Australia

Victoria records zero new local COVID-19 cases as Melbourne emerges from lockdown

Victoria has recorded zero new local coronavirus cases as the end of Melbourne’s lockdown and the further easing of regional restrictions came into effect. 

The state’s health department reported zero local cases and one new overseas case in the past 24 hours to midnight on Thursday, out of just over 17,600 tests. 

But Victoria’s latest COVID-19 challenge is far from over. 

As the relaxed rules came into effect at midnight on Thursday, health authorities were trying to work out how four members of a Melbourne family with no known links to current outbreaks tested positive for the virus.

Victorian health officials had started interviewing a couple late on Thursday after they travelled through NSW to Queensland and tested positive, sparking health alerts in those states.

Also on Thursday, wastewater detections of the virus were reported in the suburban Pascoe Vale, Scoresby and Vermont areas.

Anyone developing symptoms in those areas is urged to get tested.

And six more public exposure sites were added for Bundoora, Heidelberg and Thomastown in Melbourne, dating from 28 May to 7 June.

While the easing of restrictions went ahead as planned, Melburnians must continue to wear masks indoors and outdoors.

Initially, masks were no longer going to be compulsory outdoors, so long as social distancing was maintained.

Thursday’s four new cases are from the same Reservoir household in Melbourne’s north.

They were a man in his 80s, a woman in her 70s, a man in his 50s and a man in his 20s.

One of the family members is on a disability pension and another is a registered carer for them.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said the family were not close contacts of previous cases and hadn’t visited any listed exposure sites, although they live close to the City of Whittlesea outbreak.

“These new cases are really the strongest reminder that we are by no means out of the woods yet,” Prof Cheng said.

Authorities were also awaiting genomic testing to see if they have the Delta or Kappa strain of the virus.

Their close contacts are self-isolating and some have already returned negative tests.

Anxious wait for coronavirus tests in Queensland

Meanwhile, the couple who drove to Queensland remain under investigation and it is unclear how they caught the virus.

The woman left Melbourne with her husband on 1 June, when the city was in lockdown, and tested positive at the end of a road trip through NSW and into Queensland.

Her husband has now tested positive as well, although it appears they are late in their infection period.

For this reason, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has expressed some optimism that community transmission might be avoided.

“That means the risk of transmission to anyone else is less,” she said on Thursday.

It remains unclear whether they infected anyone in NSW or Queensland. Queensland Health has identified 17 close contacts of the couple, but so far only has results for three of them.

They’ve been negative, including the infected woman’s parents, with whom the couple stayed at Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast.

In total about 400 people in Queensland have been forced into isolation and are getting tested as a result of the couple’s arrival on Saturday.

They are known to have visited sites in Goondiwindi, Toowoomba and the southern Sunshine Coast.

According to Queensland health authorities, the couple did not apply for a travel exemption to enter the state.

There are 78 active cases across the state, down five from Wednesday.

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