Australia has emerged as a global success story when it comes to controlling the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
But as cases start to drop across the country, one state has experienced a surge in new infections this month.
According to state and territory breakdowns of daily confirmed cases, there have been 383 new coronavirus cases Australia-wide in May so far.
But a staggering 246 of those infections have come from Victoria alone, while the rest of the country recorded just 137.
That total is comprised of 80 new infections in NSW this month, 27 in WA, 19 in Queensland, five in Tasmania, four in the ACT and just two in the Northern Territory.
So why has Victoria experienced such an alarming surge in cases compared with the rest of the country?
It all comes down to the emergence of “clusters” – and unfortunately for Victorians, their state has copped a few of them, pushing the state average far above the rest of the country.
One of the most notorious Victorian clusters is linked to the Cedar Meats abattoir in Melbourne’s west.
So far, there have been 111 cases connected to the site, including 67 employees and a further 44 close contacts.
WorkSafe launched an inquiry into the outbreak at Cedar Meats last week as the case numbers continued to rise.
The investigation will examine whether social distancing measures were in place at the abattoir and if workers were provided with appropriate personal protective equipment and hand sanitiser.
The state government and Cedar Meats’ management have defended their handling of the outbreak, including the decision to allow staff to work for several days after workers tested positive.
Another cluster has been connected with McDonald’s branches in the state, leading to the temporary closure of 12 restaurants earlier this week.
The fast-food outlets were shut for deep-cleaning after a truck driver made deliveries while he was asymptomatic and unaware he had COVID-19.
The chain says no employee has tested positive in connection to the driver and customers are not at risk.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the decision to close and conduct a deep clean of 12 restaurants in Victoria following confirmation a truck driver for an external service provider has tested positive for COVID-19,” McDonald’s said in a statement.
“Potential close contacts and employees who have worked specific shifts during and after the truck driver’s delivery have been instructed not to return to work for 14 days and advised to be tested.”
The Department of Health confirmed the driver was an extended family member of a worker at the McDonald’s in Fawkner, where a cluster emerged on May 9.
However, a recent preliminary report in partnership between the Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and the state Health Department also found dozens of coronavirus clusters in Victoria dating as far back as March.
Those centred around unnamed healthcare facilities, social venues and cruise ships.
“This shows just how much Victoria was ‘peppered’ early on with cases and how they were largely ended through response measures and the effects of physical distancing,” Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton wrote.
Earlier this week, it was revealed the state government had collected at least $9.4 million in fines for coronavirus restriction breaches, with 5719 fines issued.
Police Minister Lisa Neville said officers had been working hard to catch rule breakers and keep Victorians safe.
“Victoria Police members have contributed to saving lives during this period,” she said.
“Police will continue to provide reassurance and hold people blatantly breaching directives to account.”
– with wires