New COVID cluster in Melbourne, Australia triggers mass testing

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New COVID cluster in Melbourne, Australia triggers mass testing

SYDNEY, February 11 (Reuters) – Health officials in the Australian state of Victoria have stepped up contact tracing and prepared for more mass testing on Melbourne residents after a new COVID-19 cluster linked to a hotel quarantine rose to eight cases on Thursday.

More than 22,500 test results have been taken in the past 24 hours in Australia’s second most populous city, Melbourne, and authorities have urged residents to get tested amid fears of community transmission from a worker from the Holiday Inn in town.

The new outbreak in Melbourne, where the Australian Open tennis tournament is underway, has fueled fears of a new wave of infections in the state hardest hit by COVID-19.

Victoria recorded more than 20,000 cases last year and more than 800 deaths, forcing authorities to put in place a strict lockdown of more than 100 days, the most severe measure taken by an Australian state.

The latest outbreak, which was likely triggered by a medical device known as a nebulizer used by a COVID-positive guest at the hotel, consists of three hotel workers and two travelers who have returned to quarantine.

The remaining clients were moved to another hotel to serve their quarantine and more than 100 hotel employees were placed in isolation.

Australia has been one of the best performing countries in the world in dealing with the novel coronavirus, in large part due to critical lockdowns and borders sealed to all but a small number of travelers, with some 22,000 cases and 909 death. its quarantine hotels, where all international arrivals spend two weeks, have proven to be a weak link in its defenses with the Melbourne cluster the last to emerge.

The most populous state of New South Wales reported no new cases on Thursday. Other major states – Queensland and Western Australia – have yet to release their figures.

Australia was one of the first countries to call for an investigation into the origins of COVID-19, which was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan, an action that sparked a diplomatic backlash from Beijing that has since slapped heavy tasks or banned several Australians. products of its shores.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Thursday that an Australian scientist, a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) team investigating the origins of COVID-19, told the newspaper he believed the virus had started in China, although official WHO findings are inconclusive.

“I think the evidence for this from elsewhere in the world is actually very limited. There is evidence but it’s not really that good,” said Prof Dominic Dwyer, microbiologist and infectious disease expert at NSW. Health.

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