Australia

Victoria records 13 new local COVID-19 cases as state braces for extended lockdown

Victorians are set to learn how long lockdown will be extended as authorities buy time for contact tracers to beat an outbreak of the Delta coronavirus variant.

The state recorded 13 new local COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, including one mystery case.

Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the lockdown will be extended beyond 11:59pm on Tuesday, saying there were still “far too many” cases of community transmission to ease restrictions after five days.

“It would be perhaps a few days of sunshine and then there would be a very high chance we’d be back to lockdown again. That’s what I’m trying to avoid,” he told reporters on Monday.

Victoria’s public health team and senior government ministers will make the final call on the length of the extension by Tuesday morning.

Monday’s testing figures and results, as well as any new exposure sites and mystery cases, will guide their decision.

At least four additional local cases, all of whom were in isolation for their entire infectious period, have already been announced.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there would undoubtedly be more reported on Tuesday, warning no other jurisdiction in the world has been able to keep up with the Delta variant.

“There is no absolute guarantee that we can win against Delta period, we have to give ourselves the absolute best chance,” Professor Sutton said.

“This will take off if we allow it to.”

The outbreak, which originated from NSW, now totals 76 cases after 13 new infections were reported in the 24 hours to Monday morning.

There are now 15,800 close contacts and more than 300 exposure sites, including sites on Phillip Island in the south of the state to Mildura in the northwest.

Meanwhile, Business Victoria has apologised after a “technical issue” meant businesses seeking lockdown support were given an estimated call-back time of up to 17 hours.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien labelled it a “disgrace” and called for the problem to be rectified.

But a Business Victoria spokesperson said only those who selected the call-back option heard the estimate, with live calls on Monday answered within 10 to 20 minutes.

An extra 30 call-takers have been put on to cope with high demand and some $180.8 million in lockdown payments to 86,069 businesses had been approved by 2pm on Monday.

Mr Andrews flagged he would have “more to say” about possibly expanding the $201.8 million business support package as the state’s fifth lockdown drags on.

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