Victoria has recorded five new local cases of COVID-19 as the state enters its second day of lockdown and authorities continue scrambling to contain an extra-infectious variant of the virus.
Four of the new community cases are linked to the City of Whittlesea cluster and the fifth is linked to the Port Melbourne outbreak.
Friday’s caseload came from a record 56,624 tests and brought the number of active infections in the state to 45.
It’s the second day in a row of lower case and higher testing numbers, after 47,462 tests on Thursday revealed four new local infections.
In addition to the new community cases announced on Saturday morning, two extra infections were recorded in hotel quarantine.
Vaccination rates have also increased to record levels, with 21,626 doses administered on Friday compared to 17,223 on Thursday.
Victoria’s mass vaccination centres began administering Pfizer shots for those aged 40 to 49 on Friday.
Technical issues with booking systems have been causing delays and long waits in recent days, and some walk-ins have reported being turned away from vaccine centres.
Members of the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s music therapy team were photographed playing guitar for people waiting in line at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre hub on Friday.
The number of exposure sites in the state has grown past 150 and now also includes a flu vaccination centre in the Melbourne suburb of Preston.
More than 15,000 primary and secondary contacts to date have been told to self-isolate after coming into contact with a COVID case.
Victoria’s testing chief Jeroen Weimar said on Saturday 62 per cent of the 3,000 primary and close contacts in the state’s contact tracing system had so far returned negative tests.
Most of the state’s COVID-19 infections are linked to the City of Whittlesea cluster and include confirmed cases of the infectious B1617 strain, first identified in India.
Victorians are now in their fourth lockdown since the start of the pandemic and can only leave home for five reasons: to shop for food and essential items, to provide or receive care, for exercise, work or study, or to get vaccinated.
Health Minister Martin Foley said it was still “too early” to say whether the lockdown would go longer than the slated seven days.
At least three people were also arrested on Saturday at an anti-lockdown protest at Melbourne’s Flagstaff Gardens.
Acting Premier James Merlino has said the federal government is to blame for the state’s latest outbreak, pinning it on the sluggish vaccine rollout and failures in hotel quarantine.
The federal opposition has also seized on comments from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that getting Australians inoculated was not a “race”.
On Saturday, federal Liberal MP Jason Falinski defended the rollout, saying it must be done “deliberately” and “sensibly”.
“We’ve had less than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19, and each of those deaths has been a tragedy,” he told the ABC.
“But compared to any other nation in the world, that’s a remarkable outcome, so we have the luxury of being able to roll this vaccine out sensibly and do it in a staged fashion.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt was grilled on the delayed rollout on Friday, a day after he revealed that as of Thursday morning there were still 74 aged care homes across the country that had not received vaccines, almost two months after the original deadline.
He told reporters all aged care facilities would receive vaccines by the end of Friday.