Health experts have admitted the mystery case found in a Melbourne aged care home is extremely “concerning” as contact tracers frantically work to figure out how the employee caught coronavirus.
Arcare Aged Care Home, in the west Melbourne suburb of Maidstone, has been in lockdown since Saturday after a worker in her 50s tested positive to coronavirus.
A massive health response, including a testing blitz of all staff and resident, was launched on Sunday morning after it was revealed the woman had inadvertently worked for two days while infectious.
Leading infectious diseases expert Professor and Doherty Institute Chair Sharon Lewin said the mystery case in the aged care home was “concerning” but Melburnians should take solace in the fact that she had received one vaccination.
“The mystery case is certainly concerning. (Firstly), it’s a mystery case, so we need to know where this person acquired Covid. And second of all — they work in an aged care home which is the most vulnerable setting for Covid,” Prof Lewin told ABC News Breakfast.
“It’s very reassuring to hear that the worker was vaccinated back on May 13 and that was will definitely have some benefits, meaning that it will reduce, even though this worker became infected, it reduces her chance of passing it on by 50 per cent.”
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Prof Lewin said it was “reassuring” contact tracers continued to link Victoria’s new coronavirus cases — but the aged care mystery case could mean lockdown is extended.
“Thousands and thousands of tests have been done, which is fantastic. And up until this one mystery case, they have all been linked which is also very reassuring,” she said.
“I’m very hopeful that we won’t need to extend the lockdown for much longer should this sort of pattern even continue over coming days.”
Prof Lewin said she wasn’t sure how long the lockdown could be extended for, but Melburnians should have hope it would be nothing like 2020.
“It is important for people to understand (this lockdown) is very different to what we went through in Melbourne last year,” she said.
“The rationale for lockdown last year was to stop transmission and, you know, get effective suppression or what ended up being elimination.
“This is a circuit-breaker, it’s to allow the contact tracers to catch up with all those hundreds and hundreds and thousands of contacts.
“Once that’s happened, we should still be able to continue contact tracing cases while staying open, which is what we have seen other states do.”
Arcare Maidstone was hit by a coronavirus outbreak last year and had 14 infections linked to the home — including seven staff.
“While we hoped that this would not happen again, we are well prepared, and our infection control practices put us in a good place to manage this outbreak effectively,” Arcare chief executive Colin Singh said in a statement.
Health staff were seen at the aged care home doing a deep clean over the weekend and residents were kept in their rooms.
Victoria’s coronavirus testing commander Jeroen Weimar said the mystery aged care case was the state’s top priority.
“It is our most vulnerable and sensitive setting that we have and that is why we have put such an important response into this,” he told reporters yesterday.
“I am concerned that we don’t have, at this point of time, an acquisition source.
“This is the biggest priority for us to understand.”
Speaking to the Herald Sun, University of South Australia chair of epidemiology Adrian Esterman said the next 48 hours for the state were critical.
“There is a very fine balance between things getting in or out of control … If we see more mystery cases on Monday then alarm bells will be ringing,” he said.
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