Vic records zero local COVID-19 cases

Virus testing rates in some areas of Melbourne are lower than health authorities would like, as the city emerges from its two-week lockdown.

The Health Department on Friday confirmed there were no new local cases in the state and just one new case in hotel quarantine. 

It marks the first day without a local case of COVID-19 since May 24, when a family tested positive for the virus and ended the state’s 86-day streak without community transmission.

That eventually led to the state’s fourth lockdown. 

But the Acting Premier James Merlino says testing levels still need to be higher, despite more than 17,000 people braving the weather to get tested on Thursday.

“If you live in the Craigieburn area and did not get tested yesterday, please go out and get tested today, please make plans today to get tested immediately,” he told reporters on Friday.

The latest outbreak spread through the local government area of Whittlesea, north of the city, and the seaside suburb of Port Melbourne, forcing Melbourne into a two-week “circuit breaker” lockdown, which ended on Friday.

Separately, a west Melbourne family were infected with the highly infectious Delta strain and that also became a cluster during lockdown.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned the week ahead “probably won’t be all zero cases”, citing the thousands of close contacts of infected cases who are continuing to isolate at home, and ongoing work to track down transmission links.

“It has only been 48 hours since we had cases of uncertain acquisition,” he said.

Authorities have found wastewater detections in Bendigo, Glenroy and Pascoe Vale, as well as Whitehorse, Manningham and Monash in Melbourne’s east.

Under the new restrictions for Melbourne, masks remain mandatory indoors and outdoors and people must stay within 25km of their homes unless working or studying, caregiving or getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

A ban on home gatherings remains in effect, but up to 10 people can meet outdoors, students can return to schools, retail can reopen and hospitality venues can resume seated service.

Allied health services are allowed to operate group classes with a maximum of 10 people and density requirement of one person per four square metres.

Prof Sutton defended outdoor mask wearing rules at Friday’s press conference, and said it was a “really important intervention” to reduce transmission risk.

“The rose garden outside the White House is a classic example of a super spreader event that happened outdoors, so it is not to be dismissed as an opportunity for transmission,” he said.

Restrictions have eased further in regional Victoria, with more industries to reopen, two visitors allowed at homes and masks only compulsory indoors.

Meanwhile, authorities are continuing to investigate how four members of a Reservoir family with no known links to current outbreaks tested positive for the virus.

Prof Sutton said genomic testing has found they have the Kappa strain, consistent with the outbreak in the nearby City of Whittlesea. 

Investigations are also continuing into a Victorian couple who travelled through NSW to Queensland before testing positive. 

Five other Victorians have also been caught flouting border pass rules, Queensland police said on Friday.

They have each been fined $4000 for lying on their passes, or not having passes at all, and have been forced to quarantine.

Victorian hospitals are slated to restart elective surgeries from next Tuesday.

Mr Merlino noted that many Victorians have faced elective surgery delays, and said hospitals would need some time to scale up their resources.

The last budget allocated $136 million to tackle the elective surgery backlog.

Some 17,604 Victorians were tested in the 24 hours to Friday morning, while 20,752 received a coronavirus vaccine dose. 

There are 75 active cases of COVID-19 in the state, including those in hotel quarantine, down from 78 on Thursday.

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