The Australian Government Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly, has today declared the Greater Melbourne area a COVID-19 hotspot for the purposes of Commonwealth support, for an initial period of three days from 11:59pm on 12 February 2021.
Victoria has announced to date, that testing has confirmed 13 people associated with the Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport to be infected with SARS-CoV-2.
Whole genome sequencing has so far confirmed 8 cases to have been infected with the B.1.1.7 variant of concern, which has been shown to have a higher rate of transmission and may be associated with more severe disease.
This level of transmissibility results in the need for more stringent public health measures to control a community outbreak if it becomes established.
Of particular concern, two cases have recently been identified as having worked in the Tullamarine Airport whilst infectious.
Given the airport is a hub for travel to all jurisdictions within Australia, there is substantial risk of national spread of the virus.
Professor Kelly has asked that: “anyone who has recently been in Greater Melbourne should stay alert to public health messages from state and territory health authorities.”
Due to the increased risk posed by the B.1.1.7 variant of concern, the occurrence of cases in the community whilst infectious, and the risk of spread to other jurisdictions in Australia, Greater Melbourne meets the assessment of a hotspot for the provision of Commonwealth support.
This declaration is proportionate to the change in circumstances and the Commonwealth has offered the Victorian Government its support and assistance.
The declaration will be reviewed by the Chief Medical Officer on Monday 15 February.