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Melbourne’s Holiday Inn cluster grows to 13 while airport exposure sparks fears coronavirus has spread interstate

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A coronavirus outbreak linked to the Holiday Inn has gown to 13 cases, sparking fears the city could again go into lockdown, while an exposure at a Melbourne Airport cafe has raised concerns the virus may have travelled interstate.

A total of five new cases were confirmed by the Health Department on Thursday, including two announced at 11pm.

“Both are household primary close contacts of previously announced cases,” the department posted on Twitter.

The cases, which will be included in Friday’s official figures, also include a female assistant manager at the hotel and two men, both partners of female workers who earlier tested positive to COVID-19.

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One of the men may be linked to Camberwell Grammar School in Melbourne’s east.

“We believe there will be some additional exposure sites emerging from some of these cases,” Victoria’s COVID-19 Testing Commander Jeroen Weimar said on Thursday.

“That work needs to be done over the coming hours.”

The Brunetti cafe in Terminal 4 at Melbourne Airport was listed as an exposure site early on Friday morning after it was visited by an infected person on 9 February between 4.45am and 1.15pm.

Anyone who visited the cafe during that time needs to get a COVID-19 test and isolate for 14 days.

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Mr Weimar said authorities were “right on top” of the outbreak, picking up cases among identified contacts who had tested negative just days earlier.

His “working assumption” is all the cases have been infected with the more transmissible UK variant of COVID-19, complicating the containment job for officials.

“This is by no means over,” Mr Weimar said.

Quarantining hotel guest at the Holiday Inn near the Airport are moved to a new location in Melbourne on 10 February, 2021.

AAP

“We are still in the opening quarter of the Holiday Inn outbreak, I’m afraid. We’ve got a lot more work to do.”

The rising threat has raised the prospect of Melbourne going into lockdown again, according to the Herald Sun.

Victorian government advisers met on Thursday to consider how this might happen, the news outlet reported on Friday, citing an unnamed source with knowledge of the discussions.

Jane Halton, who’s on the board of the federal government’s National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, said while the number of new cases was “worrying” their source had also been identified.

“At the moment we are not seeing reports of any cases that have an unidentified source,” she told Nine’s Today Show.

“I really hope we don’t need to lockdown, but everybody right now needs to read that list of what the hotspots are, think about where they have been, get themselves tested.”

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The cluster has prompted several states to tighten their borders to travellers from Greater Melbourne.

South Australia locked out travellers from the Victorian capital at midnight on Thursday, while Queensland will bar entry to visitors of the city’s exposure sites from 1am on Saturday.

Western Australia also announced its hard border to Victoria would be extended for at least another seven days.

In addition to strengthened interstate borders, the outbreak has forced the hotel’s closure, a pause on a planned increase to Victoria’s weekly international traveller’s cap and multiple health alerts for potential exposure sites.

An undeclared nebuliser, used inside the room of an infected family of three, is the suspected cause of the outbreak.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania

With reporting by Jarni Blakkarly

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