Box Hill Hospital worker sparked northern suburbs outbreak

Box Hill Hospital worker sparked northern suburbs outbreak


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The coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne's northern suburbs that has stalled Victoria's reopening was sparked by a hospital worker who contracted the virus from a patient in Box Hill Hospital's COVID-19 ward.

The hospital cluster was triggered when a patient infected two staff members, one of whom worked while infectious on a different ward, transmitting the virus to another staff member and patient, the government has confirmed.

A coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne’s northern suburbs that has stalled Victoria’s reopening was triggered by hospital worker who contracted the virus from a patient in Box Hill Hospital’s COVID-19 ward.Credit:Michael Clayton-Jones

The staff member was not symptomatic when they attended work, but after contracting the virus in the COVID-19 ward they were then allowed to work in another ward.

The government confirmed late on Sunday that the staff member who transferred the virus between the wards was also patient zero for the northern suburbs cluster, releasing a map of the links between 11 affected households.

Among the households there are 39 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 25 close contacts.

The confirmation of the link between the outbreaks came hours after Premier Daniel Andrews delayed his highly-anticipated announcement about the next stages of Melbourne's reopening, prompting a storm of criticism led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Victoria's former health minister Jenny Mikakos.

Mr Morrison lashed out again at the Premier, saying he was profoundly disappointed by the delay and adding that Victoria's public health systems "are either up to the task of dealing with future outbreaks or they are not".

Ms Mikakos said the decision suggested a "paralysis in decision-making" in the Victorian government. They joined a chorus of criticism from business groups, saying the delay was a blow to confidence and jobs.

The Premier said the government needed to wait for the results of thousands of tests before they could be confident to allow limited shopping and dining again.

Mr Andrews is waiting on the results of around 500-700 tests before conducting his daily press conference this afternoon.

The government's hopes of an early reopening were buoyed late on Sunday as negative results were returned for more than 1100 tests conducted in the northern suburbs.

Victoria's commander of testing and community engagement, Jeroen Weimar, said 2100 test results had been processed on Sunday and testing had continued into the evening.

Mr Weimar said the lack of new cases emerging from those tests was a "good development".

Anyone with symptoms or who is an identified close contact is being urged to get tested, with testing sites available across the five northern local government areas of Banyule, Darebin, Hume, Moreland and Nillumbik, including at schools, local parks, shopping precincts and in traditional health settings.

There are currently 39 cases linked to the outbreak, including cases associated with East Preston Islamic College and Croxton Special School.

Staff working on a ward at Box Hill Hospital were told they were not allowed to use highly protective N95 masks as a precaution against the disease, The Age revealed earlier this month.

A leaked email exchange showed the hospital's supply of N95 masks had been reserved for those working with the highest-risk patients, and others were not permitted to wear them "even if they buy one".

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