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Melbourne’s west a COVID-19 hotspot as clusters continue to grow

Hume, located just to the north, has 12 active cases. The council area takes in Craigieburn and parts of the suburb of Fawkner, where the two McDonald’s are located.

The data shows how quickly COVID-19 can break out in unexpected places.

Fawkner McDonald's was closed for deep cleaning after a second employee tested positive last week.

Fawkner McDonald’s was closed for deep cleaning after a second employee tested positive last week.Credit:Jason South

Until the recent outbreaks, it was Banyule and Stonnington in the city’s east that had recorded the most cases, along with central Melbourne.

The new data comes as Victoria’s case tally rose by 11 to 1554. There are 110 active cases.

Australia as a whole passed the 1 million test mark on Saturday, with health authorities having now completed 1,015,652 tests.

All that testing has so far captured 7036 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the outbreak.

Australia’s death toll remains at 98, with 49 people still in hospital – 16 in intensive care and 12 on ventilators.

The number of new infections in Victoria has been falling steadily for some time, and remains low. However, the virus has not been stamped out.

Two of the new cases on Saturday were linked to Cedar Meats. Four previous cases have also been traced back to the meat-processing business in Melbourne’s west, bringing the cluster’s total to 98.

One new confirmed case on Saturday is linked to the McDonald’s outbreak in Fawkner, taking the total number of cases in that cluster to 11 so far.

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The worker at the Craigieburn McDonald’s who fell ill was an “extended relative” of one of the people who had become sick as part of the Fawkner outbreak.

The restaurant was shut for deep cleaning as soon as the diagnosis was made, and all 223 staff were told not to work for 14 days.

The state’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, said he was happy with the way McDonald’s had handled the outbreak. He said food and packaging were not a transmission risk if appropriate food-handling measures were in place.

He said the link between the Fawkner store and a case at the McDonald’s in Craigieburn was through the related workers being in contact.

Professor Sutton said he was unaware of whether there was a link between the stores’ owners.

“My understanding is they’ve done all the right things in terms of quarantining all of those close contacts,” he said.

“Obviously, they don’t return to work until they’ve done their 14-day period and they’ve been cleared from their self-quarantine.”

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the first staff member who tested positive had not attended work during their infectious period but then a second worker at the store had tested positive.

“The advice that I have is that all the close contacts have been contacted by the [health] department and now are in quarantine for 14 days,” she said.

Ms Mikakos said the Craigieburn store had been closed for cleaning but was proposing to reopen on Saturday using staff from another store while existing staff were isolating for 14 days.

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