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Victoria has recorded five new locally acquired COVID-19 cases and one in hotel quarantine in the past 24 hours to midnight as contact tracers chase down the Delta strain detected in Melbourne’s inner-city outbreak.
Health authorities delivered 24,263 vaccine doses and received 36,362 tests from Victorians throughout the state.
The new coronavirus outbreak discovered in Melbourne on Friday dashed hopes of an early end to the city’s lockdown.
Genomics testing found it was the more infectious Delta variant that has spread through India and is causing increasing alarm in the UK.
Infectious diseases specialists remained hopeful that Melbourne’s stay-at-home orders will be lifted next week as planned but warned restrictions, including the wearing of masks indoors, will need to remain in place for weeks.
The new cluster has been linked back to a West Melbourne family of four who had recently returned from holidaying in Jervis Bay in NSW and has since spread to two adults and a grade 5 pupil of another family, whose children attend the same North Melbourne Primary School.
“It’s a variant of significant concern,” said Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
The discovery means there are now two separate outbreaks of coronavirus in Victoria.
The first originated from South Australia hotel quarantine and is the less infectious Kappa variant of coronavirus, but the origin of the newest seven-case Delta cluster remains a mystery, with public health officials still unsure if it was seeded in Victoria or interstate.
Their working theory is that the virus was transmitted in the school’s year 5 classroom between two children. The first grade 5 student infected was at school for up to three days while infectious.
While epidemiologists said it was incredibly concerning to have a new outbreak of the Delta variant in Melbourne, they also said it couldn’t have happened at a “luckier” time, when the city was in lockdown.
Burnet Institute epidemiologist Professor Mike Toole said studies of the variant indicated it was up to 60 per cent more infectious than the so-called UK strain. This means it is roughly twice as infectious as the Wuhan strain which plunged Victoria into lockdown last year.
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