Victoria has six new locally acquired COVID-19 cases as the state waits to see if the current “circuit breaker” lockdown is extended.
The new cases take the total number of infections in the current outbreak of the Indian variant of the virus to 60, from 54.
Federal Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy told a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday one of the six new cases was a person who travelled to NSW.
The majority of the rest are family contacts and there were no new cases in aged care, he added.
In the 24 hours to midnight, 51,033 people were tested for COVID-91 and 20,585 vaccinations were given out.
Victoria government and health officials last night discussed options for the current seven-day state-wide lockdown, due to end on Thursday.
If it is extended, there are calls for it to be restricted to Greater Melbourne and for restrictions in regional areas to be eased.
A final decision is expected to be announced on Wednesday.
Alarm bells are ringing because the virus variant is exhibiting “stranger-to-stranger” transmission.
“We can’t underestimate this challenge. We are trying to do something nobody has had to do before – drive down the most challenging variant we’ve ever seen,” Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Tuesday.
“And we’re doing it with a largely unvaccinated population.
“If this strain is allowed to circulate unchecked as it has in other countries, many people will die.”
The number of exposure sites connected to the outbreak has reached 351 and includes country petrol stations in Wallan, Euroa and Glenrowan.
COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said on Tuesday there had been four to five recent instances of people contracting the virus from “fleeting contact”.
“They do not know each other’s names and that is very different from what we have seen before,” he said.
Health Minister Martin Foley said the Indian variant was highly infectious and its faster spread would be a factor in the decision on the lockdown.
“That is one of a range of pieces of evidence the chief health officer (Brett Sutton) and his team will weigh carefully,” he said.
There are now 4800 primary close contacts, with 75 per cent of those returning a negative test.
From Wednesday, aged care and disability workers in Victoria will be able to jump the queue at 10 vaccination centres across the state as part of a five-day jab blitz.
Express lanes exclusively for aged care and disability staff will open from 9am to 4pm, with workers needing to show proof of employment.
It follows the emergence of three cases at the Arcare Maidstone facility, which have been genomically linked to a South Australian hotel quarantine leak, exposing gaps in private aged care vaccinations among workers and residents.
A parliamentary hearing in Canberra on Tuesday was told less than 10 per cent of nursing home staff across Australia had been vaccinated.
Australian Associated Press