts of these cases outside of the household and they’ve all come back negative but obviously will remain in quarantine.”

The Victorian testing commander, Jeroen Weimar, listed a series of new exposure sites, mostly around the Melbourne suburb of Reservoir, and urged locals there to come forward for testing.

“Please can I urge if you’ve been to any of those locations in those times indicated that you go and get tested today. It’s so important now with a new cluster that we establish as much information as we can about what may have been happening there.”

The exposure sites include Marco fine food and groceries in Reservoir, the BP service station in Thomastown, the Coles at Bundoora Square, and the Bunnings in Thomastown.

Merlino said he was confident the new cases would not lead to another outbreak and, in turn, more restrictions.

He also said that although masks were uncomfortable, they were the “easy thing to do”.

“I have said a number of times that we don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing the public health advice we like or don’t like, and not go ahead with elements of it,” he said.

“The clear advice from the public health team, from Prof Cheng, Prof Sutton, is we need to continue with wearing masks outdoors. It is inconvenient but an easy thing to do.”

The man in Queensland who has tested positive travelled with his wife from Melbourne during lockdown, and headed for the Sunshine Coast via New South Wales. He had returned a negative test the day before.

Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said that the two different test results were common towards the end of the illness period, which she said was good news.

“I’ve now had confirmation from serology testing results that both of these individuals are towards the end of their illness, which is very good news for Queensland, in that, that means the risk of transmission to anyone else is less.”

Young said it meant there wasn’t a need to introduce a lockdown or any restrictive measures, but warned Queenslanders not to be complacent.

“Because I believe this risk is actually a little bit lower, I haven’t asked all of our vulnerable facilities to go into lockdown at this stage.”

Young said authorities were unsure how the couple acquired the virus but said it may be difficult to ascertain considering they were at the end of their infectious period.

Police were assessing whether or not the couple had a travel exemption.

The Victoria police chief commissioner, Shane Patton, told ABC radio they were working with authorities in Queensland to determine the details of the case, including whether the woman knew she had tested positive before travelling.

“What I’ve been broadly advised is that there’s a possibility in fact [the woman] was moving house and legitimately was able to go to Queensland,” he said.

“Whether she was aware of being positive for Covid before she left or not is still being determined. The message is, let’s not make any assumptions and let’s let the department of health work through whether or not this may have been an unfortunate series of events.”

At the Victorian press conference, Merlino also flagged that the couple may have been moving houses, which would not be in contravention of the Victorian lockdown.

It comes as the Doomben Racecourse in Brisbane was converted into a new mass vaccination hub, opening to the public on Thursday.

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, celebrated the opening, saying on Twitter the new location was “well known” and “easily accessible”.

Meanwhile, Sally McManus, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, released a letter she sent to the prime minister criticising the federal government’s slow vaccine rollout in the aged care and disability sectors.

McManus called on the government to introduce paid leave for workers while they received and recovered from their vaccine and for workplace vaccinations to be made available.

“The absence of paid leave is likely to impact the rate of vaccination uptake across these sectors. A provision for paid leave to attend and recover, as is available to other workers in priority sectors, would help ensure these essential workers become vaccinated,” McManus wrote.

“We again urge the federal government to take these necessary steps to ensure workers across these sectors can access the vaccine.”

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