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James Merlino says next 24 hours ‘critical’ as Melbourne COVID-19 cluster grows to 15 after six new cases recorded

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Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino says the next 24 hours will be critical and he cannot rule out “further action” after the state recorded another six locally-acquired COVID-19 cases overnight.

There are now 15 cases linked to Melbourne’s coronavirus cluster, and at least 23 active cases in the state.

Mr Merlino on Wednesday morning said all confirmed cases were linked, but the government was “very concerned by the number and by the kind of exposure sites”.


It follows news that one of the infected people in the growing cluster attended an AFL match on the weekend.

“I want to be upfront with everyone this morning. I cannot rule out taking some further action, but we’ll update people as soon as know,” Mr Merlino told reporters.

“It’s fair to say that the next 24 hours are going to be particularly critical.”

The infected AFL fan was at the Collingwood-Port Adelaide game at the MCG on Sunday 23 May, sitting in Zone 4, Level 1 of the Great Southern Stand at the Punt Road end.

Spectators who sat in the same area are being contacted by Victoria’s Health Department using data from tickets and QR codes. They will have to get tested and isolate until they test negative.

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Others who sat in the surrounding area are being told to go for testing if they develop symptoms.

Mr Merlino said authorities had been able to quickly access the information needed to contact spectators who needed to get tested and isolate.

“The AFL and the MCC have prepared for this moment. There’s been extensive work over a long period of time between our public health team and our stadium management,” he said.

However, there is still more work to do, with authorities also looking at CCTV footage.

“We’ll keep working through the interviews and further information, and there’ll be more meetings over the course of the day,” Mr Merlino said.

Virus spreading beyond Whittlesea

While the outbreak started in the northern suburbs, country Bendigo and Port Melbourne now feature among more than 40 exposure sites listed on the state health department’s website – well up on Tuesday’s 10.

The exposure sites now include tier one locations in Coburg and Fitzroy, as well as Port Melbourne.

A bar at inner-suburban Prahran also posted on social media that it is now listed as a tier 1b exposure site, while 

RMIT has revealed that an external contractor who visited the university last Friday has since tested positive for COVID-19.

The growing number of exposure sites and their locations show the virus potentially spreading well beyond Whittlesea and surrounding areas.

In response to the unfolding outbreak, home gatherings are now limited to five visitors per day and public gatherings restricted to 30 people until at least 4 June.

Masks are mandatory indoors for people 12 and over, but can be taken off for eating, drinking and exercise.

Schools and workplaces remain open, as are shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs and existing density limits apply.

The restrictions apply to Greater Melbourne, or people travelling into regional Victoria.

Outbreak linked to hotel quarantine case

Genomic sequencing shows the outbreak is linked to the case of a Wollert man, who contracted the virus in South Australian quarantine earlier this month.

The man, in his 60s, could be the possible “source case” for the City of Whittlesea outbreak, although a definitive link is yet to be established.

Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia have all significantly tightened their borders to Victoria while stopping short of completely slamming them shut for most travellers.

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