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Covid rapid response teams to hit Victoria

The new teams will prevent, respond to and limit outbreaks as part of a major surveillance boost announced on Monday.Victoria’s state of emergency will end at midnight, with Premier Daniel Andrews due to outline a plan to slowly lift coronavirus restrictions.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos says the funding will support a range of measures that will continue beyond the recent testing blitz, in which 161,000 Victorians have been tested over the past two weeks.

Testing will continue for Victorians with even the mildest of symptoms over the next month, with a target of a further 50,000 tests to be conducted over the next week, and 150,000 tests by the end of May.

“As we ease restrictions, there will be further positive coronavirus cases, and possible outbreaks,” Ms Mikakos said in a statement.

“To limit these cases and keep Victorians safe, the government has outlined its plan for a new ‘outbreak unit’ within the Department of Health and Human Services’ public health team.”

The state recorded an additional 10 coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing Victoria’s total to 1487.

One of the new cases is related to an outbreak at Cedar Meats in Melbourne’s west, taking the total number of cases related to the abattoir to 76.

The new rapid response unit will include squads staffed by public health specialists and clinicians to ensure appropriate testing, contact tracing and deep cleaning is carried out as soon as a cluster is identified.

They will make proactive visits to high risk facilities, businesses and industries, and work with local services on infection control and prevention.

In addition, mobile testing units will continue to operate and will be deployed to communities that show a spike in cases.

The funding will also include $8 million for research institutes, while testing at sewage plants to track the virus in the community and provide early signposts of localised outbreaks.

Australian Associated Press