Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Victoria has been paused while investigators search for the source of a COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne's north.
It comes as the Whittlesea City COVID-19 cluster grows to nine cases today, with the ABC reporting Victoria has recorded another four new COVID-19 infections this afternoon. Several more exposure sites have also been listed by Victorian health authorities, including stores at the Highpoint Shopping Centre.
The four are in addition to a man in his 60s who tested positive and was linked to the first case reported yesterday. Victorian health officials introduced new COVID-19 restrictions in response to the growing cluster, including mandatory mask wearing indoors and limits on home gatherings.
The ABC reports this afternoon's four new cases are all family contacts of the man in his 60s.
The travel bubble pause, enforced by New Zealand health authorities, will come into effect from 7.59pm NZT and be in place for 72 hours initially.
"While the case announced today is not unexpected as a contact of a case announced yesterday, New Zealand officials have assessed that the most cautious option is to pause the travel bubble with Victoria as there are still several unknowns with the outbreak," the New Zealand government said.
"The Government understands the disruption this will temporarily cause affected passengers. It was a close call but the correct one given the current unknowns. The decision follows the travel bubble framework."
Health authorities across the ditch are concerned that an epidemiological link has not yet been established connecting some of the recent cases in Melbourne.
"Whole genome sequencing has identified that the cases reported yesterday are closely linked to a previous case identified in the community in Wollert on 11 May after leaving managed isolation in South Australia," the New Zealand government said.
"An epidemiological link has yet to be determined between these cases and there is currently no known link between people in the current outbreak and any of the exposure sites from Wollert."
Anyone in New Zealand who has been at a location of interest in Melbourne at the specified time should contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 as soon as possible for advice on isolating and testing.
Further, anyone who has visited Melbourne since 11 May should monitor for symptoms and seek advice from Healthline if any symptoms develop.
New Zealand put a pause on the travel bubble with New South Wales earlier this month due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in Sydney in order to give authorities time to search for a missing link of infection.
That pause lasted for just three days after New Zealand health officials determined the risk to public health from NSW travellers was low.
More exposure sites listed
Victorian health officials have updated the list of Tier 1 and Tier 2 exposure sites in Melbourne, including a number of stores at Highpoint Shopping Centre, a McDonald's in Clifton Hill and an ALDI in Epping.
The new exposure sites are as follows:
- McDonald's Clifton Hill - 22 May from 6-7pm (Tier 1)
- ALDI Epping - 23 May from 6-7pm (Tier 2)
- Chemist Depot Epping, Pacific Epping Shopping Centre - 23 May from 11.15am-12pm (Tier 2)
- Smiggle, Highpoint Shopping Centre - 20 May from 5.55-6.30pm (Tier 1)
- Kidstuff, Highpoint Shopping Centre - 20 May from 5.20-5.55pm (Tier 1)
- Ishka, Highpoint Shopping Centre - 20 May from 5.45-6.20pm (Tier 1)
- Lush Cosmetics, Highpoint Shopping Centre - 20 May from 6.05-6.35pm (Tier 1)
- Toyworld, Highpoint Shopping Centre - 20 May from 5.30-6.20pm (Tier 1)
- Bamboo House, Melbourne - 21 May from 11-11.50am (Tier 1)
- Adams Reserve Playground, Preston - 23 May from 2.15-3.45pm (Tier 2)
- ALDI Preston South - 23 May from 3.45-4.25pm (Tier 2)
The new exposure sites are in addition to already announced locations including:
- Futsal Brunswick - 23 May from 9-10am (Tier 2)
- Nando's Epping (Dalton Rd) - 19 May from 8:30-9:20pm (Tier 1)
- Epping North Shopping Centre - 22 May from 4:45-5:50pm (Tier 2)
- House and Party (store) - 22 May from 5:15-5:50pm (Tier 2)
- Woolworths Epping North - 22 May from 4:45-5:45pm (Tier 1)
- Urban Diner Food Court, Pacific Epping Shopping Centre - 23 May from 1:15-2:30pm (Tier 2)
- Shell Coles Express Reservoir - 18 May from 3:15-4:15pm (Tier 2)
- B.T. Connor Reserve - 21 May from 8-11:30pm (Tier 2)
Updated at 3.19pm AEST on 25 May 2021.
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