TWO new COVID-19 cases have been linked to Bendigo's Hazeldene's chicken farm.
It follows a week of testing of at least 880 employees and contractors.
A total of 18 people's diagnoses have now been linked to the outbreak, the Department of Health and Human Services believes.
The department has raised the number of confirmed cases in Greater Bendigo by three. It has also raised the Macedon Ranges' cases by five.
AUSTRALIA'S competition agency has given Hazeldene's urgent authorisation to cooperate with competitors to secure the state's chicken supply.
The Bendigo-based chicken processor will work with Ingham's Group, Turosi and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation to protect the supply chain.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has given interim approval for the deal, which comes after meat producers across the state move to reduced operations under new lockdown requirements.
It also comes as many companies including Hazeldene's battle outbreaks among their work forces.
Authorities have linked 16 cases to the Hazeldene's outbreak so far.
Hazeldene's was last Friday expecting the results of about 80 COVID-19 results following a major testing blitz of workers at a Lockwood site.
About 800 tests had been returned at that time.
The new ACCC measures allow companies to cooperate on a range of measures at plants across the state to protect the chicken supply and jobs.
For example, the authorisation would allow sharing or coordinating the use of processing capacity, essential staff, facilities and products, ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
"Chicken is a staple of many consumers' diets," he said.
"We recognise that these heightened COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria are requiring many businesses and industries to make significant changes to their operations."
Mr Keogh said the new arrangements could not disadvantage chicken growers and that the ACCC would closely watch processors' conduct.
"This authorisation does not override any contractual obligations processors have with grower," he said.
The arrangement will not extend to agreements about the price of goods or services supplied or acquired by chicken processors.
As part of the authorisation, participants will also be required to notify the ACCC about decisions, and provide updates and any information the ACCC requests about conduct.
Ingham's Group is leading the bid and hopes to have permission for the deal until the end of the year. The ACCC is still considering that part of the agreement.
More to come.
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