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Victoria has recorded 66 new coronavirus cases overnight, with the Premier refusing to rule out further restrictions.
Of the new cases, 17 were related to known outbreaks, 22 were identified through routine testing, one in a quarantined returned traveller, and 28 under investigation.
The new cases bring the total number of active cases to 442, including 52 active cases in the 3064 postcode and a non-hot spot area recording a high number of new cases.
About 10,000 hotspot residents have declined the opportunity to be tested for the virus, with health minister Jenny Mikakos finding it “concerning that some people believe that coronavirus is a conspiracy”.
Ms Mikakos flagged the possibility a “super spreader” may have been the source of a surge in infections in the city’s northwest.
“On Tuesday, I received a briefing of a genomic sequencing report that seemed to suggest that there seems to be a single source of infection for many of the cases that have gone across the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne,” she said.
“It appears to be even potentially a super spreader that has caused this upsurge in cases.
“We don’t have the full picture yet and as Brett (Sutton) explained the other day, not all of these cases have yet been subject to genomic sequencing.”
The Premier said further areas could be locked down if Victorians didn’t abide by restrictions.
“You don’t have to live in a hot spot postcode to follow the rules, and if people don’t follow the rules then you will be living in a hot spot postcode because I will have no choice but to shut down more and more parts of our city and potentially our state,” Daniel Andrews said.
“We don’t want to get to that.
“We’ve got to be focused on what is confronting us right now and that is an unacceptably high number of cases and the real risk that we are not just shutting down 10 postcodes, but shutting down all postcodes.
“I want to do everything I possibly can to avoid that.
“One person can be the difference. Your poor behaviour, your bad decision can be the difference between an entire suburb being locked down, and entire postcode being locked down.”
Mr Andrews said the state’s next steps would be driven by data.
“Many hours of the weekend will be spent analysing, considering, discussing back and forth what the status of other postcodes are, and then we will have further announcements to make if indeed we need to based on what that data tells us,” he said.
“I can’t rule out further restrictions and I certainly can’t rule out other postcodes on that formula being pulled into this.
“I’m not announcing that today, I’m not even foreshadowing, I am simply saying you can’t rule that out because we are being driven by the data, and the data obviously changes from day to day.”
A total of 449 cases have been found through the state government’s suburban testing blitz since it commenced last week.
The postcodes with the highest number of new cases have been:
– 3064: Craigieburn, Donnybrook, Mickelham, Roxburgh Park, Kalkallo;
– 3047: Broadmeadows, Dallas, Jacana;
– 3031: Flemington, Kensington;
– 3060: Fawkner.
Health minister Jenny Mikakos said around 10,000 residents had declined the opportunity to be tested for coronavirus so far.
Three more people have been admitted to hospital, bringing the total number of cases in hospital to 21. Six people are in intensive care.
More than 881,000 Victorians have been tested for coronavirus to date.
The Premier announced a $2 million funding boost to mental health services in hot spot suburbs, with the health minister reiterating that seeking health care is a permissible reason for hot spot residents to leave their homes.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he was pleased to see a relative flattening of case numbers despite increased testing, but cautioned that there is still a way to go in bringing the number back down.
“While it may be too early for us to be talking about trends, a day with 66 is obviously far preferable to seeing a doubling and then a doubling again,” he said.
“We are starting to see all of the usual caveats, we can’t predict what tomorrow’s numbers will be, we do need more time in order to get a firmer hold on whether there is a positive trend there. But certainly, to see these numbers relatively consistent is a very pleasing.
“We will be able to talk in more definitive terms as the days pass.”
QUEENSLAND POLICE ON ALERT FOR PEOPLE SMUGGLING
Victorians attempting to get into Queensland hidden in the back of trucks have been warned police will be on the lookout.
Officers will be checking freight and heavy vehicles for Victorians trying to get around the state’s COVID-19 travel ban.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she had been briefed about people-smuggling across the border.
“What we say to everyone out there is, if you are thinking about doing it, don’t do it,” Ms Palaszczuksaid.
“Trucks will also be randomly stopped and if you are a truck driver participating in this you will also get fined as well.”
Anyone entering Queensland from Victoria will be forced into hotel quarantine for 14 days at their own cost — about $3000.
Anyone caught flouting the new restrictions will be slapped with a $4000 fine.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES MAY BE BEHIND LOW TESTING UPTAKE
About 10,000 hotspot residents have refused to be tested for coronavirus, much to the frustration of the health minister.
Ms Mikakos said they were trying to make it as easy as possible for residents in locked down postcodes to be tested.
“Disappointingly, however, we have had more than 10,000 people who have refused to be tested,” she said.
