Financial firm Stratton Finance at center of Melbourne outbreak

Mr Merlino said the outbreak had caused “a massive increase” in vaccinations, but he could “not rule out the possibility of taking further action” in the coming days. He added that health authorities were reassured that the current 15 cases were all linked.

“It’s good that everyone is linked to the stadium, but we are concerned about the number, and also the type of exhibition sites,” he said.

“The next 24 hours will be critical. We are not going to predict what these changes may or may not be. It will depend on what happens in the next 24 hours and advice from the public health team. »

Restrictions for greater Melbourne tightened at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, when masks were made compulsory for indoor public places, house guests limited to five a day and social gatherings capped at 30.

Everything on the table

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said “everything is on the table in the review of restrictions”, including the cancellation of public events such as the AFL.

The Victorian government said crowds would still be allowed football this weekend as this week’s RISING arts festival was still scheduled, as authorities were reassured that only one ‘missing link’ in the chain of 15 locally acquired cases remained unknown. .

The 15 cases have been linked to a Wollert man who contracted the Indian strain of COVID-19 while quarantined at a hotel in Adelaide, with nine of the new infections linked to two families and revealed by The Australian Financial Reviewfive others were connected to Stratton Finance in Port Melbourne, where one of the family cases worked.

The link between Wollert’s man and the first of the new cases, however, remains unknown, although both live in the suburb of the town of Whittlesea, north of Melbourne, which sparked the outbreak.

But Professor Sutton said his concerns stemmed from the fact that most of the new cases had been exposed to the virus “a few days ago” and had been on the loose in the community since.

“It is clear that we have exhausted several generations of transmission in the last 48 hours,” he said.

“There have been a lot of lawsuits to be made because we have had these individuals in the community for a few days in the past, so there are potential exposures there that relate to a few days ago that [may] play potentially [in] new cases.

Health authorities have so far identified 301 close contacts of the 15 local cases, 80 of whom have already returned negative tests. None of the 15 cases is hospitalized.

The list of exhibition venues also continues to grow, with several venues in Melbourne’s inner south – the Three Monkeys and Somewhere bars in Prahran and the Circus Bar in South Yarra – designated as tier one venues and the MCG and the Marvel Stadium as Tier Two venues.

The Stratton Finance cases have seen a slew of new sites identified in Port Melbourne, as the outbreak has spread beyond the outer north of the city to the other side of town.

Toby Simmons, chief executive of auto, boat and caravan financier, said the company – which was majority-owned by ASX-listed Carsales until last year – had up to 100 people at its head office, but there were far fewer people present this week. .

He said all staff who have visited the office have been briefed, tested and are self-isolating.

“We are an online business, so no customers have been affected,” Mr Simmons told the Financial analysis. “We feel for everyone affected and we are working with health authorities and doing everything we can to contain the outbreak.”

North exposure

Exhibition venues have also spread to regional Victoria with two venues in Bendigo – the Hairfolk hairdresser and Axedale Tavern – listed, as well as a foot club in Cohuna, which borders NSW.

South Australia updated its ban on travel from hotspots in Melbourne on Tuesday to anyone from greater Melbourne on Wednesday evening, while NSW also closed its border to non-residents who had visited exhibition sites from Tier 1 in Melbourne. Those who have traveled to Tier Two sites must obtain a negative COVID-19 test to travel to the northern state.

This follows New Zealand closing its travel bubble with Victoria on Tuesday and Western Australia requiring all travelers from Victoria to get tested on arrival and self-quarantine until until they get a negative result.

This latest outbreak is also increasing pressure on the Morrison government to approve a proposal put forward by the Victorian government last month for a dedicated quarantine facility.

Mr Merlino did not explain why his federal counterparts had not yet approved the proposal, but said his government felt “a strong sense of urgency” to move forward with construction of the facility being given the ongoing quarantine leaks from hotels nationwide.

“The best time to have had an alternative quarantine facility is 12 months ago and the next best time is now, so we are very keen to finalize these discussions with the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth is giving the green light in terms of access. to the site, so that we can go ahead and do the planning and design work and secondly commit to funding its construction,” he said.

Mr Merlino added that the “other most important means” of controlling COVID-19, along with vaccines, was also “a Commonwealth responsibility”.

When asked why there was still no national marketing campaign encouraging people to get bitten, Mr Merlino replied: “That’s a good question and you have to ask the federal government.”

But he said there was a ‘massive increase’ in vaccinations in Victoria yesterday – more than 15,800 injections were given – and the state government was still considering ‘the best way to widen eligibility to vaccinations.

Uptake of AstraZeneca injections in Victoria had previously been slow, with some vaccination sites operating two to three times below capacity.

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