“It becomes more likely than not that someone who works in this area actually does have a coronavirus infection. And that is clearly of concern to, to get them tested so we can look after them and provide them appropriate treatment and care, but to protect their colleagues, and indeed the entire community.”
He said people in the area would need to isolate until they returned a negative result even if they didn’t have any symptoms.
Only 5 per cent of state’s cases vaccinated
Professor Cowie said his team had analysed the vaccination status of the 529 active cases in the state between July 12 and August 18.
Professor Cowie said 80 of those people had been eligible for vaccination but had not received one; 45 people had had their first dose and 23 people had been fully vaccinated. Of the 14 people in hospital on Thursday, five were not eligible for vaccinations and nine were eligible, but had not been vaccinated.
“None were either partially or completely vaccinated,” Professor Cowie said. “So we’ve reflected previously that both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines do prevent infection, and they do prevent transmission to others. If you do happen to be infected, they reduce your potential to infect others.
“But the really critical point here, both AstraZeneca, and Pfizer vaccine [provide] around 90 per cent protection against serious illness, against hospitalisation and against loss of life, and that’s for the Delta variant. So these vaccines are so critical, so please do make that appointment and go and get vaccinated as soon as you’re eligible.”
The analysis comes as Premier Daniel Andrews announced that three more drive-through vaccination clinics would be opened after the success of the Melton clinic, which opened at the Bunnings warehouse and has delivered 1200 vaccines.
The new sites include the Sandown Racecourse, which is scheduled to open for booked appointments from Saturday and the Ford factory in Broadmeadows that is set to open for appointments from Monday.
Another site at the Eagle Stadium in Werribee will offer both walk-up and drive-through vaccinations, while a pop-up vaccination centre has also opened in St Kilda at Peanut Farm Reserve.
Case breakdown for Thursday
Victoria’s COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar said 44 new cases had been in quarantine for their entire infectious period. They included:
- 38 linked to Al-Taqwa College
- Three linked to Glenroy West Primary School
- One linked to Caroline Springs shopping centre CS Square
- One linked to the Newport Football Club
- One linked to the Newport community cluster
Ten cases were detected through contact tracing efforts and have been linked to known outbreaks, including:
- One linked to a residential tower at 510 Lygon Street in Carlton who is a close contact of a positive case
- Three linked to St Kilda community gatherings
- Three who are various household contacts of positive cases authorities have identified recently – they are connected to existing outbreaks, but they’re not linked to each other
- Three people connected to a pizza shop in Malvern East
Mr Weimar said the three mystery cases were in Glenroy, Ascot Vale and Doncaster.
Fines issued over engagement party
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said police were working out how to interview all the people who were at an illegal engagement party in Melbourne’s south-east last week given they were isolating, but fines of $5452 each had been issued to the couple who were celebrating their engagement and the bride-to-be’s parents.
Mr Patton said the attendees of the party in Caulfield North had been “very co-operative” with police.
“That investigation is still ongoing [and] it’s obviously hampered, to a degree by the fact that they’re in isolation,” Mr Patton said.
“The expectation is that every person who was present at that party will be interviewed [and] unless there’s an exemption that applies, that they would receive infringements.”
Legionnaires’ disease found
The Health Department flagged on Thursday that two cases of legionnaires’ disease had been detected in the Cranbourne East area.
It said symptoms of the disease are similar to COVID-19 and that anyone who had been in the area since the start of August and who was experiencing headaches, fevers, a cough and muscle ache should get tested for both conditions.
Professor Cowie said legionnaire’s disease can be a life-threatening condition.
“One message to our clinicians out there is, obviously, if someone’s presenting with symptoms that could be consistent with COVID, they absolutely must be tested and treated on the basis that they could have COVID,” he said.
“But we do need to obviously draw the net wider and think about other causes … and particularly, at the moment, doing testing for legionella would be very, very wise if someone is presenting with those symptoms.”
Concerns for homeless community
There were concerns for Victoria’s homeless community on Wednesday after Mr Weimar revealed a COVID-positive sex worker and one of her acquaintances, who also tested positive, were homeless or transient.
However, on Thursday, he said none of the state’s new cases were homeless.
“We did a lot of testing around some of the rooming houses and hostels, particularly in the little Grey Street area [in St Kilda],” Mr Weimar said.
“All those tests so far have come back negative, which is a really encouraging sign.”
Leaders in the sector say the state’s homeless hotel program is operating during lockdowns, but with significantly fewer sites than in last year’s second lockdown.
Youth Projects chief executive Ben Vasiliou said there were concerns among sector leaders that Melbourne’s homeless community was at significant risk and that if more positive cases were returned on Thursday, increased support to quarantine them would be required.
“This is moving very, very quickly,” he said.
There are concerns, too, that no matter how hard Victoria locks down, driving transmission to zero and keeping it there might be impossible with cross-border seeding events seemingly inevitable.
NSW hit a daily high of 681 cases on Thursday after modelling suggested it may hit 2200 cases a day if the current rate of infection does not decline.
Several more exposure sites added
Authorities identified several more COVID-19 exposure sites on Thursday.
Among them was level one of the Havenlea Apartment Complex in Cairnlea, which was declared a tier 2 site from Saturday, August 7 right through to Wednesday, August 18.
Tier 2 means anyone who attended that level during the given timeframe has to get tested for COVID-19 and isolate until they receive a negative result.
Other tier 2 sites included Woolworths in North Melbourne and Kensington, and a coffee shop in Malvern East.
Central Park Pizza in Malvern East was declared a tier 1 exposure site on Thursday, August 12 between 3pm and 8.15pm, Friday, August 13 between 2pm and 7.45pm, and Monday, August 16 between 3.30pm and 9.30pm.
Tier 1 means anyone who was there during those specified timeframes has to get tested for COVID and quarantine for 14 days, regardless of the result.
Nearly 27,590 people received their vaccine doses in the 24 hours to midnight on Wednesday in Victoria.
Almost half of the eligible population (49 per cent) has had one dose and nearly 28 per cent of Victorians are fully protected.
Australia has just ticked over a milestone: 50 per cent of the eligible population has now had one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
To date, 28 per cent of the eligible population aged 16 and over – or 5.8 million people – are fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that Australians aged between 16 and 39 would be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine after August 30.
Victorians to get extended support payments
Workers and businesses will have their grants and hardship payments extended for another fortnight, reflecting the state’s extended lockdown.
An additional $807 million – on top of the $2 billion already paid by the federal and state governments during this outbreak – will flow to recipients.
Most payments will automatically transfer to the more than 110,000 businesses already signed up to the state’s relief payment scheme.
Commonwealth disaster payments for workers – worth between $450 and $750 per week – will continue with Victorian micro businesses and sole traders encouraged to apply.
Small and medium-sized businesses are eligible for grants worth $10,000 to $14,000, while businesses can also receive $5,600 through a business cost assistance fund. Licensed venues are eligible for a grant of between $5,000 to $10,000.
With Michael Fowler, Sumeyya Ilanbey, Lucy Cormack and Rachel Clun
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