Victoria records one new local COVID-19 case, one in quarantine as lockdown continues

Victoria has recorded two new coronavirus cases – one locally acquired case and one in hotel quarantine – on the third day of its hard, five-day lockdown amid the Holiday Inn outbreak.

Monday also marked the start of three days of remote learning for Victorian school children who missed months of in-class learning last year.

On Sunday, health officials revealed a three-year-old and a woman aged in her 50s had contracted the virus, bringing the size of the cluster that began at Melbourne Airport’s Holiday Inn hotel to 16.

The mother of the three-year-old child, who works for Alfred Health, is also suspected of having the virus and authorities are reviewing her test results.

They attended a family function in Coburg on February 6 with a Holiday Inn worker who had not yet been identified as a close contact and returned an exceptionally rare “false-negative” test the following day.

A man in his 30s from Point Cook, who also attended the function, was identified as a positive case on Saturday.

Victoria’s public health team was stymied for several days in identifying the Coburg function as a high-risk exposure site because of the false-negative test. But authorities are confident they have now ring-fenced the cluster.

The Queen Victoria Market and three tram routes were added to the growing list of exposure sites on Sunday night.

There are renewed calls for quarantine facilities to be in regional areas in Victoria, with Burnet Institute epidemiologist Professor Mike Toole suggesting Avalon, Bendigo and Ballarat as possible alternatives. Victoria has paused international arrivals amid the latest outbreak.

But Victoria’s opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said NSW had shown that quarantine facilities could work in major cities.

“[Premier] Daniel Andrews has to admit he’s got it wrong and he needs to go to NSW and get help,” Ms Crozier told Melbourne station 3AW this morning.

“They’re doing it right, they’ve been able to manage this … we have not, we have failed time and time again.”

The Australian Medical Association has also taken aim at Victoria’s hotel quarantine system which Mr Andrews recently lauded as the best in the country.

“It is really frustrating that some of the clinical expertise and the hundreds of hours that a multidisciplinary team has put in, in terms of healthcare worker infection prevention, to come up with some excellent recommendations … have not been listened to and have not been implemented,” the AMA’s Dr Sarah Whitelaw told the Today show.

“Clearly there are communication problems between the Department of Health and COVID Quarantine Victoria which needs to be fixed before we go forward,” she said.

“We made a lot of improvements in Victoria … [but] we’re clearly not ready to handle the risk that quarantine poses under the current system. We’ve got some improvements to make.”

Meanwhile, a church in Melbourne’s south-east is under police investigation after footage emerged showing about 50 worshippers gathering without masks, singing and praying on Sunday despite the state’s stage-four lockdown.

The service at Revival Christian Church in Narre Warren was filmed by right-wing YouTube activist Avi Yemini, who purports to work as a journalist for Rebel Media.

Outside the church, the leader told police: “I guess the question is do I obey God, or do I obey man? And so I have chosen today to open up the church and to keep my doors open to the people in obedience under God.”

In a statement, police said officers were called to a religious service on Victor Crescent about 11am on Sunday and would issue the organiser with an infringement notice for breaching the directions of the Chief Health Officer.

“There were also several people seated at an adjoining café connected with the religious group,” police said.

“People dispersed without incident upon police arrival. The investigation into the incident remains ongoing with inquiries being made in relation to possible incitement offences.”

A Facebook page associated with the church has previously shared discredited conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and claimed lockdown directions are unlawful.

Last year Mr Yemini launched legal action against the state of Victoria, as the responsible body for Victoria Police, over his arrest at two anti-lockdown protests, accusing the force of false imprisonment, battery and hindering his career as a journalist. He also raised $100,000 through crowdfunding for a constitutional challenge against the lockdown.

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