Melbourne lockdown: The promising signs and the key concerns

Melbourne lockdown continues as fresh cases arise.

Melbourne lockdown continues as fresh cases arise. Photo: AAP

Melburnians are desperately waiting for answers about when they will be released from lockdown.

Victoria’s cases climbed to 94 on Monday night and another 18 new exposure sites were named, including a 7-Eleven and takeaway restaurants including McDonalds, Red Rooster and Subway.

Restrictions are tipped to start easing from 11.59pm on Thursday, but there is no guarantee that will happen.

It largely depends on this week’s case numbers.

But even if lockdown is partially lifted, Victorians will still face weeks of coronavirus restrictions.

Adding to public frustration is the Victorian government’s refusal to outline what targets need to be met before ending lockdown, instead preferring to reassess the end date daily.

The promising signs

At first glance, the 11 new locally acquired cases announced on Monday signalled a worrying spike.

But Victoria’s chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton said it was “good news” that all those cases were linked to existing outbreaks.

Of the 11 new cases announced on Monday, nine were effectively already in quarantine and had previously been identified as close contacts.

This means the virus was not spreading through the community.

  • A full list of Victorian COVID exposure sites is here

The concerns

The most concerning outbreak is the West Melbourne cluster, for two key reasons:

  • Contact tracers still don’t know from where it originated
  • Cases have tested positive to the more infectious Delta variant.

That outbreak has grown to 14 cases, after three children and an adult tested positive on Sunday night.

The cluster has become a focal point in the race to contain Victoria’s outbreak because of how fast the variant can spread.

Professor Sutton said the variant was “more dangerous” than others, and that 75 per cent of people catch the strain when they live with a positive case.

Why this outbreak is taking longer to control

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged Victorian leaders to put an end to the lockdown “ASAP”, pointing to the Northern Beaches outbreak in December, where localised lockdowns were contained to specific areas of Sydney.

“Kids have lost enough time out of school over the course of the last 18 months and it’s very important we get those kids back to school as soon as possible, so I am hopeful these restrictions will be lifted as soon as possible,” Mr Morrison said on Monday.

But Professor Sutton says the current outbreak in Victoria is substantially different to previous outbreaks that used snap ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdowns.

This one has been spreading too quickly.

Professor Sutton said the current outbreak in Victoria warranted a significant lockdown, partly because the exposure sites were spread across Melbourne, and not confined to specific suburbs.

Topics: COVID-19
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