Three-year-old among two new locally acquired cases as Melbourne’s Holiday Inn cluster grows to 16

The Holiday Inn outbreak has grown to 16 cases, with two new locally acquired COVID-19 infections linked to the cluster that has plunged Victoria into a five-day lockdown.

Health Minister Martin Foley confirmed both new locally acquired cases reported on Sunday were connected to the outbreak at the Holiday Inn quarantine hotel at Melbourne Airport.

They are a three-year-old child and woman from separate households who visited a private family function on Sydney Road, Coburg on 6 February.

Both have been in isolation since Friday and returned positive test results on Saturday.

Four new exposure sites have been identified as a result of the new cases and include a Woolworths and bakery at Broadmeadows and two swimming centres at Pascoe Vale.

The function was attended by a hotel quarantine worker who has previously tested positive, Mr Foley said.

Of the 38 people at the function, Victoria’s COVID-19 testing chief Jeroen Weimar said a number had now tested positive.

“It is a notable event and that is now the lead line of our investigation,” he said.

Mr Weimar said the child’s mother had returned three “differing” test results over the past 24 hours.

“Our epidemiologist and specialists are working with her and with our labs to be clear about the nature of what possible infection she may have, whether she is at the start of our infectious period or whether she is coming towards the end,” he said.

“Serology is being done and we will work out over the next few hours exactly where this individual stands.”

Mr Weimar said the woman has workplace contacts at Alfred Health and authorities plan to undertake preliminary testing within that group.

It comes as Victoria’s third lockdown forces millions back into the hardship they thought had been left behind with the lengthy restrictions and economic sacrifices of 2020.

Florists and restaurants hoping to receive bumper trading for Valentine’s Day are gutted at the loss of income they will incur as fresh produce goes unsold.

The outbreak can be traced back to a family of three who quarantined at the Holiday Inn and are believed to have been infected overseas.

One family member, a man now in intensive care, used a medical device for his asthma called a nebuliser in their hotel room, despite them being banned outside of medi-hotels.

The nebuliser’s use has been attributed to the spread of coronavirus at the Holiday Inn.

The man hit back at what he felt was authorities’ criticism of him in an Age newspaper article, claiming he had declared the nebuliser to medical staff at the hotel.

On Saturday, head of the state’s hotel quarantine authority Emma Cassar denied he told staff about it.

“I can categorically say that there is no evidence from our audit that he has raised this with our health team,” she told reporters.

There are close to 940 primary close contacts associated with the Holiday Inn cases who are isolating for 14 days and being tested.

A full list of exposure sites can be found on the Victorian health department website.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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