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The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has urged people to remain cautious about coronavirus as the weather heats up, with an outbreak at a Melbourne butcher’s shop spreading to a regional area.
Three of the 12 new cases reported in Victoria on Sunday were linked to The Butcher Club in Chadstone, including one person who lives in the Mitchell shire, just north of the metropolitan area. It brings the number of active cases in regional Victoria to three.
Andrews also announced a man in his 80s in an aged care facility had died, bringing the state’s death toll to 806.
The chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said casual contact or shared facilities such as the public toilets in Chadstone contributed to the transmission linked to the butcher.
“So it is a salient lesson,” he said. “People who work closely together can be part of a cluster, and all of their household contacts then become the secondary cases, and then the tertiary cases are where some of those household contacts go to their essential workplaces, again, before potentially they are infectious.”
Six of the new cases are still under investigation and three have been linked to an outbreak at a medical centre in the eastern suburbs.
The rolling 14-day average in Victoria is 11.9. There have been 13 cases with an unknown source – or mystery cases – reported in the past 14 days. Andrews was confident that number could drop to a rolling average of five in two weeks, in time for Melbourne to move to the next stage of eased restrictions.
New South Wales reported no new locally transmitted cases on Sunday for the ninth day in a row. There were two cases in hotel quarantine.
The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced that public servants would start returning to work from this week.
“We are now encouraging public servants to physically return to work in their offices in a Covid-safe way, which will help stimulate city-based businesses and create more jobs across the state,” the Liberal leader said.
“The government will continue to review health advice and aim to ensure we keep people safe and at the same time allow them to return to their normal lives as much as possible.”
Berejiklian said due to the state’s public health orders and the four-square-metre rule, the number of employees returning would vary depending on available office space. Employees will be urged to travel outside peak times to help maintain social distancing on public transport.
The NSW treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, said: “This is an important step and as workers return safely to the city it will help boost confidence and support businesses who have suffered over the past six months.”
Unions last week said they were considering legal and industrial action over a “diabolical and disgraceful” decision by the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission to award public sector workers a 0.3% pay rise instead of the usual 2.5% increase.
Andrews on Sunday urged Melburnians not to gather in large groups, as was reported on St Kilda beach on Friday, just because the weather was warming up.
“If you want to spend summer at the beach, then that will be the time to do that if we don’t do anything silly, anything selfish, right now,” the Labor leader said.
“I want to thank all of those Victorians who were going to the beach and did so in full accordance with the rules. All of those Victorians who went to the park, who followed the rules and were able to connect with others, were able to get some sunshine and some fresh air. Heaven knows Victorians have earned it. But it’s got to be done in the right way.”
Sutton said the number of mystery cases in Victoria remained “a concern” – with three new cases. The new mystery cases were recorded in the areas in and around East Malvern, Caulfield East, Caroline Springs, Deer Park and Braybrook, and he said that was a “call to arms” for people in those areas to be on high alert for symptoms.
“One single case of unknown acquisition … might represent five true cases out there, might represent 10 or 15 true cases out there, because we don’t know where they got it from,” Sutton said.
He said the decentralised public health system, with more local contact tracing teams to be announced soon, was “a really critical evolution” that would remain in place post-pandemic. Victoria has been criticised for waiting until September to digitise and decentralise its contact tracing system which was overwhelmed at the start of the second wave.
Sutton said he always preferred a decentralised public health model – which is what is in place in NSW: “The ability to understand that on-the-ground intelligence is much greater and the agility and flexibility as well as the surge capability, because you got those in place ongoing, is much greater.”