How Victoria got COVID strategy all wrong
VICTORIAN health officials will go door-to-door in coronavirus hot spots in a desperate bid to bring a spike in cases under control, as experts believe restrictions in the state could have been eased too early.
There were 16 more cases of COVID-19 reported in Victoria yesterday, including a fourth Black Lives Matter protester, while no new cases were found in Queensland and there were only two in NSW.
Victoria now has 125 active cases in a dramatic spike that yesterday led to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian pleading with residents in her state not to travel to Melbourne.
Government employees have started doorknocking residents in affected suburbs to provide the community with more information and advice about symptoms.
Experts have pointed to restrictions possibly being eased too early and asymptomatic cases being missed by contact tracing as a potential source of the surge, which threatens to undo months of work in neighbouring states that have nearly eliminated the virus.
Restrictions in Victoria were eased on June 1, with households allowed up to 20 visitors at a time despite continuing community transmission at meat factories, fast food restaurants and doctors practices.
Family gatherings are now being blamed for a spike in new cases, with QUT virologist Associate Professor Ian Mackay saying household transmission had been "underestimated".
"I think that sort of spread is really where we need to be focusing at the moment," Prof Mackay said.
"It's almost impossible to stop (coronavirus) from spreading in a household setting."
The Victorian Government this week reversed course, limiting household visitors to just five people.
Victorian restrictions were also likely eased too soon given recent "areas of outbreaks" such as at the Cedar Meats facility, which saw more than 100 cases.
"Perhaps Victoria did open up too early," Prof Mackay said. "Right now Victoria … is at the tipping point.
"They need to make sure they're on top of things and find those sources so they can test and isolate them."
University of New South Wales Professor Raina MacIntyre said coronavirus clusters were difficult to detect, even with contact tracing, due to asymptomatic transmission.
"An outbreak has got to be pretty big before we pick it up, so I don't think we got rid of it," Dr MacIntyre said.
"I think there always was some, maybe some of the big outbreaks like the meat packing plant led to some chains of transmission that weren't picked up."
She said high rates of asymptomatic transmission and mild infection meant outbreaks took time to be identified.
University of Queensland professor and former Queensland Chief Medical Officer Gerry Fitzgerald said the situation in Victoria was "worrying" and had the potential to undo months of work from health authorities in Queensland.
"If it gets out again and spreads around the country, then we've basically lost all the gains we've made, which is very sad," Dr Fitzgerald said.
"Obviously they've still got a problem down there.
"It makes keeping the borders closed more important."
Of the 16 Victorian cases announced yesterday, four were detected in returned travellers in hotel quarantine, with one under investigation.
A fourth Black Lives Matter protester who tested positive is linked to an outbreak at a H&M store.
A close contact has also been linked to the shopping centre cluster, bringing the total of that outbreak to four.
Two teachers from Albanvale Primary School in Melbourne have tested positive, with one teacher infectious while working at the school from June 15 to 17.
The school is closed and contact tracing is under way.
And another two security contractors from an outbreak at the Stamford Plaza hotel - where people returning from overseas are being quarantined - have tested positive, bringing that outbreak to 14.
Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles credited the rapid response of Queensland's health services with keeping the pandemic in check in this state - but warned we have all "seen how quickly things can change".
"That's why we must be so careful and strategic in our approach to easing restrictions," he said.
"We are moving forward, taking small but safe steps to get Queensland back to normal."
Originally published as How Victoria got COVID strategy all wrong