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Another three coronavirus cases linked to Australian Lamb Colac cluster

Jessica Howard and Andrew Thomson Member for Polwarth Richard Riordan has today called on the Department of Health and Human Services to speed up its release of useful information for the Colac Otway community.

It comes as the Department of Health and Human Services data showed the Australian Lamb Colac meatworks cluster has grown to 12 cases.

"There is no point having all the data sit on a laptop in Melbourne. The Colac community has a right to know how many people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and what the contact tracing regime will be," he said. "The largest employer and the largest school in our community had positive cases confirmed over 72 hours ago and still no information has been forthcoming. "World best practice dictates contact tracing needs to be done within 48 hours for it to be an effective virus control method.

"It is the 'not knowing' that is causing undue stress and worry. We need DHHS to become proactive and let us in on the numbers so we can be assured that the correct procedures are being put into place and that their response is robust and effective" Mr Riordan said the Colac district community was well versed on how to deal with this pandemic as past virus data had shown. "We were able to keep this region safe with proper hygiene and social distancing practices but now we need up to date DHHS data to guide our responses in the coming weeks," he said.

"It's a time critical situation and this is a worrying escalation. "But, given the strength of our health service and the ability of our community to work together, I am confident that with the right departmental support, which has been sadly lacking since the disclosure of a positive case in Colac, we can get through this challenging event."

The Australian Lamb Company abattoir in Colac has closed for two weeks after a coronavirus cluster outbreak. The company has instructed all workers to self quarantine after an inspector tested positive on July 10, which has been followed by eight more positive tests.

"Last Friday (July 17), we confirmed that an ALC contractor employed at our Colac processing facility was in self-isolation following a positive result from a COVID-19 test performed on Friday, July 10," the company said in a statement..

"Further testing of ALC employees conducted by local health authorities has now confirmed an additional eight positive results.

"All workers employed at the site have been instructed to quarantine and we continue to work with health authorities to finalise testing.

"In line with a direction from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, we are now closing our operations for at least 14 days.

"We will continue to work with health authorities to ensure we take all necessary steps to reduce the risk of further transmission.

"We would like to thank Colac Area Health and the local community for their care and support, and we are keeping in close contact with our team at what is a difficult time for them and their families."

Three schools in Colac are closed today due to coronavirus concerns.

So far a cluster linked to Australian Lamb Colac abattoir has led to six positive cases. A meat inspector tested positive last week and then one of the inspector's children, who attends Trinity College, also returned a positive result to a test.

Close contacts of that child included students who were to play football in the Hampden league juniors on Saturday, forcing some games to be cancelled.

Trinity College was to undergo cleaning over the weekend.

St Mary's and Sacred Heart primary schools in Colac are also closed on Monday. A message on the St Mary's Facebook page said: "Due to the current local Covid 19 circumstances if you can keep your children home (on Monday) please do so and we will communicate (Monday) afternoon about plans for the coming week." Sacred Heart Primary Schools principal Jack Lenaghan said he made the decision to close on Monday to all but the children of essential workers as a precaution. "We have a close relationship with Trinity College across the road," he said. "We have adopted a wait and see approach in relation to the testing of students and staff at Trinity College, but really want to do whatever we can to keep this virus out of our school. "We expect it will take a couple of days for those results to come back, but closing the school today gave us some thinking time.

"Our first responsibility is to our students and staff," he said.

The number of coronavirus cases linked to clusters in Portland and Colac grew over the weekend as two patients were admitted to Warrnambool's hospital. Another three cases of coronavirus have been linked to the Australian Lamb Colac cluster, bringing the total number to six. The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the six positive cases on Sunday. The DHHS lists five cases in Colac Otway shire but it is unclear if they are the same ones linked to the meatworks cluster.

The news came on a day when Portland District Health confirmed a third positive case of coronavirus, two of which were admitted to the Warrnambool Base Hospital on Saturday.

Portland District Health chief executive Chris Giles said a Melbourne resident who travelled to Portland for family reasons and did not break any lockdown restrictions, tested positive to COVID-19 in Portland on Wednesday after displaying symptoms for the virus.

A a resident in the same household returned a positive test on Thursday.

Ms Giles said there were "indications" the third positive case was linked to the first two. "However that does not mean we can assume this and be complacent in anyway," she said. The Contract Tracing team via the DHHS is following up contacts and advising those people what they need to do.

Victoria has recorded 363 new cases of coronavirus since yesterday, with the total number of cases now at 5696. The overall total has increased by 343, after 20 cases were reclassified - largely due to duplication. Within Victoria, 36 of the new cases are linked to outbreaks or complex cases and 327 are under investigation. There were no cases in returned travelers in hotel quarantine. Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said in a press conference on Saturday afternoon that it has not yet been determined how the original Australian Lamb case was contracted.

"We are aware of the risks in this particular industry, we know that the refrigeration at these facilities can create an additional risk," she said.

"We are working closely with the facility and will consider testing across the sector." Three new deaths have been reported since yesterday: two men in their 90s and a woman in her 90s.

To date, 38 people have died from coronavirus in Victoria.

Stage three 'stay at home' restrictions continue to be in force across metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.

Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton said the restrictions had "become necessary because of the sharp increase in cases". "These are tough measures, but this virus is not selective - it will impact anyone it encounters, and personal contact is the clear source of its transmission," he said. "We need everyone to do their part and ensure it is stopped in its tracks."

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