Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has said the Cedar Meats plant should have been shut down sooner when two linked cases of coronavirus were detected.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has said the Cedar Meats plant should have been shut down sooner when two linked cases of coronavirus were detected.

Chief Health Officer admits Cedar Meats cluster mishandled

The Cedar Meats coronavirus cluster - Victoria's largest - could have been handled ­better, the state's Chief Health Officer has conceded.

Brett Sutton ­on Thursday ­admitted "two linked cases is probably enough" to have shut down the abattoir, despite repeated government claims the "explosive outbreak" had been handled "perfectly".

The number of cases ­connected to the Brooklyn plant on Thursday rose to 90 - 64 staff and 26 close contacts.

A senior Cedar Meats employee tested positive for COVID-19 on April 2 but authorities have dismissed any link to his workplace as he had not been at the site for four weeks.

Two more workers tested positive on April 24 and April 26, but the meatworks was ­allowed to continue operating with minimal staff until it was finally shut on May 1.

Prof Sutton said on Thursday the site should have been shut earlier.

"Maybe we shouldn't have waited … maybefor these settings we should shut an entire place down," he told 3AW.

Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton admitted the Cedar Meats plant should have been shut down earlier. Picture: David Caird
Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton admitted the Cedar Meats plant should have been shut down earlier. Picture: David Caird

Prof Sutton also told the Herald Sun the public health team "ensure we learn from each outbreak".

He added: "We know that each cluster plays out in different ways, requiring them to be managed based on the individual ­circumstances.

"Every outbreak is an ­opportunity to learn more about this virus."

Despite the growing cluster, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos again defended her comments the outbreak had been handled ­"absolutely perfectly" - an opinion shared at the time by Prof Sutton and Premier Daniel Andrews.

On Thursday she said: "Our public health experts will continue to learn the lessons from every case and every outbreak. That is entirely appropriate. As the commonwealth chief medical officer has made clear, there will be more outbreaks as we lift restrictions."

Opposition Health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said that Cedar Meats workers had been ‘put at serious risk due to the mishandling of this outbreak’. Picture: Josie Hayden
Opposition Health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said that Cedar Meats workers had been ‘put at serious risk due to the mishandling of this outbreak’. Picture: Josie Hayden

But Opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said Cedar Meats' staff had been "put at serious risk due to the mishandling of this outbreak".

"Victorians have a right to know the truth about exactly what went wrong and how the Cedar Meats outbreak was ­allowed to spiral out of control," she said.

Cedar Meats on Thursday announced it would reopen its cold-storage facility on Monday, in line with "advice and support" from the Department of Health and Human Services. In a statement, it added: "Cedar Meats is not recommencing production … The cold-storage facility requires a minimum of staff.

"The safety and wellbeing of staff is Cedar Meats' number one priority."

Victoria's coronavirus cases rose to 1523 on Thursday, including three new cases linked to Cedar Meats and two relating to an outbreak at a McDonald's in Fawkner.

That cluster now totals eight cases.

alanah.frost@news.com.au

Originally published as Chief Health Officer admits Cedar Meats cluster mishandled


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