“That might be for a range of reasons, including that they may have already been tested in a different location, we are analysing that data to see exactly why people are refusing, but it is concerning that some people believe that coronavirus is a conspiracy or that it won’t impact on them, so what I want to stress here is that coronavirus is a very contagious virus.
“It can go through your family very quickly, it can affect your neighbours, your loved ones, and your entire community.
“So for those individuals in those communities who have not yet been tested, we are urging them to get tested as quickly as possible.”
PLEA FOR AUSSIES TO TAKE TESTS
Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd is pleading with any Australian offered a COVID-19 test to accept it.
He said people not showing symptoms could still be infectious and they were putting at risk the health of others.
“If you are approached and asked to have a test, please comply,” Prof Kidd said.
“You may be infected with COVID-19 and have no symptoms but still be infectious and putting at risk your own loved ones, your family, and your friends.
I’m very concerned about anyone who is refusing to have a test, particularly when we have high levels of community transmission.”
While the Victorian outbreak was of great concern, Prof Kidd said the slightly lower numbers on Friday gave him some hope.
“This is a strong indication of the effectiveness of the measures that have been implemented in Victoria in response to the outbreak,” Prof Kidd said.
“The figures are showing that some signs of stabilisation that is too early to confirm.”
He said the Victorian situation should serve as a “warning for everybody in Australia”.
CLUSTERS CONTINUE TO GROW
Of the 66 new cases, three are linked to a Roxburgh Park family, bringing the total number of cases in that cluster to 23.
Eight new cases were reported at Al-Taqwa College, bringing the total of numbers in that cluster to 23. All staff and students at the school have been quarantined.
Three close contacts linked to the Stamford Plaza outbreak have tested positive, bringing the total number of cases in that cluster to 35.
A single additional case has been reported at Albanvale Primary, as well as one further case at Orygen Youth Health in Footscray, and one additional case at Villa Bambini in Essendon.
Labor MP Ros Spence took to Facebook on Friday morning to confirm Mount Ridley P-12 College had been the latest facility to be impacted, the 20th school this week.
STATE OPPOSITION CALLS FOR EMERGENCY PARLIAMENT MEETING
State opposition leader Michael O’Brien has called for an emergency meeting of parliament because of the deteriorating COVID-19 situation crippling Victoria.
With more than 300,000 Victorians now back under lockdown restrictions, Mr O’Brien wants the Legislative Assembly to return as early as Tuesday, a month earlier than parliament is due to resume.
He has written to Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Colin Brooks for help setting up the special meeting.
“Concerningly, since Parliament last sat the position on COVID-19 management within the state has deteriorated significantly,” Mr O’Brien said.
“The Coalition notes that, at a point of extreme community threat and where enormous government powers are in operation, the need for scrutiny and accountability is great not lesser. “
Mr O’Brien said under Premier Daniel Andrews’ Crisis Council of Cabinet, setup in response to the coronavirus pandemic, power had been narrowly centralised.
As the government scrambles to respond to serious failures in its hotel quarantine system Mr O’Brien said a judicial inquiry wasn’t enough.
“The existence of a judicial review in progress does not supersede the need for parliamentary questioning of responsible ministers,” he said.
– Shannon Deery
HOTEL QUARANTINE FALLOUT CONTINUES
The Premier hosed down concerns relating to controversy surrounding the government’s hotel quarantine plan.
“It is not necessarily a matter of one single department being responsible for this, and therein are maybe some of the challenges we face,” he said.
“We have a judicial inquiry, that is the appropriate way to go.
“There will be accountability, absolutely. And I am the leader of the government.
“I absolutely acknowledge this is unacceptable, what has gone on here.
“And that is why I have established the inquiry and by the inquiry will do its work at arm’s length.
“We will be independent, appropriate and get to the bottom of what has happened.”
Ms Mikakos distanced her department from the debacle.
“The Department of Health and Human Services has not had and never had contracts with the security companies,” she said.
“Its focus has been to provide a legal framework.
“There were legal directions signed off by the Chief Health Officer that legally required people to be quarantining those hotels, then to provide the mental health, health and wellbeing support for those travellers in those hotels.
“But I have no concerns whatsoever about the role of my department in at the operations of this program being thoroughly examined by this judicial inquiry.
Ms Mikakos denied claims hotel quarantine staff weren’t properly equipped to safely work.
“Employers had contractual obligations to provide training and PPE to their staff,” she said.
“We went above and beyond providing PPE to these hotels.
“Clearly some people may not have followed all the infection control protocols, that is the only explanation we can give as to what has happened with those breakdowns of infection control.”
HOSPITALS PREPARE FOR INFLUX OF VIRUS CASES
It comes as hospitals gear up for an increase in critical cases after the number of people admitted to hospital swelled to 20 on Thursday, including four in intensive care.
