One new Vic COVID case, rules call looms

Victoria has reported one new COVID-19 case, with authorities set to make a final call on ending Melbourne’s lockdown.

The single infection is linked to existing outbreaks and has been quarantining during their infectious period.

It comes as officials discuss a 25-kilometre travel limit from home as part of eased restrictions for Melbourne.

Melbourne’s extended “circuit breaker” lockdown is set to end at 11.59pm on Thursday and be replaced with restrictions similar to those in regional Victoria.

This would involve a continued ban on home gatherings, schools reopening, hospitality venue density limits and mandatory indoor masks.

The 10km limit on travel from home is likely to be extended to 25km after Acting Premier James Merlino flagged Melbourne residents will be unable to enter regional Victoria over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

“It remains the public health advice that for a period of time we will have different settings between regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne,” Mr Merlino told reporters on Tuesday. 

“There are very good reasons for that. We absolutely want to run this into the ground and ensure that there’s no risk of this spreading out into regional Victoria.”

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien wants Melbourne gyms to reopen as well, although that is unlikely given they currently remain closed in regional Victoria.

“On what planet is it safe to go and get a tatt but you can’t go and do a workout,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“The restrictions that are put in place, they’re not consistent. There’s no common sense, and that’s all people want. People aren’t silly. We know there’s a virus out there.”

A final decision on eased restrictions for Melbourne and regional Victoria is expected to be finalised on Wednesday morning.

It comes as authorities investigate a link between an outbreak of the more infectious Delta strain and a hotel quarantine case, a man in his 40s, who returned from Sri Lanka on May 8.

Genomic sequencing shows his infection is identical to one of two families linked to the North Melbourne Primary School, which has emerged as the epicentre of the West Melbourne outbreak.

How the virus spread between the two groups remains a mystery, with no obvious breach of infection prevention control protocols.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said there were four main theories, including that the man transmitted the virus to a staff member while in transit or to a fellow guest inside one of the hotels.

It may have then entered the community.

Emma Cassar, the head of COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria, said the man also mistakenly opened his room door soon after entering hotel quarantine, but she doesn’t believe the incident is responsible for the virus escaping.

Victoria’s deadly second wave of coronavirus was sparked from leaks in hotel quarantine.

It led to a major overhaul of the hotel quarantine system after Melbourne spent 112 days in lockdown.

“You just wonder has the government really learned anything from the mistakes that were made last year,” Mr O’Brien said.

Some 28,485 Victorians were tested on Tuesday and 19,533 received a vaccine dose at state-run sites.

There are now 83 active cases across the state.

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