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Two Victorian 'stranger-to-stranger' cases declared false positives

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Two suspected “fleeting” transmission cases of coronavirus used to justify Melbourne’s lockdown extension have been declared false positives, giving hope restrictions may ease in Victoria earlier than scheduled.

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Just hours before the city entered its second week of the shutdown on Friday, Victoria’s Department of Health revealed information that will prompt fresh scrutiny of the seven-day extension.

Health authorities initially thought a woman caught COVID-19 at a Metricon display home at Mickleham, and believed a man similarly picked up the virus at Brighton Beach Hotel.

That was not the case, with an expert panel review confirming neither was even infected.

The COVID-free pair and their primary close contacts will be released from isolation and any associated exposure sites stood down, including all in Anglesea along the Great Ocean Road.

The Metricon display home and Brighton Beach Hotel remain linked to other confirmed cases and will remain exposure sites.

Victoria’s health department explained authorities always enact immediate health measures for every positive case, with test results “re-run” alongside “further investigations and reviews” to confirm their “true nature”.

COVID-19 commander Jeroen Weimar cited up to five cases of suspected “stranger-to-stranger transmission” as evidence the Indian variant was more contagious and faster moving.

“People are brushing past each other in a small shop, they are going to display homes, they are looking at phones in a Telstra shop,” he said on Tuesday.

“This is very, relatively speaking, fleeting contact. They do not know each other’s names and that is very different from what we have seen before.”

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has repeatedly described the variant as a “beast”, while his deputy Allan Cheng estimates it is probably 50 per cent more infectious than the strain that led to the city’s 112-day lockdown last year.

Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien has been critical of the “apocalyptic” language used to describe the Indian variant.

-with AAP

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