VICTORIA has recorded three new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, meaning the total number of active cases in the state is now thirty-two.
It brings to 21 the number of infections linked to Melbourne’s Black Rock cluster seeded by NSW’s northern beaches outbreak.
The new cases were detected among 22,477 test results processed in the state on Saturday as long lines are experienced at testing sites.
Sites have been opened longer to meet demand from travellers returning from NSW who require tests as well as those identified as close contacts and those who have been in exposure sites.
Acting Premier Jacinta Allan said travellers returning from NSW have received a text message alert with information about what they are required to do on their return to Victoria.
She thanked people for their patience and staff for returning early from leave to provide extra help at testing sites.
“Victorians are doing a great job following the rules, wearing masks, practising COVID-safe behaviour,” she said. “This is all contributing to the low number of cases.”
Testing capacity was scaled back over the Christmas period, but more is now being added, with more than 190 testing sites operating across Victoria on Sunday. Additional sites will also be opened.
Primary close contacts of existing cases are prioritised for testing.
A total of 13 of the 21 cases dined at the restaurant in Black Rock on 21 December, Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said.
“The other eight cases are all linked, either directly or indirectly, basically through family gatherings at Christmas,” he said.
The source of the infection is unknown, but genomic testing results show the cases are linked to the NSW cluster.
There are about 220 close contacts of the cases in quarantine.
The state recorded no new cases acquired interstate or detected in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.
Just five days ago, the state had been on a two-month streak of no community transmission.
Genomic sequencing has found the latest Victorian cases originated from Sydney’s Croydon and northern beaches clusters.
Health Minister Martin Foley earlier acknowledged the widespread disruption created by closing Victoria’s border with NSW, but made no apologies.
“Given all that we’ve sacrificed last year, I don’t think Victorians would expect anything else from the government that wants to keep their safety and their wellbeing as its first priority,” he said.
The border closed at midnight on Friday. Now, anyone who tries to cross into Victoria with be turned back. The only people who can freely cross from NSW to Victoria are essential workers, such as freight drivers, and border community members along the Murray River with permits.
Others must apply for an exemption via the coronavirus hotline on 1800 675 398.
A total of 1500 people had on Sunday applied for an exemption to return to Victoria after the border closure.
Other states and territories have made increasing efforts throughout the week to protect themselves against infections from Victoria.
WA has reimposed a hard border with Victoria and other states are selectively shutting their borders to anyone who has been in the same location as a confirmed case.
Victorian exposure sites are now in: Black Rock, Brighton, Cape Schank, Cheltenham, Doveton, Forrest Hill, Fountain Gate Shopping Centre, Hallam, Glen Waverley, Lakes Entrance, Leongatha, Mentone, Mordialloc, Melbourne CBD, Moorabbin, Mount Waverley, Oakleigh, Southbank, and Wonthaggi.
Specific locations within those suburbs can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website.