Daniel Andrews says the state has a long way to go before stage four restrictions can be eased. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS

Health

Vic expands tests, ‘patient zero’ ID’d

2020-08-15 07:42:22

New COVID-19 testing sites will be opened in Victoria’s major regional centres as reports emerge over the identity of “patient zero” for the state’s deadly second wave.

The Age newspaper is reporting leaked emails identify a night duty manager at one of the quarantine hotels in Melbourne’s CBD reported coming down with coronavirus on May 25, presumably contracting it from a returned traveller.

The botched program that used private security guards has long been blamed for sparking the second wave.

The report comes as the government launches new testing sites at Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo after collectively recording more than 250 cases in the past 14 days.

Operating hours and staff will be increased at pre-existing sites in the cities too.

Those awaiting test results will potentially be able to claim an extra $150, with the coronavirus hardship isolation payment lifted to $450.

Premier Daniel Andrews said more data would develop a “clearer picture” of the outbreaks, while deputy chief health officer Allen Cheng hoped it would “obviate the need for stage four” in the regional centres.

It came as Victoria recorded 278 new cases and eight deaths on Thursday, bringing the state’s death toll from the virus to 275 and the national figure to 361.

Four of the deaths were connected to outbreaks at aged care facilities.

In an effort to stem the state’s 2018 active cases across 125 aged care facilities, the Victorian government has assumed control of three Melbourne centres.

The facilities – Glenlyn Aged Care, Florence Aged Care and Klyna Aged Care – are a mixture of private and not-for-profit operators.

In the latest development to Victoria’s hotel quarantine scheme, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos was removed from some responsibilities and replaced by Attorney-General Jill Hennessy.

Thursday marked the lowest number of new cases since July 20, when the state recorded 275 cases.

But Mr Andrews said the state had a “long, long way to go” before stage four restrictions could be rolled back.