Race to find Vic mystery outbreak source

Authorities are racing to find the source of several mystery COVID-19 cases in Melbourne’s southeast, as the state recorded 24 new infections.

Fifteen COVID-19 cases have been linked to the beachside suburb of St Kilda in recent days, six of which are being treated as mystery infections.

They include a sex worker, who tested positive for the virus after presenting at an emergency department. 

“I stress there is no evidence of transmission having occurred because of this person’s sex work occupation,” Health Minister Martin Foley told reporters on Wednesday.

“But out of caution, we are asking that if you have employed a sex worker in the St Kilda area, you need to come forward and get tested, no matter where you are.”

A close contact of the woman has also tested positive for COVID-19. It is not known which one of them contracted the virus first. 

Several other contacts of the sex worker have been tested, including about 75 per cent of residents at a social housing complex where she lives, and they have returned negative results. 

The remaining residents will receive their test results on Wednesday. 

Sacred Heart Mission Dining Hall in St Kilda and the Salvation Army in Melbourne have also been listed as tier-two exposure sites, with people who visited during specified time periods required to get tested. 

Mr Foley said authorities were working with the community health sector to ensure vulnerable Victorians were informed of the situation, while a drive-through and walk-up testing centre has been set up at the Palais Theatre car park. 

A cohealth spokeswoman told AAP they have been working tirelessly to vaccinate Victorians experiencing homelessness and disadvantage. 

“The people we’re encountering want to do the right thing, and have been highly compliant with mask-wearing and other health advice,” she said.

“People who are without a secure home are acutely aware of how vulnerable they are to contracting COVID.”

COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar urged anyone who lives or works in St Kilda to come forward for testing, regardless of whether they have any symptoms. 

“We think there is an index case we have not yet detected,” he said. 

Mr Weimar said the St Kilda cases only share geography in common. 

“We have within that cluster accountants, we have architects, we have a sex worker, we have members of the Orthodox Jewish community and a pizza guy,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state government has launched a new advertising campaign urging people with cold and flu symptoms to get tested for COVID-19.

According to new data, many people still assume cold and flu symptoms are not related to COVID-19 and less than half the number of people who experience such symptoms get tested. 

Of Monday’s 24 cases, 20 have been linked to existing outbreaks, while 18 were in quarantine while infectious.

Of the 246 active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria, 56 are aged nine or under and 55 are aged between 10 and 19.

Twelve people with COVID-19 remain in hospital, including a person aged in their 20s and a person aged in their 40s in intensive care. 

Melbourne is 13 days into its sixth lockdown, which was extended on Monday until September 2.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said the government needed to unveil its plan to get out of lockdown. 

Full list of exposure sites available at https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/exposure-sites

A drive-through and walk-up testing centre has been set up outside the Palais Theatre in St Kilda. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS

Source https://www.aap.com.au/fear-mounts-over-melbournes-mystery-cases/

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