“I think what’s driven the reticence of some parents to have their often very small children tested is that it is not a pleasant procedure,” he said.
“That is not every case, but it is probably the biggest group.”
Saliva tests developed by the Doherty Institute are being rolled out for those in hotel quarantine, and the Premier said he now expected all returned travellers to undergo testing.
Of the 19,000 returned travellers placed in quarantine, fewer than than 1 per cent have returned a positive result, according to figures released by the state government.
One of the new cases announced on Sunday is associated with an outbreak at the Stamford Plaza in Melbourne’s CBD, one of the quarantine hotels.
While continuing to defend his government’s handling of the hotel quarantine system, Mr Andrews said hotels posed challenging environments that could never be made completely risk-free.
He said it now appeared coronavirus could have spread via staff by the sharing of a cigarette lighter and car pooling, in some instances.
“The risks involved in any hotel quarantine arrangement are but a tiny fraction of what would have presented if we had simply sent the best part of 20,000 people home after having returned from overseas, and run a kind of honesty policy where we assumed they were not leaving their home,” Mr Andrews said.
Saturday’s 49 new coronavirus cases, announced on Sunday, mark the highest number since April 2, when 68 cases were detected.
Of concern, only four of the new cases have been currently linked to outbreaks, including family clusters in North Melbourne and Keilor Downs, although some are likely to be attributed to known cases as investigations continue.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said authorities needed to wait five or six days to see if recent interventions had an effect on the spread of the virus.
These include tightening the rules on gatherings, with Victorians now allowed only five visitors in their homes.
“But if it continues to increase, I think those are the circumstances where you think about an additional intervention, and especially if it is localised in a particular postcode or a particular suburb,” Professor Sutton said.
The Premier confirmed he had not ruled out suburban lockdowns, in which stay-at-home orders would be issued to the worst-affected areas, similar to the restrictions that covered all of Victoria in April.
“That is not our preference,” he said. “We’ll do it if we need to.”
Melbourne’s initial wave of coronavirus infections was mostly concentrated in affluent parts of the city, but now authorities are reporting hotspots in outer suburban areas with new migrant families.
Professor Sutton said these often large families and more-crowded households created a higher risk of the disease spreading, but he and Mr Andrews warned against vilification of individual groups.
“This virus doesn’t discriminate on where you were born, or whether you pray or not, or to whom you pray. It is with all of us. And it is with all of us for a long time,” Mr Andrews said.
A testing blitz is continuing in hotspot suburbs including Keilor Downs and Broadmeadows. Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said 24,000 homes in priority suburbs had so far been door-knocked and 11,000 people tested.
Other hotspot suburbs targeted for testing are Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Hallam, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir and Pakenham.
The latest update comes after Victoria’s deputy health chief, Dr Annaliese van Diemen, conceded on Saturday that Victoria appeared to be in the midst of a “second peak” of infections, following a steady increase in new cases since June 9, when no new cases were reported.
A number of those infected had been working in front-facing jobs that are unable to be done from home, leading to numerous workplaces being closed or their employees temporarily sent home.
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Four people at the Coles distribution centre at Laverton have now tested positive, while 13 Metro Trains staff were recently asked to self-isolate after coming into close contact with a Flinders Street Station employee who tested positive to coronavirus.
Aisha Dow reports on health for The Age and is a former city reporter.
David Estcourt is a court and general news reporter at The Age.