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Two cases mean restrictions may ease, but no 'snap back'


Melburnians have been warned not to expect a “snap back” to relaxed coronavirus restrictions when the lockdown ends.

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Victoria has reported two new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 as a decision on ending Melbourne’s lockdown draws nearer.

The two infections were detected in the 24 hours to midnight on Monday, taking the total number of local cases to 85.

The Department of Health confirmed both are linked to the current outbreaks, which involve the Delta and Kappa variants.

An overseas acquired case was also found in hotel quarantine.

Victoria recorded 11 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Monday, including two linked to the Arcare Maidstone aged care facility reported on Sunday.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Melbourne’s lockdown was on track to end at 11.59pm on Thursday, though he ruled out a return to the relaxed restrictions in place before the outbreak.

“It is certainly not a snap-back to large gatherings and a full MCG,” he said.

Asked what restrictions would look like come Friday, he said: “It’s not something I can speak to now. It’s early days still”.

Acting Premier James Merlino had previously flagged Melbourne would move to a similar set of restrictions to that of regional Victoria, with people unable to travel during the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was hopeful restrictions would be lifted soon.

“I would be urging that we move toward lifting those restrictions as soon as possible,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Some 24,265 Victorians were tested on Sunday and 17,719 received a vaccine dose at state-run sites.

Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed four of the new cases were linked to the state’s outbreak of the Delta variant, which originated in India.

He said the cases – three children and an adult – were close contacts of people who had already tested positive for COVID-19.

The Delta variant outbreak now totals 14, though authorities are no closer to finding out how a family from West Melbourne first contracted the variant.

It has not been found anywhere in Australia outside hotel quarantine.

Prof Sutton said authorities were combing through genomic sequencing data from across the country for answers.

“All jurisdictions are still looking to see if they can re-sequence any of their partially sequenced cases to see if anything can come up as a match, but nothing thus far,” he said.

Asked if a foreign diplomat may have spread the virus, given they are exempt from hotel quarantine, Professor Sutton replied: “We simply don’t know. I wouldn’t rule anything in or out”.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly later told reporters there hadn’t been a genomic match between the variant and any diplomat.

“We are following every lead as to where this has come from,” he said.

Prof Sutton said only about 10 people arriving in Victoria from overseas had received permission to quarantine at home since the beginning of April.

Four of the new cases are linked to the city’s outbreak of the Kappa variant, which began in the City of Whittlesea and spread to several locations across Melbourne, including Port Melbourne.

That outbreak now totals 33 active cases in Whittlesea and 31 in Port Melbourne.

One of the cases is a cleaner at a construction site in Queen Street in Melbourne’s CBD, which has been listed as a Tier 1 exposure site.

About 400 of 500 close contacts linked to the site have tested negative so far.

The remaining three cases are linked to an outbreak of the Kappa variant at Arcare Maidstone in Melbourne’s northwest, two of which were announced on Sunday.

The additional case is an aged care worker.

Testing commander Jeroen Weimar said a new workforce had started at the facility to replace those required to quarantine for 14 days.

He said more than 5800 people are quarantining after coming into contact with a positive case and there are 350 exposure sites across Victoria.

About 1000 people had ended quarantine following a negative day 13 test.

Meanwhile, the state government has announced a $30 million package of food and support payments for communities disproportionately affected by the latest lockdown.

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