National

Melbourne virus cluster causing concern

By AAP Newswire

A coronavirus cluster in southeast Melbourne is a "super-spreading event", with health authorities scrambling to contain the outbreak.

While Victoria's new case numbers continue to fall, five more were linked on Thursday to the Casey community outbreak.

The outbreak is linked to the Fountain Gate shopping centre and it now has 34 active cases, with all but one of them active.

Victoria's Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said state authorities had been working on the outbreak with Monash Health and local council and community leaders, plus three pop-up clinics had been set up in the area.

"We're getting into the tail of the infection (the state's second wave) ... these are the sorts of situations we really need to be on top of, to make sure we do get numbers down," Professor Cheng said.

He called the Casey cluster a "super-spreading event" and said it was going through households in the area.

"It just takes one (super spreader) and it can be off and away and that's why we really need to get on top of this," Prof Cheng said.

"It's spreading in a number of households in Casey and we're obviously worried all the people they've come into contact with outside of that.

"We're not entirely sure how they're linked, but I don't think it's rocket science to say a number of households in Casey are probably going to be linked in some way ... we're still working to establish those links."

While Victoria had eight more virus deaths on Thursday, the new cases dropped to 28 - the first time since June 24 they have been in the 20s.

The latest fatalities take the state's death toll to 745 and the national figure to 832.

They include a woman in her 60s, two men in their 80s and two men and three women in their 90s.

The state's rolling 14-day new case averages have also fallen, to 44.4 for Melbourne and to 2.9 for regional Victoria.

There are 83 cases with an unknown source in Melbourne and one in regional areas.

Regional Victorians came under easier COVID-19 rules at midnight, but locked-down Melburnians will have to cope with a so-called "ring of steel" around the city.

Victoria Police have tightened traffic checkpoints on Melbourne's outskirts after rules for people living outside the city were wound back overnight.

Melbourne adults who leave the city without a lawful excuse will now be fined $4957.

The new offence is designed to deter Melburnians from entering regional Victoria.

It will be bolstered by beefed-up roadblocks, creating lengthy traffic delays as vehicles pass through.

The easing in regional Victoria means pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to serve people outside with strict density quotas, while outdoor gathering limits will be upped to 10.

Regional Victorians will also be able to leave their homes without restriction and all shops can reopen.

They will still be able to travel via Melbourne to reach other parts of the state, but can only stop for three reasons including food, care and permitted work and study.

Caravan parks and camping grounds in regional areas are also able to reopen from Thursday, but with group booking restrictions.

Melbourne's new case average must stay between 30 to 50 for some of the city's restrictions to be eased as planned on September 28.

On Thursday, the government also announced $26.7 million in extra funding for kindergartens, ahead of their reopening across Victoria on October 5.