Victoria’s chief health officer has admitted authorities could have done better in handling a coronavirus outbreak at a meat processing plant, including shutting down the facility when the first case was detected.

The Cedar Meats outbreak is the state’s biggest COVID-19 cluster and is now the subject of a WorkSafe investigation, as three new infections were linked to the abattoir on Thursday.

At present, 90 people linked to abattoir have been infected.

The state government and Cedar Meats’ management have defended the handling of the outbreak, including the decision to allow staff to work for several days after workers tested positive.

But Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has admitted authorities could have acted earlier.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have waited for a third linked case,” he told 3AW on Thursday.

“Maybe for these settings, we should shut an entire place down; not just the boning room where it all started, but an entire facility.”


The first case linked to the meatworks was confirmed on April 2, but it wasn’t considered a risk site because the worker said they hadn’t been at work for weeks.

Cedar Meats was shut down on April 29 after two more cases surfaced on April 24 and 25. It plans to partially reopen on Monday.

The WorkSafe investigation, meanwhile, 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.

Victoria’s virus count went up to 1523 after nine new cases were confirmed on Thursday, two of which were linked to another developing cluster at the McDonald’s in Fawkner.

In total, eight cases are linked to the fast-food restaurant, which reopened on Wednesday after a deep clean.

It is being staffed by workers from other McDonald’s in the area.


McDonald’s Australia chief executive Andrew Gregory said most of the Fawkner site’s 100 employees have been tested and many were negative, but some test results haven’t come back yet.

“It’s possible we will get a small number of positive infections,” he told 3AW.

Despite the current growing clusters, Professor Sutton said the fact that new cases weren’t related to community transmission was reassuring.

Victoria has 105 active cases.


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