Australia

Victoria records 22 new local COVID-19 cases as Melbourne’s Jewish leaders urge COVID compliance

Victoria has reported 22 new local coronavirus cases on Monday from 29,986 tests, a day after video footage emerged online of an engagement party that may have been attended by a COVID-19 case.

Melbourne’s Jewish leaders urged community members to follow lockdown rules after dozens gathered for an illegal engagement party over the weekend.

A mother and son from St Kilda East, the heart of the city’s Jewish community, tested positive to COVID-19 over the weekend despite having no known links to other cases.

The cases were discovered amid unconfirmed reports on social media of a recent engagement party held by community members, which one case may have attended.

In a video of the alleged lockdown gathering, seen by AAP, a man jokes to the crowded room: “Clearly this is legal as a group therapy session. That’s why my father’s here.”

Former Victorian Labor MP Philip Dalidakis said he recognised people he knew from the video.

“I am speechless. I am genuinely shocked at the brazen disregard for our laws,” he wrote on social media.

“Not one person in the video should be there, not one person in the video is using masks, not one person in the video is considering the selfish impact their behaviour is now having.”

While noting the event was not representative of the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community, he said small pockets needed to reflect on “just how dangerous and selfish their behaviour has been”.

The newly elected president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Daniel Aghion, called for calm and said anyone concerned about exposure should contact authorities.

“We are disappointed to learn that a small group have not been following mandatory lockdown restrictions,” he said in a statement.

“We too feel the immense frustration at the current situation, and are focusing our support on significant efforts being made to contain the virus,” he said.

COVID response commander Jeroen Weimar told reporters on Sunday he believed the St Kilda East pair had been infectious in the community for a number of days.

He described the developments as part of a tipping point in the latest outbreak, and said health officers had been meeting with community leaders since Saturday.

The council has warned of several exposure sites frequented by Melbourne’s Jewish community, including supermarkets and pharmacies in Balaclava, Haymisha Bakery, Daneli’s Deli and Doms Balaclava Fruit Mart.

It comes as police crack down on illegal gatherings after dozens congregated for a takeaway-drink pub crawl event in Richmond on Saturday and about 200 people gathered for a street party in Northcote.

On the Mornington Peninsula, one resident had made plans to invite a thousand people to a house party with a DJ and a stage.

The state recorded 25 new local infections on Sunday, with Premier Daniel Andrews saying mystery cases were too high to reopen.

Acting Superintendent Greg Hinton told reporters on Sunday police had increased patrols and were examining social media activity, and also looking into liquor licensing breaches.

There are currently more than 500 exposure sites listed across the state.



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