Two more locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 have been detected in Victoria, taking the state to a total of eight cases recorded over two days.
Acting Premier Jacinta Allan announced Victoria would close its border to New South Wales as of 11.59pm on January 1 as she informed the state of the additional two cases on Thursday afternoon.
Earlier on Thursday, she announced three cases had been uncovered following contact tracing of the three positive cases discovered on Wednesday.
More than 70 close contacts are currently in isolation, Ms Allan said.
HOW VIRUS SPREAD THIS MONTH
The first three cases were all linked to a Thai restaurant where a NSW returned traveller had also been, Health Minister Martin Foley said.
Anyone who visited the Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant in the affluent bayside suburb of Black Rock on December 21 is urged to get tested immediately.
The NSW returned traveller was not one of the six announced positive cases — but could still test positive after taking a COVID-19 test on Thursday morning.
“The crossover between the Mitcham and the Hallam and the Mentone people has been a facility in Black Rock and a direct link to a NSW returned traveller,” Mr Foley said.
“Now that we’ve got links to the NSW outbreak here in Victoria, we’re responding really, really quickly to get on top of that.”
The three cases from three separate suburbs in Melbourne were linked through dining at the restaurant.
Two — from Mentone and Hallam — were from the same family but lived in separate households and dined together at Smile Buffalo Thai on December 21.
The third case, from Mitcham, had not personally dined at the same place at the same time — but was a close contact of someone who had.
That person had dined with the NSW returned traveller.
Victoria’s commander of COVID-19 response Jeroen Weimar said the two groups — the Mitcham close contact and the NSW returned traveller, and the family duo — had dined at separate tables and had no direct link.
But they shared the same space for about an hour.
“It highlights the highly infectious nature of the virus,” he said.
“Which is that two groups of people entirely unconnected with each other with no direct knowledge of each other in that particular cafe intersected with each other over a time window of about an hour and, it would appear, there has been a transmission of the virus,” he said.
He said even though the transmission event seemed to be December 21, the cases did not show symptoms until December 27 and 28.
He said it was “concerning” that the apparent transmission date was 10 days ago.
“That means we’ve got 10 days of work to do … with the onward transmission that we will have seen,” he said.
He said the first three positive cases were two women in their 40s and a woman in her 70s, all of whom were isolating at home.
The five additional cases on Thursday were linked to that cluster and were uncovered through contact tracing, he said.
More information about those cases are expected to be released later.
The five new cases were not directly linked to the restaurant, and Mr Weimar said more positive cases from the close contact group were likely to be uncovered.
He said the Thai restaurant, as well as the second new high-risk location of a church, had been co-operating fully.
“We recognise the huge impact this will have on those organisations,” he said.
“Both of those facilities have good contact tracing systems in place.
“We have been in this position before.”
More than 70 close contacts stemming from the three original cases have been contacted by authorities as of Thursday and told to isolate.
HIGH-RISK LOCATIONS – TESTING URGED
A number of locations have been designated high risk after they were visited by the COVID-positive people while they were potentially infectious:
- Black Rock: Smile Buffalo Thai restaurant on December 21
- Doveton: Holy Family Parish Doveton Catholic Church on December 26 between 4pm and 6pm
- Fountain Gate Shopping Centre: Kmart, Big W, Target, Millers, King of Gifts, Lo Costa on December 26 between 9am and 11am
- Mentone: Mentone/Parkdale Beach on December 27 between 10am and 4.30pm
- Glen Waverley: Century City Walk and Mocha Jo’s on December 28 between 1.30pm and 5pm
- Glen Waverley: Century City Walk, December 28 at the 2:45pm showing of Wonder Woman Gold Class
- Oakleigh: Katialo restaurant, Eaton Mall on December 28 between 7pm and 8.15pm
- Cape Schanck, Mornington Peninsula: December 30 between 11.40am and 1.30pm
The Royal Brighton Yacht Club also sent out an alert to customers that a COVID-positive person visited on December 29 between midday and 2pm.
If you have visited any of these locations during the date and time indicated you must get tested and isolate until you get a negative result.
NEW RULES INTRODUCED
Victoria also introduced new restrictions on Thursday as well as announcing the border to NSW would close completely from 11.59pm on New Year’s Day.
From 5pm on New Year’s Eve, masks must be worn indoors outside of your own private residence.
Indoor gatherings have also been reduced from 30 people to 15 people from 5pm on New Year’s Eve.
The 15-person limit does not include residents of a household or children under 12 months old.
It follows new border restrictions being introduced on Wednesday.
Anyone who has been in or visited the Blue Mountains or Wollongong regions from December 27 has until 11.59 on New Year’s Eve to get to Victoria.
Nobody who has visited these areas will be able to enter Victoria after December 31.
Anyone intending to return to Victoria from these areas before midnight must apply for a new travel permit through Service Victoria, must get tested within 24 hours of returning to Victoria, and must self-quarantine at home for 14 days from when they last left the region.
It follows one woman testing positive last week after returning from a trip to the northern beaches, Sydney’s COVID-19 epicentre.
Other positive COVID-19 cases in Victoria recorded in the past two months were from returned travellers in hotel quarantine.