Three Victorians have died of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, while 238 new cases have been confirmed.
Two deaths were confirmed yesterday, while the third, a woman in her 90s, was announced by the Premier this morning.
This brings the number of Victorian deaths to 27.
There are 105 Victorians in hospital with the virus, including 27 in intensive care.
There are 1931 active cases in Victoria, with a total of 4448 cases since the pandemic began.
Five healthcare workers at the Royal Children’s Hospital have tested positive to coronavirus.
A hospital spokeswoman said on Wednesday night five staff members had contracted the virus separately and were not connected to any particular work team.
Seven other employees were self-isolating, the spokeswoman said in a statement.
The spokeswoman said no patients at the hospital had COVID-19.
“The RCH has restricted all patient visitors except parents/guardians since April. This includes siblings and extended family and exemptions are only allowed in the most extreme circumstances,” she said.
A restaurant located within the Royal Children’s Hospital was closed last Friday by the franchisee after a back of house worker tested positive to COVID-19, the spokeswoman said.
“As this is a private retail tenancy, contact tracing is being managed by DHHS. The RCH has received no advice to any risk to patrons however took the measure of advising all staff as soon as we became aware and also placing advisory notices,” she said.
Patient visitors, except parents/guardians, have been banned from entering the hospital since April.
That included siblings and extended family and exemptions have only been allowed in the most extreme circumstances.
It comes as the state’s chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton said the death toll would continue to rise as daily cases continued in the triple-digits.
“One in 100 — or more — will die,” he said.
“When we have 238 cases every day, we’re looking at two to three deaths in a week or more’s time.”
Premier Daniel Andrews said he believed the ICU numbers were “relatively stable”.
Mr Andrews also said whether the state moves to stricter restrictions is in the hands of Victorians.
“I’m not foreshadowing stage four,” he said.
“If people don’t follow the rules, then additional restrictions become more likely.”
He said localised restrictions were a possibility.
“I wouldn’t rule out that having different settings in different parts of the city or the state — that’s HPPC-endorsed, national cabinet-endorsed,” he said.
“Who knows, that may be something that gets deployed in other states if they got a really localised problem.”
He said the state was not looking at an elimination strategy.
“The national cabinet decision is not to drive cases down to zero for weeks and weeks at a time, which is the only way you can be confident to have driven it out, that is the ultimate success,” he said.
“There is a massive economic cost that comes with that … This is our only option at this stage.”
Prof Sutton said he expected the impact of stage three restrictions would be reflected in case numbers soon.
“There is no guarantee of a drop-off, we should see it at the end of this week but it will absolutely be a reflection of people who are doing the right thing in the week just passed” he said.
Prof Sutton revealed that aged care facilities were among the new outbreaks.
Twenty-nine cases have been linked to Menarock Life Aged Care Facility in Essendon, while nine cases have been confirmed at Embracia Aged Care in Moonee Valley, and two have been confirmed at St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner.
A total of 21 cases have been recorded at JBS Abbatoir in Brooklyn, while four have been recorded at Waste Equipment and Hiab Services in Ardeer.
Cases linked to Somerville Retail Services in Tottenham doubled overnight, bringing the cluster to 33.
Three new cases have been linked to Al-Taqwa College, bringing the cluster to 150 cases.
Four cases have been recorded at Steel Mains in Somerton, as well as TD Cabinets in Dandenong.
A dozen cases have now been linked to an outbreak at LaManna Supermarket Essendon.
Three cases have been tied to Bell Collision Repair Centre in Preston.
283 residents at various public housing towers in North Melbourne, Flemington and Carlton have tested postive to the virus.
Prof Sutton said social distancing was paramount.
“That 1.5m distance is the most important thing you can do,” he said.
“People obsess over lift buttons but it is that limited interaction with other people that will minimise the transmission.”
LOWTHER HALL ANGLICAN GRAMMAR TO SHUT ESSENDON CAMPUS
A Melbourne private school will close after a teacher was diagnosed with COVID-19 on the same day students returned for face-to-face classes.
Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar will shut its Essendon campus for two days following a confirmed case in a member of its teaching staff.
