ADF personnel assist with COVID-19 testing at Melbourne Showgrounds, Flemington. Picture: Andrew Henshaw
ADF personnel assist with COVID-19 testing at Melbourne Showgrounds, Flemington. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

49 new virus cases, travellers set for mandatory testing

Victoria will enforce mandatory coronavirus testing for returned travellers, with those who refuse required to stay in quarantine for an extra 10 days.

The Andrews Government announced the move on Sunday after signing legal directions on late Saturday night, with authorities pushing ahead to examine those who are currently in isolation but refuse to be tested.

It will mean anyone who does not agree to the testing regime could be placed into hotel quarantine for 24 days.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the government was strengthening its quarantine system to support efforts to test for the virus in COVID-19 hotspots.

"If you're sick, stay home and get tested," he said.

"We're making it easier than ever, but we need everyone to do their part."

It comes as Victoria recorded 49 cases of coronavirus overnight, with just four of these so far linked to existing outbreaks.

But the total number of cases discovered in Victoria since the virus was first found has risen by 41 because eight infections from earlier in the week have been reclassified.

Of the new cases, 26 were found from routine testing and 19 are under investigation.

FLINDERS STREET STATION WORKER TESTS POSITIVE

Thirteen Metro staff are in home quarantine after a worker based at Flinders Street Station tested positive for coronavirus.

In a letter seen by the Sunday Herald Sun, Metro Trains Chief Operating Officer Catherine Baxter said more than a dozen staff came in close contact with employee.

"Through our investigation it was established there were 13 employees from the Station team who had come into contact with the unwell employee," she said.

"Most of these were a short period of time and therefore the risk of transmission would be low.

"This individual did not perform any passenger facing duties nor interface with any other teams outside of the Passenger Experience team during this time."

It is believed all of the close contact employees have been notified of the positive case and told to self-isolate and seek coronavirus testing.

A Metro Trains staff member who wished not to be named said some staff were notified earlier in the day, but he believed the majority were emailed on Saturday evening.

"Customer facing staff such as authorised officers, train drivers and customer service were sent the bulk email at 8pm," he said.

The email further explained the new case is not linked to the ISS contractor who was diagnosed earlier in the week, as the two had no contact and did not work in the same areas of Flinders Street Station.

A Metro spokesman said the employee had not faced passengers over the period they were potentially infectious.

"Safety is Metro's top priority, and we have strict protocols based on expert advice to ensure that our employees and passengers are protected," he said.

"Thorough contact tracing has been done in Metro's facilities and a small number of employees have been asked to self-isolate until they can be tested."

Its understood the employee followed safety advice and stayed home once they began to feel unwell.

Hygiene measures at trains at stations have been ramped up throughout the coronavirus pandemic, with each train deep cleaned every night.

Meanwhile a nurse at the Royal Melbourne Hospital has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting widespread alerts.

Staff, patients and visitors who may have come in contact with the emergency department staffer have been informed after the new case was confirmed.

A statement released by the hospital today said support would be provided to the COVID-19 positive nurse.

"We are providing support to one of our staff members, who works in our emergency department," the statement read.

"Any staff, patients or visitors who may have been affected have been informed and our Infection Prevention and Surveillance Service is providing support."

Additional cleaning and contact tracing is underway in the emergency department with the hospital said to be working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services.

A DHHS spokesman said further information is expected to be provided on this case ON Sunday through its COVID-19 briefing.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital refused to answer further questions on how many patients and staff came in contact with the COVID-19 positive nurse, as the investigation is still ongoing.

PLAN TO CONTROL OUTBREAK

Suburban lockdowns and fines of up to $1600 for travellers quarantined in hotels who refuse coronavirus tests are under consideration in a dramatic bid to halt infections.

With Victoria recording 41 new cases yesterday - the largest jump since April - the state government is considering a return to the severe ­restrictions imposed at the height of the crisis for hot spot suburbs.

The plan comes as new traffic data shows residents in Hume and Casey - two of Melbourne's six hotspot municipalities - are ­ignoring pleas to stay home.

Both areas have this month recorded some of the strongest traffic growth in Melbourne despite high numbers of active coronavirus cases.

Increased frustration with up to 20 per cent of travellers in forced isolation in hotels ­ refusing coronavirus tests has also led to the government seeking legal advice to impose fines of $1600.

A nurse takes a sample from a motorist at Keilor Community Hub. Picture: Ian Currie
A nurse takes a sample from a motorist at Keilor Community Hub. Picture: Ian Currie

Victoria has to find a way around the human rights charter it has signed up to in order to impose the fines.

More than 19,000 people have so far spent time in hotel quarantine, which has been a source of more than 200 cases.

Checkpoints to police people moving in and out of hot spot suburbs are also being considered if infections continue to climb.

The measure would be similar to checks introduced to control an outbreak in Tasmania's northwest in April that saw police on main roads out of targeted areas, checking IDs to stop people leaving without good reason.

A return to draconian restrictions on leaving home in hot spot suburbs is also being considered, with essential shopping, caregiving, exercise, essential study and work being the only reasons to be out.

Authorities are growing increasingly worried about the spread of coronavirus within six municipalities in Melbourne's north and southeast - Hume, Brimbank, Moreland, Darebin, Cardinia and Casey.

The number of cases confirmed statewide yesterday was the biggest daily spike since April 3 and the state's 11th consecutive day of double-digit increases.

Operations manager Ross Adams taking a patrons temperature at the Torquay Hotel. Picture: Rob Leeson.
Operations manager Ross Adams taking a patrons temperature at the Torquay Hotel. Picture: Rob Leeson.


A mass testing blitz will continue today with the help of the armed forces, with residents in some areas sent text messages advising that testing teams would be doorknocking in their suburb.

"We are very concerned,'' Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Annaliese Van Diemen said. "That is why we have ramped up these efforts to really, really, find every possible case that we can find in these areas where the majority of cases are coming from."

Liberal Democrat MP David Limbrick said the idea of forcing Victorians to have a test was "abhorrent".

"These people aren't criminals," he said.

"Maybe the government should be focusing more on communications and management than on policing. Because policing hasn't worked."

Data provided to the Sunday Herald Sun shows worrying travel patterns in areas where the virus continues to spread.

Upal Chandana door knocks houses in Broadmeadows after the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the area. Picture: Andrew Henshaw
Upal Chandana door knocks houses in Broadmeadows after the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the area. Picture: Andrew Henshaw

Sunbury, Campbellfield, Mickleham and Somerton - in the Hume municipality which has 29 active virus cases - have since June 1 recorded some of the biggest weekday traffic increases in Melbourne.

The increases were even more profound on weekends.

Lyndhurst and Doveton in the Casey Council area also had surging traffic, as did Wollert, home to an ongoing outbreak.

Roads Minister Ben Carroll pleaded with Victorians to think about their travel.

"Our message is clear - if you're sick, the only place you should be going is to get tested,'' Mr Carroll said.

Eight of Victoria's latest coronavirus cases were linked to known outbreaks, including one case from a family outbreak in Keilor Downs, a third worker from the Coles' distribution centre at Laverton, and a close contact of a worker at the Stamford Plaza hotel in the CBD.

The cases have put regional Victoria on alert as families head out for the school holidays, including along the Surf Coast where the council is set to equip businesses with thermal scanning equipment to screen guests.

 

The nurse gives the motorist a thumbs up after his test. Picture: Ian Currie
The nurse gives the motorist a thumbs up after his test. Picture: Ian Currie


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