With active cases on the rise, the state’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he was afraid of what may follow in the coming days.
“When you have got significant transmission, when you have got 70 odd cases every day, there is absolutely an expectation that some of those people will die,” Prof Sutton said.
“That is why it is incumbent on all of us to be minimising our interactions with others.”
Of the 77 new COVID-19 cases announced on Thursday none were among overseas returnees, although most were contained within the “hot zones” in Melbourne’s north already subjected to new lockdowns.
WHAT RESTRICTIONS MEAN FOR hot spot RESIDENTS
Those outbreaks include a Roxburgh Park family which has 20 cases spread across at least eight households, and a Patterson Lakes/Lysterfield cluster which has grown to 10 cases.
On Thursday evening the AFL announced that a Marvel Stadium security contractor had tested positive to coronavirus.
The security contractor last worked during the day on Monday 29 June patrolling a stadium service entry.
Although he gained some comfort from an apparent stabilisation in Victoria’s COVID-19 infections, Prof Sutton warned the world was only a quarter way through a pandemic which could end up claiming 5-10 million lives globally.
In the immediate future, he said it may be frustrating for those living in hot postcodes to live under tighter restrictions, but all Victorians had to return to strict “stay at home” routines to prevent tragedies.
FINES DISHED OUT FOR RESTRICTION BREACHES
Police have issued seven fines in the last 24 hours as part of Operation Sentinel.
The 500-strong specialist taskforce conducted more than 1000 spot checks at homes, business and non-essential services across the state in that period.
Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said five criminals allegedly found with drugs and weapons were among those fined on the first day of lockdown on Thursday.
“They had no reason to be out and about so in addition to their criminal charges they got five infringements for not complying with the restrictions,” he said on 3AW.
A female from a coronavirus hotspot was also fined after she was found armed with a hammer in the CBD.
She told officers she was “just chilling” with friends.
VICTORIANS SPRUNG SNEAKING INTO SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Dan Andrews posed the question: who would want to go to South Australia?
Well, South Australian police have the answer for the Victorian Premier.
On Thursday, they arrested two men from Melbourne’s western and northwestern suburbs, who attempted to cross the border and escape Victoria’s COVID-19 pressure not once, but twice.
Limestone Coast Police detected the men once they had crossed the border, which is a breach of the new border crossing requirements.
Police allege the duo attempted to cross into South Australia in a Volkswagen van and were stopped at the checkpoint on the Dukes Hwy at Bordertown about 4am on Thursday.
Neither man had completed the required online application to cross the border and both were deemed non-essential travellers.
Read the full story here.
CHECKPOINT CRACKDOWN IN HOT SPOT POSTCODES
Drones, automatic number plate scanners and elite police units are being used to crack down on people leaving coronavirus hot spots without a good excuse, with more than 1000 officers flooding Melbourne’s lockdown suburbs.
Chief Commissioner Shane Patton warned Victoria Police would come down hard on those who did the wrong thing.
He said people would “have to have been living on Mars” to still be unaware of the lockdown restrictions.
“While we may have been very lenient of recent times, with this emergency we’re experiencing, with this threat to public health and the safety of the public, that leniency is dissipating day by day,” Mr Patton said.
“I can assure you we will now be issuing the majority of people who commit these breaches with infringements.
“I want to be absolutely crystal clear, for those who are selfish enough to disregard these warnings from the Chief Health Officer: the deliberate, obvious and blatant breaches, if they’re committing them we will be infringing them.”
Checkpoints have been set up on main routes in and out of lockdown suburbs, and officers are questioning motorists both entering and leaving.
Stage three restrictions are now in place across 36 Melbourne suburbs, meaning residents are only allowed to leave home for four essential reasons — food shopping, care or caregiving, exercise, and work or study.
Officers on Camp Rd in Broadmeadows were seen checking licence details of drivers and their reason for being on the road.
A handful of drivers had pre-prepared letters from employers.
Bus driver Yilmaz Erbas, 55, was pulled in for a check while on his way to work.
He said he wasn’t concerned by the restrictions and said they were a good way of keeping the community safe.
“I think it should be done on all the main roads such as Sydney Rd and Pascoe Vale Rd,” he said.
Matthew Jones, 21, works as a builder and was travelling through Broadmeadows after visiting a Bunnings nearby.
Mr Jones said it would be hard to police people coming and going from hot spot suburbs.
“It’s hit and miss I guess — it’s good in a way but you can’t control everyone and there’s so many ways to get in and out of suburbs,” Mr Jones said.
“I feel for businesses which have picked up and then now they have to close back down again. But we have to get through July, take it day by day.”
