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Dozens of sick and vulnerable children have been isolated at the Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital with their parents, after a father who tested positive for COVID-19 visited a neonatal intensive care ward.

As a result, hospital CEO Bernadette MacDonald said it will provide a rapid antigen test to all hospital visitors by the end of this week.

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“They will need to have this test when they enter the hospital – before they enter any clinical wards, they will have to test negative,” she said.

“It’s not a guarantee, it won’t guarantee we won’t get exposed again, but it does help us reduce the risk of that happening.”

MacDonald said the father with coronavirus visited the “butterfly ward” of the newborn on Thursday or Friday, and reported to the hospital after he tested positive on Monday evening.

She said there were 29 children in the ward when the father visited.

The health department thought the father was contagious when he was on the ward.

Two of the children were declared Level 1 or close contacts, and the rest were declared Level 2 or informal contacts.

All 29 children’s families have been contacted and are being tested to see if they have COVID-19. MacDonald said none of the children had coronavirus.

In all, the Royal Children’s Hospital had about five patients at one time with COVID-19, Ms MacDonald said.

“We have negative pressure rooms that are being looked after for children with COVID, and we have enough negative pressure rooms to handle the demand that we have at this point in time,” she said.

Last week, hospitalized pediatric cancer patients and their families were forced to self-quarantine for 14 days after unknowingly visiting another affected parent.

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