Australia Victoria wakes to its fifth lockdown. Here's how we got there again

23:28  17 july  2021
23:28  17 july  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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What a difference a mere few days make.

It was only on Sunday that Victoria recorded it's 11th-straight day of zero new cases and Victorians in New South Wales were being urged to hurry home.

But today, the state is waking up to its fifth lockdown of the pandemic, leaving many dismayed Victorians to question what went wrong so rapidly.

How many cases do we have?

There are 24 cases that are all linked to the New South Wales outbreak.

These latest cases involve the Delta strain, the dangerously infectious variant that has been creating havoc around the world for months.

Where did they come from?

Unlike Victoria's last lockdown, which was triggered by a hotel quarantine leak in Adelaide, this latest lockdown has been sparked by so-called "incursions" of the virulent Delta strain from New South Wales.

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A limousine driver caught the virus from a flight crew and started spreading it in Sydney four weeks ago.

The virus has now entered Victoria from two Sydney sources.

Most of the new cases have been linked to removalists who are confirmed to have breached freight conditions by not wearing masks while visiting the Ariele apartment complex in Maribyrnong on July 8.

The removalists stopped at several locations now listed on the state's growing list of exposure sites as they travelled through Melbourne before heading to South Australia.

The second chain of transmission is linked to a Craigieburn family who recently returned from a New South Wales red zone.

One of the members of that family left home isolation to visit a Coles supermarket at Craigieburn Central shopping centre, where a man in his 30s contracted the virus.

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What about exposure sites?

The state now has more than 120 exposure sites.

The MCG is one of the key sites of concern.

The trigger point for the lockdown was the discovery that at least three people caught the virus at the football at the MCG on Saturday.

The match was attended by a COVID-positive case who was asymptomatic who lives at the Ariele apartment complex.

The transmission between strangers who weren't sitting together and were in an outdoor setting is troubling public health officials.

Victoria's COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar said the MCG cases had put the state "in a serious situation"

Clinical epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baxter said she was concerned by the MCG cases.

"This is an outdoor environment, not usually where we find transmission … so it makes you concerned about how many people on that level may potentially turn positive.

"That was on the 10th [of July] so those people have been in the community for a considerable amount of time," Professor Baxter, who is also the head of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, said.

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As well as the MCG, exposure sites also include supermarkets, public transport and schools.

As the state's school students return again to online lessons from home today, three schools had already closed temporarily after being caught up in the fast-moving outbreak.

A student at St Patrick's Primary School in Murrumbeena tested positive to COVID-19, forcing the school to close.

Barwon Heads Primary School and Bacchus Marsh Grammar also closed temporarily earlier this week.

An infected person was at the Barwon Heads school earlier this week and a case was at Bacchus Marsh Grammar on a staff development day on Monday.

This snap lockdown all feels really fast

That's because it is.

Dismayed Victorians could be forgiven for feeling bewildered by the rapidity at which the virus has spread.

We went from zero known cases to more than 20 in just a few days.

Yesterday, Mr Weimar said there were now seven rings of cases and their contacts, which tracers had reached "exceptionally quickly" within 72 hours.

"This is probably the fastest response we have ever seen to an outbreak that is moving more quickly than we have ever seen here in Victoria or, I suspect, anywhere else in Australia," Mr Weimar said.

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How long will it last?

We'd love to be able to tell you.

At the media conference late yesterday afternoon, Daniel Andrews said it would last five days, but also said he couldn't guarantee it.

There was a possibility, he said, that regional Victorians might come out of lockdown sooner, depending on public health advice.

It was the state's Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Dan O'Brien who recommended the five-day duration.

"We think in five days we can have a very good idea of where we're at and we're really hopeful that we can be around it by then," Dr O'Brien said.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Toole from Melbourne's Burnet Institute was cautiously optimistic when asked what he thought the chances were that Victoria could get on top of the outbreak in five days.

"I think they're good, we've shown that before.

"Anything to do with Delta raises the bar in terms of everything you do, the contact tracing, the testing, the compliance to the restrictions all has to be very, very good.

"Otherwise it will get away from us and we've seen — just look north of our country to Indonesia — it's just out of control," he said.

However, as Victorians are keenly aware, lockdowns are notorious for being extended.

Sydney's lockdown has already been extended.

Victoria's third lockdown in February lasted for five days, with restrictions lifting fairly rapidly when it was over.

But the fourth lockdown in late May, slated as a seven-day "circuit-breaker", stretched to 14 days as more cases emerged.

The tight restrictions stayed in place even after the lockdown officially ended.

Victoria was just slowly easing out of that lockdown, with mask rules only recently relaxed and caps on social gatherings and hospitality still in place.

Professor Nancy Baxter said any further cases from the MCG would be key to how long the lockdown lasted.

"There could be a large amount of spread from this event, so I think that five days will give them time to actually understand how far it has spread.

"If it has spread far, it will not be a 5-day lockdown, it will be longer.

"But if there are not a lot of cases from that, if that is not a super spreader event, then we may be able to get a lockdown of only five days," she said.

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