Hundreds of Victorians are self-isolating and undergoing testing as a result of two Covid-19 cases linked to a cafe in Kilmore, 60km north of Melbourne.
Meanwhile, in New South Wales, the state health department said three new cases have been identified since 8pm on Tuesday night and all were cases of community transmission “under urgent investigation”.
It prompted NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, to declare “it is unlikely that New South Wales will get to 28 days with no community transmission”, which the Queensland premier has said is required before it reopens its borders.
The source of the Kilmore cases was a person connected to Melbourne’s Chadstone shopping centre outbreak, who obtained a work permit to travel to regional Victoria, and stopped to dine at Oddfellows Cafe in Kilmore during that trip.
The person did not know they were infected at the time of travel but broke the rules by dining in despite being from metropolitan Melbourne, which is still under strict lockdown. People permitted to travel to regional Victoria from metropolitan Melbourne are only allowed takeaway.
The head of Victoria’s Covid-19 testing program, Jeroen Weimar, said on Wednesday: “Kilmore is a highly risky transmission site for us”.
He said the cafe had kept meticulous records of all the people who had been through its establishment, allowing tracers to identify the link to Chadstone shopping centre and 177 people who had been through the cafe through the relevant period of 30 September to 4 October.
“Each of those people has been followed up and as a result we have 177 people and the people that they live with … now self-isolating. That’s a big ask.
“They’re doing that on behalf of the whole community, so we can continue to enjoy the limited freedoms we have and continue to stay on the trajectory we need to be on to free up the rest of the wider state.”
With asymptomatic people undergoing testing and self-isolation, Weimar was asked why those linked to the Chadstone shopping centre were not required to follow suit. Weimar said it was being treated as a separate cluster to Kilmore for logistical and geographic reasons, and this is why the approach had been different.
“The Chadstone cluster has been growing for five or six days,” Weimar said. Three additional cases were linked to the Chadstone cluster overnight, taking the overall number in that cluster to 31.
“We feel we’ve got through 1,300 people in that area. We’ve door-knocked every premise in that area because it’s been a focus … on staff, and staff using common facilities.
“With the cafe, because it’s a specific location, one cafe in Kilmore, one defined set of people who came through that cafe on those three days, we’re asking anybody in that situation to go and get tested because it’s a narrow contact. Clearly anybody in the wider Kilmore community, if you’ve got symptoms, please go and get tested.”
In NSW Berejiklian took aim at Queensland in light of the new cases identified overnight. None of those cases were related to each other – a woman in her 50s from the Camden local government area, a man in his 50s in the Wollondilly area, and a woman in her 50s in the Parramatta area.
“I always said at the outset that what the Queensland government’s definition of what would make it safe for them to open their border was always very high,” she said. “And something unrealistic. I say to the Queensland government, I appreciate you will probably come out today and say the 28 days is ticking from the start.
“I will put to you until the end of the pandemic, it is highly unlikely, highly improbable, that New South Wales will ever get to 28 days with no community transmission. Queensland and WA have the luxury of closing their borders so they have a higher chance of having zero to fewer transmission cases.”
But NSW was different, she said, as the state hosted major events and had major cities and towns close to borders to neighbouring states.
In Victoria the premier, Daniel Andrews, hinted at some flexibility on the requirement of a 14-day rolling average of under five cases in order to lift restrictions on 19 October.
The premier had previously said his state would only move to the next step of reopening if that target was met. But on Wednesday he said this would depend if those cases had identified sources and were part of controlled outbreaks.
“In broad terms, it is possible we get a number that is higher than our target number, but we have certainty and a degree of comfort about the story that sits behind those cases,” Andrews said.
“So the narrative, the story, what sits behind all these cases will be very, very important. We’ve always made that point. I get it. Everyone is on a countdown. Everyone is looking at all sorts of numbers. We are too and, when it’s safe to take a step, we will. We can’t predict what tomorrow’s numbers will look like, let alone another 12 or 14 days on.”
Six new cases were identified throughout Victoria overnight, with two deaths – a woman in her 80s, and a man in his 90s. There are 16 Victorians in hospital, two of whom in intensive care. This takes metropolitan Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average to 9.9 cases, while regional Victoria is at 0.3 cases.