Australian News

Victoria in the midst of ‘second wave’ of COVID-19, Australian health experts say

Infectious disease experts across the country are calling on authorities to lockdown coronavirus hot spots in Victoria.

It comes after the state recorded 75 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, the largest increase since 70 cases were recorded on March 31 and Victoria’s fourth-highest single day increase since the start of the pandemic.

And South Australia has dumped its plan to lift quarantine measures for Victoria, NSW and the ACT next month on the latest health advice.

Professor of Hospital Infection and Infectious Diseases Control at the University of New South Wales Mary-Louise McLaws said Victoria was experiencing a resurgence of “epic proportion”.

“Victoria has had three distinct risk categories – community that is mostly family clusters, quarantine hotel staff, and health providers … but what is particularly driving this is the interconnection between these three risk groups,” she said.

Professor McLaws said instructions about wearing masks needed to be clearer.

“It’s time the authorities accepted the WHO Mask Guidelines for people living in areas with high infection and those who find themselves in situations where they cannot keep physical distancing such as in public transport and hot spots,” she said.

The messaging that masks only work by protecting uninfected persons from an infected person who is wearing the mask is not correct – otherwise why do health workers wear a mask while carrying for someone with COVID.”

Griffith University School of Environment and science professor Hamish McCallum said Victoria was “clearly” in the midst of a second wave of coronavirus.

“Certainly, the rise in daily reported cases looks qualitatively very similar to the initial wave in March. However, this does need to be viewed in terms of the increased testing and relaxation of the criteria for testing,” he said.

“We will be seeing more asymptomatic cases among these positives than was the case back in March.

“Victoria‘s percentage of positive tests is now less than 0.5 per cent, whereas it was about 2 per cent in mid-March.”

Director of the UQ Centre for Clinical Research at the The University of Queensland Professor David Paterson said Victoria’s weakness was “leakage” from quarantine.

“Quarantine hotel workers were not adequately trained in infection prevention and the quarantined travellers were not cleared prior to release,” he said.

“This weakness, coupled with community complacency, has led to further spread in the community.”

Meanwhile, South Australia has scrapped a plan to lift all its remaining border restrictions next month amid the spike in coronavirus cases in Victoria.

Premier Steven Marshall said the July 20 date to lift quarantine measures for Victoria, NSW and the ACT had been abandoned on the latest health advice. He said SA may move separately on NSW and the ACT, but no date had yet been set with the state’s transition committee to consider that issue on Friday.

“We are increasingly concerned about the outbreaks which are occurring in Victoria,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“At this stage, we cannot possibly lift that border (with Victoria) on the 20th July as we were hoping to do.” Mr Marshall said the decision would also mean any AFL teams coming into South Australia from Victoria would be required to isolate for two weeks, as well as any returning SA teams that played in Melbourne.

“We apologise to the many people who will have to make changes but our number one priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of all South Australians,” he said.

SA previously lifted its border quarantine measures for Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory and remained on track to do the same for other jurisdictions until the surge in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne. On Monday, 75 new infections were reported there, after 90 new cases over the weekend.

SA also reported three new cases on Monday, but all among about 260 Australians repatriated from India on Saturday.

In response to Victoria’s spike in cases, South Australia has also bolstered its policing of the border, with 260 officers stationed there to check on people entering the state.

Greater surveillance of backroads is also being conducted.

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