In the space of four hours, the Herald Sun saw hundreds of cars pulled over and questioned without a single fine issued for COVID-19 breaches.
But there were also concerns some people might be dodging police sites by using backstreets, or simply lying when pulled over.
Some people on social media alerted locals to checkpoint locations, with one person even boasting about giving officers a false reason for being out.
The Australian Lawyers Alliance called the police response “intimidating”.
Alliance national criminal justice spokesman Greg Barns SC said they were “concerned the residents of these 10 suburbs could be unfairly targeted or inappropriately harassed by police”.
“The purpose of the lockdown is to help residents to stay safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
“In this circumstance, education and harm minimisation is clearly more important that rigid application of the law.”
UNIONS CALL TO MAKE MASKS MANDATORY
Victoria’s public transport union has demanded all passengers be required to wear masks as the number of trips taken and coronavirus infections have risen across Melbourne.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union on Thursday wrote to the Department Of Transport requesting an urgent meeting to enforce mandatory masks immediately.
It comes after Acting Chief Medical Officer said masks could be useful in containing the outbreak of COVID-19 in Victoria.
But RTBU state secretary Luba Grigorovitch said over time experts around the globe had supported the use of masks and urged for this to be taken up in Melbourne.
“If we want to be on top of the virus, we must implement preventive measures especially in areas of high congestion as we turn to living with the pandemic,” she said.
“Our members are putting their health and safety on the line every day.
“They deserve to have the protection of every available public health measure.”
In May, the Andrews Government issued a warning to Victorians after public transport patronage numbers began to grow above the safe levels to maintain social distancing.
A support package for Yarra Trams and Metro Trains has allowed the operators to run at a full timetable despite the majority of commuters continuing to work from home.
But Ms Grigorovitch said drivers and other operational staff were reporting more crowded services, sick passengers and travellers standing far too close to each other.
“The least that could be done is require that travellers prevent the spread of droplets,” she said. “Given we are having this second wave in Victoria we should at least give it a go.
“It is also important the economy snap back to action as soon as possible.
“Establishing this preventive measure as a mater of urgency would ensure Victoria is well placed going forward.
A government spokeswoman said the Chief Health Officer’s advice was that people do not need to wear face masks if they are well.
” If people are unwell, it is vital they stay at home,” he said.
“We’re keeping public transport as safe as possible by cleaning high touch surfaces regularly and deep-cleaning trains, trams and buses every night – and we ask passengers to help by travelling outside the peak wherever possible, practising good hygiene and keeping distant from other commuters.”
CLOUD OVER SCHOOLS AS KIDS SPREAD VIRUS
Families may be forced back into home learning for term 3 after the first signs of student-to-student coronavirus infections have been detected in Victorian schools.
As clusters at two coronavirus hot spot schools grew again yesterday it was revealed there have also been multiple cases of teacher-to-teacher transmission of COVID-19, raising doubts whether school will return in all areas after the current holidays.
Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, on Thursday confirmed the first cases of students spreading coronavirus to classmates had emerged, though the full extent of the transmissions were being investigated.
“There has been some student-to-student transmission and also teacher-to-teacher transmission at some schools,” Prof Sutton said.
“Some of them might be from the same household or might be linked outside the school setting.”
Another five coronavirus cases were linked on Thursday to Albanvale Primary School in Melbourne’s west — three students, a teacher and a close contact — and two more have been linked to a cluster at Al-Taqwa College in Truganina.
Two teachers at Ilim College campuses in Dallas and Glenroy have also tested positive. Both suburbs are among the 10 postcode hot spots that are now in stage 3 lockdown.
With 17 Victorian schools having been closed in recent weeks for deep cleaning following COVID-19 cases, Prof Sutton warned a return to learning-from-home arrangements was being examined.
“It will certainly be reviewed on a day-to-day basis,” Prof Sutton said.
“I will give as much notice as I possibly can around the resumption of school specific to the restricted postcodes.
“The expectation is schools will return, but I do want to see that we are turning transmission around and also that we don’t have such levels of community transmission with students becoming infected that our resourcing is all focused on response to cases in schools.”
While Victoria’s first surge of COVID-19 cases mirrored global evidence of children being much less likely to contract or transmit coronavirus, Prof Sutton said the increased level of community transmission now buffeting the state was painting a new picture.
He said testing in the pandemic’s early stages had been geared away from children, though the recent experiences and introduction of saliva testing were uncovering greater transmission.
UNDERCUTTING, SHOPPING TRIPS AMONG FRESH HOTEL CLAIMS
SCHOOLS IN HOT SPOTS MAY RETURN TO REMOTE LEARNING
INFECTIOUS MAN ALLOWED TO LEAVE HOTEL QUARANTINE
— With additional reporting by Alanah Frost
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