A new variant of Covid-19 has been identified in Melbourne’s outbreak unrelated to all other cases thus far.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said it was the Delta strain, B1617.2, that was now “infamous” in India and the UK.
The strain was detected through sequencing on two of the cases linked to the West Melbourne cluster.
“The fact that it is a variant different to other cases it means it is not related, in terms of transmission, with these cases,” Professor Sutton said.
“It has not been linked to any sequence cases across Australia from hotel quarantine or anywhere else that it is not linked in Victoria or any other jurisdiction.”
Professor Sutton said the infected family had travelled to Jervis Bay in New South Wales and Victorian health authorities were working with their NSW and ACT counterparts.
“It is a concern that it is not linked to other cases but we are chasing down all those primary case contacts for that family and looking into where it might have been acquired,” he said.
The working theory is the strain spread between two Grade Five students, with seven infections linked to the class.
One of the state’s four new local cases announced today is also a Grade Five student.
Professor Sutton said the newly-identified variant of COVID-19 in the Melbourne outbreak had “very high transmission potential”.
“It spread extremely rapidly across India to become the predominant variant, almost the exclusive variant there,” he said.
“It does appear to be the most significant in terms of transmissibility.
“There isn’t much information about severity of illness with this variant, although there are some anecdotal reports of greater illness in children as well as greater increase transmissibility in children.
“We have concerns for that reason.”
He played down the notion that the emergence of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in Melbourne could endanger the lifting of restrictions next Thursday.
“I think we review as we always have, just to see what else emerges,” he said.
“The fact we’re getting 50,000 tests per day, that is five per cent of Victoria has been tested in the last week. It is a huge part of being able to get on top of this.”