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Victoria reports 397 new coronavirus cases as Australian Covid-19 death toll climbs above 200

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has warned of “growing concern” over dozens of “mystery cases” of coronavirus that cannot be traced by authorities, as the state recorded 397 new infections and three more deaths on Saturday.

The Victorian deaths – of a man and a woman in their 80s, and a woman in her 90s – and the death of an 83-year-old man connected to the outbreak at the Crossroads hotel in south-west Sydney, New South Wales, took Australia’s coronavirus death toll to 201 since the pandemic began.

NSW announced 17 new coronavirus cases on Saturday. At least one of the 17 new cases had no known source of infection.

The Victorian premier did not announce new measures to tackle significant community transmission after a horrific week of rising case numbers, though he confirmed officials would spend the weekend considering whether further steps were needed.

Andrews said Victoria’s total included 49 “mystery cases” that had been unable to be traced by authorities.

“You cannot be certain if there is even more further community transmission, more mystery cases out there,” he said. “That is, in some respects, our biggest challenge.”

Victorian health officials said there were now 1,008 active cases within the state’s aged care sector. It represented an increase of 80 new cases within that sector over 24 hours.

Overall, there were 5,919 active cases in Victoria, of which 637 were healthcare workers, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Of the largest outbreaks, there were 10 cases added to the stricken St Basil’s aged care home, which had a total of 134 infections, while another facility, Epping Gardens, added three cases for a total of 118.

Victoria police issued 168 fines to those breaching public health orders in the past 24 hours, including fining a person who allegedly drove more than three hours to get McDonald’s.

“There is absolutely no reason or need to drive from Melbourne to Wodonga to have a Big Mac,” the Victorian police minister, Lisa Neville, told reporters on Saturday. “There is absolutely no reason or need to drive from Melbourne to Ballarat for fresh air. There is absolutely no reason to drive from Werribee out to Springvale to buy groceries. They are just three of the fines that we saw issued yesterday.”

Workers at Cedar Meats abattoir in Melbourne were told to isolate until further notice after a worker tested positive to Covid-19, fuelling fears of a possible second outbreak. In May, the meatworks was the centre of the largest cluster in Victoria with 111 cases.

“We have followed DHHS’s advice and had all close contacts of that staff member tested on-site [on Friday] at our premises in Brooklyn,” a spokeswoman for Cedar Meats said on Saturday. “We have asked all of our staff to isolate until further notice, as per government guidelines.”

It was unclear if the worker was infectious during their last shift but it was understood they were originally absent due to non-flu-like illness and were only tested for Covid-19 in recent days. The results of the other staff members’ tests will determine when the plant can reopen.

The latest case of Covid-19 in Queensland was a woman who may have been infectious while working at the Bolton Clarke aged care home in Pinjarra Hills, Brisbane.

The aged care home had already been locked down after the woman’s husband tested positive on Friday. The woman had been self-isolating at the time of diagnosis.

“This lady is the wife of the gentleman who we confirmed [on Thursday],” the state’s chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young, said. “We do think that it is possible that she was infectious when she worked her last shift at that facility.”

All staff and residents at the home will now be tested for Covid-19. It is understood the woman’s husband ate at the same restaurant as an infected woman charged with illegally entering Queensland on 23 July.

Earlier on Saturday morning, Queensland began enforcing tighter border restrictions, adding visitors from greater Sydney to the banned list, along with all residents of Victoria.

South Australia recorded one new case of coronavirus on Saturday, a man aged in his 20s, taking the number of active cases in the state to four. He had returned from interstate and has been in quarantine since his arrival.

The Northern Territory also recorded a new case of Covid-19, the female partner of a man who tested positive on Friday. Both had recently arrived in Darwin from Melbourne.

The woman was under the care of Royal Darwin hospital in isolation at the time of diagnosis and the territory health department said contact tracing had been completed.

Authorities in Western Australia said no new Covid-19 cases were recorded in the past 24 hours but two historical cases based on serology were recorded overnight. There were no new cases in the ACT.

In South Australia, a NSW duo sent packing on Thursday after claiming they were trying to cross into the state to sell a dog were arrested in the Adelaide suburb of Kilburn on Saturday afternoon. The pair were charged with breaching Covid-19 directions and were denied bail ahead of a court appearance on Monday.

A man was also arrested at a NSW-Victoria border checkpoint near Corowa after allegedly providing false information to police and then punching an officer in the face.

Australian Associated Press contributed to this report

Read the original article at The Guardian

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