Authorities are investigating how three infants fell ill with coronavirus as concerns intensify about another leap in community transmission in Victoria.
A total of four children aged one or younger were revealed to have contracted COVID-19 on Tuesday, with one of those infections occurring overseas.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton is urging people not to take their foot off the social-distancing brake. Credit:AAP
Six healthcare workers at Eastern Health have also tested positive to the virus as the state's overall number of cases grew by 96 to 917.
The children were not known to each other and authorities do not believe the cases are linked. The infants are recovering at home and have no other underlying medical conditions.
The department would not say if any of the babies attended childcare, but said "the appropriate contact tracing will be carried out".
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the latest advice indicated childcare centres could continue operating and parents should feel reassured by the evidence that children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms.
“The risk to those children is extremely low,” Dr Sutton said.
“I think we have to remain alert to the possibility of transmission from kids to adults, including those who care for those children, but again that hasn’t been the case in Australia and there’s very scant evidence of it being a significant factor globally.”
While confirmed coronavirus cases linked to international travel are stabilising – in part due to travel restrictions and strict quarantine – authorities are increasingly concerned about the growing rate of community transmission.
On Tuesday there were 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Victoria believed to be acquired through community transmission – a 25 per cent increase on the day before.
“We wouldn’t want to see that trajectory ongoing … we can go from 25 to 30-odd cases soon – that’s a doubling time of a few days, it’ll soon be very significant if we can’t get on top of it,” Dr Sutton said.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos urges people to think about the healthcare workers “putting their lives on the line”. Credit:AAP
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos pleaded with the Victorian public to stay home and protect healthcare workers who were “putting their lives on the line”.
Early Learning Association of Australia chief executive David Worland said he supported childcare centres remaining open although he understood some staff had concerns about contracting the virus.
“Those social-distancing requirements have been pretty well managed by the childcare centres,” he said.
Attendance rates have plummeted up to 50 per cent at some centres, and Mr Worland said they would need greater government support to stay open.
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An Eastern Health spokeswoman said patients and staff who had come into contact with the six healthcare workers who had tested positive were being contacted “to advise the best course of action”.
“All the relevant cleaning and sanitisation procedures continue to be closely followed according to DHHS guidelines,” she said.
Multiplex’s Melbourne Square site at Southbank closed on Monday evening after a worker tested positive to COVID-19.
But Dr Sutton said there was no need to shut down construction sites as the evidence so far had not shown there to be a cluster of coronavirus transmissions in the industry.
Police carried out 1125 spot checks in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning to ensure people were complying with self-isolation directives.
They issued one fine to a Fitzroy restaurant after officers saw alcohol being served to customers sitting inside. Restaurants have been restricted to serving takeaway only.
Since March 21, police have conducted 7010 checks on people who have been ordered to self-isolate. Individuals face on-the-spot fines of $1652, while businesses can be fined $9913.
"We've been fairly lenient I suppose in enforcement of that – we've issued a lot of warnings, a lot of verbal discussions with people – but I think now the time for that has passed," Deputy Police Commissioner Shane Patton said.
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