Victorians have reacted with fury after it was revealed that one Melbourne resident spread the coronavirus in two regional areas.
Speaking to 3AW this morning, Department of Health and Human Services Commander of Testing and Community Engagement, Jeroen Weimar, said the individual was originally linked to the Chadstone shopping centre butcher shop cluster in Melbourne.
He then travelled to several regional areas, but failed to inform authorities of his whereabouts for two weeks.
Deputy Premier James Merlino told the Sydney Morning Herald the omission “beggars belief”, while everyday Aussies have expressed their outrage on social media.
It is understood the positive case was permitted to work and travel in the state, and ate at the Oddfellows cafe in Kilmore during a work trip, with six Kilmore residents later contracting the virus.
The same person then travelled to Shepparton on September 30, with the city later recording three COVID-19 cases, Mr Weimar confirmed.
He said the person only informed authorities of that crucial stop yesterday – even after case numbers in Shepparton started to climb.
“Something clearly happened on the 30th of September between that individual and the people at the tyre shop which meant the virus was able to spread, very similarly to what happened in Kilmore,” Mr Weimar said on 3AW.
“The individual, who had a work permit to travel into regional Victoria, as well as stopping off at Kilmore also stopped off in Shepparton … The information was unfortunately not forthcoming until last night.
“The contact tracing is really swift but we’re only as good as the information we get and if we don’t know people have been to Shepparton then it’s very hard to contact trace in Shepparton.”
The ABC is reporting the individual in question is a truck driver who was permitted to travel but not to dine in the Kilmore cafe where that outbreak originated.
The man then drove to Benalla and visited a tyre shop – and one of the new Shepparton cases is a worker from a local tyre centre, which allowed authorities to “join the dots” before the truckie admitted to stopping by Shepparton as well.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has also posted a stern message on Twitter urging people to be “honest” about their whereabouts.
While not specifically referring to the superspreader, Prof Sutton said withholding information could kill.
“To be absolutely clear, delays in cluster investigations are not about the response, which is immediate,” he posted.
“We need everyone to be honest about who their close contacts are, where they work, and where they’ve been. Every time. For everyone’s sake.
“Others are put at genuine risk when we can’t follow-up people who have been exposed or places that everyone needs to know about as a prompt for testing and self-isolation. With timely, honest information we can protect Victoria. And defeat this virus.”
SEVEN NEW CASES, FIVE DEATHS
Authorities this morning confirmed Victoria had recorded seven new coronavirus cases and five deaths as the city’s all important 14-day average fell slightly.
But alarmingly, regional Victoria’s 14-day average has increased from 0.4 to 0.6 overnight after three people tested positive in Shepparton.
Mystery cases in Melbourne have increased by one to 14 since Tuesday, while the 14-day average has decreased slightly from 10 to 9.6.
Health authorities say the 14-day average must be about five for the Government to consider easing restrictions on October 19.
It’s the most virus deaths the state has recorded in a single day since seven were recorded on September 29.
But Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday ruled out proceeding with all of the planned steps under Melbourne’s third stage of reopening.
The Premier confirmed not all of the planned easing of restrictions would proceed in their entirety, saying it was “not safe or fair”.
He said coronavirus cases numbers were too high to open up now.
“Everything people have given has to count for something. And it will count for a lot more if we see this thing through for a few more weeks and then take safe steps when they’re safe to be taken and not taken now because we all let our frustration get the better of us,” Mr Andrews said.
“Those that are safe, we will proceed with. There may be some others that we believe are safe that were not necessarily foreshadowed at that time.”
The Premier said the public health team would spend hours pouring over data this week to determine which restrictions could be eased.
There are zero cases from an unknown source in the past 14 days in regional Victoria but the number of active cases has increased from six to at least nine.
As of Tuesday, five cases were active in the Mitchell Shire and three in Greater Shepparton.
The total number of cases in Victoria since the start of the pandemic is now more than 20,300, with the death toll now 816 and 186 active cases as of Tuesday.
It comes after 12 new cases and one death was recorded on Tuesday.
More detail on Wednesday’s new cases is expected later at the Premier’s daily media briefing.