Australia

Victoria reports three new local coronavirus cases after two days of no infections

Three more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Victoria, bringing the Holiday Inn cluster to 22 cases.

Health authorities said all three cases were already quarantining at home during their infectious period, after the state recorded two days of zero locally-transmitted cases.

The outbreak, which is believed to be the more infectious UK variant of the virus known as B117, prompted a snap five-day lockdown across the state, which was lifted at midnight on Wednesday

The outbreak can be traced back to a family of three staying on the third floor at the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.

At least 15 cases have been shown to have the B117 variant through genomic testing.

About 3,400 close contacts of positive cases remain in isolation and authorities had been warning more cases were likely to emerge.

The new infections bring the total number of active cases in the state to 27.

Some 21,292 people were tested on Thursday.

It comes as three Victorian hospitals have been chosen to distribute the state’s first doses of the Pfizer vaccine to frontline workers.

Health Minister Martin Foley has announced Austin Health, Monash Health and Western Health will be the first to deliver doses of the vaccine from Monday.

He said hotel quarantine workers, airport and port workers, high-risk frontline health staff and aged care staff and residents will be first in line for the jab.

“Our priority is to support the Commonwealth to make sure that the vaccine is administered to workers at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 as quickly and safely possible,” Mr Foley said in a statement on Friday.

“Whether they work in hotel quarantine, at the airport or a specialist COVID ward – we need to keep Victorians most at risk of infection safe, while they continue to keep Victorians safe.”

The vaccine will be administered at dedicated hospital facilities, in hotel quarantine settings, at Melbourne Airport and through mobile outreach teams.

The federal government has allocated 12,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Victoria in the first week of the program.

About 59,000 doses are expected in the first four weeks.

Two doses of the Pzifer vaccine are required at least three weeks apart and it must be stored and transported at -70C.

Rhonda Stuart from Monash Health told reporters earlier this month the hospital had two freezers “ready and waiting” to store up to 180,000 doses.

Six other hospitals will also become vaccination hubs as more doses become available. They are Albury-Wodonga Health, Ballarat Health, Barwon Health, Bendigo Health, Goulburn Valley Health and Latrobe Health.

Mr Foley said the Barwon Health hub will begin its public sector residential aged care program next week, “trialling an outreach model to be implemented across regional Victoria”.

Barwon Health will also vaccinate port of entry workers in Portland, in the state’s southwest.

Meanwhile, anyone with COVID-19 symptoms in Boronia, Carrum Downs, Caulfield, Langwarrin, St Kilda East and Wantirna South has been urged to get tested after viral fragments were found in sewage this week.

With reporting by Maani Truu

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