No new cases linked to Vic hospital nurse

No patients or other healthcare staff from two Melbourne hospitals where a COVID-infected nurse worked have tested positive for COVID-19.

Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed the one new locally acquired case recorded on Friday was linked to Southbank’s Kings Park Apartment Complex.

The woman is a household contact of an existing case, bringing the outbreak at the locked-down complex to nine cases.

Contact tracers have not identified any new exposure sites linked to the latest case in what Mr Merlino described as a “good outcome”.

Victoria’s testing commander Jeroen Weimar said authorities were also buoyed by a set of negative results from hospital staff and patients potentially exposed to the virus by an “operational error”.

The woman, who had been treating the state’s three hospitalised COVID-19 cases at Epping Private Hospital, also worked two days at Epping’s Northern Hospital while possibly infectious.

Staff working on a COVID ward and dealing directly with virus patients are not supposed to work elsewhere.

Mr Weimar said 24 of 30 Epping Private Hospital staff and 55 of 67 close contacts from the Northern Hospital had returned negative tests so far.

The nurse also visited the Northern Hospital vaccination centre on June 14 for her final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, forcing another 62 people into isolation for two weeks.

All seven of those staff have tested negative along with half of the 55 patients.

The national COVID spotlight has shifted north as Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton declared three Sydney areas “orange zones” under Victoria’s permit system.

Those planning to enter Victoria from the City of Sydney, Waverley and Woollahra council areas must now obtain a travel permit, get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.

Mr Merlino said the Sydney outbreak was a “sobering reminder that this virus is with us in our country and will be with us for quite some time”.

Professor Sutton’s permit reclassification call came as he was under fire for flying to Canberra for a National Health and Medical Research Council awards night on Wednesday.

Mr Merlino said the chief health officer was attending the event in a work capacity and travelled within the rules.

“He’s entitled to go there,” he told reporters on Friday.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who was also in attendance for the event, also had no issue with Prof Sutton’s actions.

“That story was deeply unfair,” he told ABC Melbourne radio on Friday morning.

But Victoria’s opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier questioned the optics, given the 25km travel limit was in effect at the time.

It comes as Melbourne’s travel limit rule and outdoor mask mandate were lifted as restrictions eased across the state.

Under the latest raft of rule changes from 11.59pm on Thursday, people in Melbourne can host two adult visitors into their homes per day and gather outdoors in groups of 20.

Masks are not required outdoors anymore, while businesses such as gyms and indoor entertainment can reopen.

Restrictions are likely to ease again for Melbourne and regional Victoria in a week’s time if cases remain low. Another case reported on Friday involved a returned traveller in hotel quarantine.

Some 35,252 Victorians were tested in the 24 hours to midnight on Thursday, while 16,710 received a COVID-19 vaccine dose at state-run hubs.

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