The school only reopened to students in Year 10, Year 11 and Year 12 on Wednesday.
Those students will now return to remote learning classes from Thursday, along with other students from Grade 2 to Year 9.
Principal Elisabeth Rhodes confirmed the case with the school community on Wednesday night.
“I know that some families will be feeling anxious about this situation, but please be assured that we will do everything necessary to make the site safe and to follow up with anyone at risk,” she said
The campus is expected to reopen to senior students on Monday, July 20 after a deep clean and contact tracing.
– Ashley Argoon
POLICE TO WEAR MASKS AT STATIONS
Victoria Police has advised officers to wear masks inside police stations and at other work settings where they will be in close proximity to each other.
Face masks will be supplied by Victoria Police.
A Victoria Police statement on Wednesday night said the policy was in line with the Department of Health and Human Services recommendations regarding stage 3 restrictions.
“Victoria Police has recommended staff wear face masks within controlled Victoria Police workplaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained, including where no contact with the public occurs,” it said.
“To further help stop the spread of coronavirus, Victoria Police have safety protocols in place in all work areas and employees are provided with health and safety advice.”
– Josh Fagan
WOOLIES STORE FORCED TO CLOSE
A popular Woolworths in Melbourne’s southeast was forced to close overnight after a worker tested positive for COVID-19.
The team member was working at the store in Officer on Saturday between 9am and 2pm and didn’t have any symptoms at the time.
The Woolworths in Arena Shopping Centre closed Tuesday night for a deep clean.
This morning a notice greeted customers as they entered the supermarket stating if anyone had shopped in the store on or since Saturday and became unwell they should contact the DHHS.
“The wellbeing of our customers, team and communities is our highest priority, and in line with the public health advice, we are taking all necessary steps to ensure ongoing safety in our stores,” the statement read.
“Thank you for your continued patience and support.”
Team members who came into contact with the infected person are being notified by the DHHS.
– James Mottershead
POSITIVE CASE AT MORRIS JONES
A staff member at popular Prahran venue Morris Jones has tested positive to COVID-19.
Owner of the restaurant, Hayden Burbank, said the staff member worked on Wednesday July 8.
“We worked out when this staff member got it and it was right at the end of the night,’’ Burbank said.
“(The Department of Health) did advise us there is going to be a delay so I took the initiative and emailed everyone immediately.
“I got on the front foot and both people who were served drinks from this person have tested negative. All other staff have tested negative as well.”
In a statement, Morris Jones said:
“The staff member was not involved with handling of food or plates, but did handle drinks on occasion and was present for the duration of service throughout the night, as such we are advised by the Department of Health that you and any guests that were with you at Morris Jones on the night of Wednesday 8th July should immediately get tested for COVID-19.
Please self-isolate and practice social distancing until you have received your test results back.”
– Jackie Epstein
WARRINGAL PRIVATE HOSPITAL RECORDS THIRD CASE
Just days after reopening its doors following two confirmed COVID-19 cases in staff members, Warringal Private Hospital has recorded a third case.
The externally contracted physiotherapist visited the Heidelberg hospital on Thursday and has since tested positive for COVID-19.
Contact tracing found the doctor had close contact with five patients, all of whom have been informed and had already left the hospital.
Following the latest confirmed case, the hospital has put a ban on visitors, with some exceptions.
Doctors and staff have been told to wear a mask at all times and a testing centre has been set up.
Parts of the hospital reopened at the start of this week after two staff members tested positive on Sunday evening.
Patients in the oncology ward and five staff were found to have been close contacts with the positive cases and all are isolating and receiving care.
No patients currently at the hospital have been diagnosed with the virus.
– Tamsin Rose
MELBOURNE MAN STARTED SYDNEY HOTEL CLUSTER
A Melbourne man who travelled to Sydney and attended a work party at the Crossroads Hotel in Casula has been identified as the pub cluster’s ‘patient zero’.
NSW Health confirmed that the man, who was asymptomatic, unwittingly infected around six of his colleagues either at the office or at the function later that day.
He had travelled from Melbourne on June 30 and attended the hotel on July 3.
The health agency’s “disease detectives” tracked the man down after connecting the dots between the surge in new infections and their whereabouts in the days prior.
NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said in addition, one more infection linked to the Crossroads Hotel was this morning detected, bringing the total number associated with the cluster to 34.
Read the full story here.
AGED CARE CASES CONTINUE TO GROW
More than 100 staff and patients across 32 Victorian aged care homes have tested positive for COVID-19.
Eight facilities have residents who have tested positive and 24 centres have only seen positive results in staff.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Menarock Life facility in Essendon was of “particular importance” to authorities.
“The advice that I have is that all patients who have been diagnosed as positive are either in the process of being moved, or have already been moved, to hospital,” Mr Hunt said.
There are 108 active cases across the 32 facilities so far.
– Tamsin Rose
PARTIES AND KFC DINER AMONG FINE RECIPIENTS
Police in Victoria have issued 40 infringement notices to people visiting massage parlours or sex work premises.
Victoria Police deputy commissioner Rick Nugent also revealed people had been discovered at a house party and found hiding in cupboards as people continue to breach lockdown rules.
A party at a short-term rental in Melbourne’s CBD was responsible for more than 30 COVID-19 lockdown breaches.
Deputy commissioner Nugent told reporters police were called to the La Trobe St, Docklands premises last Thursday night due to a noise complaint.
He said up to ten people were fined, but police were then forced to revisit the site when the party continued, with a further 24 infringements issued.
The owner of the short-term rental was also fined for allowing the party to happen.
In the past 24 hours police have fined 63 individuals for breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions
Twenty-one of the infringements were issued at vehicle checkpoints.
Yesterday up to ten people had gathered on stools in a Wavell St, Bentleigh driveway.
The group was seated around a gas heater and drinking alcohol.
They told police if they maintained 1.5m distance, they were able to gather in the street.
One of the males on scene had travelled from Brighton.
Four people who live in different areas including Cranbourne, Collingwood and Cranbourne North were gathered at a private residence in Alphington.
When asked by police for their reason for being there, they stated they were there to charge their phone.
Another fine was issued to a Melburnian who refused to leave a KFC eatery, even when requested by police.
Two friends were also caught in a vehicle together “playing Pokemon”, while 40 infringements have been handed out to people trying to attend massage parlours.
It comes after four Victorians were busted allegedly stowing away on an interstate freight train en route to Perth at the Adelaide Freight Terminal yesterday.
The train had departed Melbourne about 10.30pm on Monday night.
It stopped at the Adelaide Freight Terminal at Regency Park on Tuesday morning about 9.30am where they were spotted.
Patrols searched the train yard with police dogs and located the four men, aged 22, 26, 29 and 29, believed to be from Victoria.
They were arrested and charged with breaching COVID directions.
— Anthony Piovesan
MASKS COMPULSORY IN COURTS BUT NOT SCHOOLS
Teachers will not be made to wear face masks in schools, while courts across Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire will make face masks mandatory.
Prof Sutton said it was impractical for teachers in schools to wear masks when teaching.
“Mandatory mask wearing isn’t off the table but I’m cognisant that not everyone can buy three cloth masks, to be able to manage cleaning them every day,” he said.
“It’s a risk not to have them, especially with the level of transmission happening in Melbourne.
“I think the norms are shifting, I’m definitely seeing many more masks than in previous weeks.”
It comes as all court users in metro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will be forced to wear face masks before entering court buildings.
Official government advice remains that masks are recommended for Victorians in lockdown areas who are unable to socially distance.
But users of Victorians courts in lockdown areas will be required to wear masks with free masks being rolled out across the courts in coming days.
The requirement will extend to all court users including defendants, security guards, and staff.
Masks will be able to be removed when in court and if appropriately socially distanced.
– Shannon Deery
BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTEST LINKED TO TOWER OUTBREAKS
It comes as two protesters who attended the Black Lives Matter rally have had their COVID-19 cases linked to the outbreak in Melbourne’s public housing towers.
Health authorities have confirmed the link without saying if the protesters lived, visited or were close contacts of those in the towers, The Australian reports.
The public housing cluster has seen at least 242 cases.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton previously said it was unlikely the protesters caught the virus at the rally in Melbourne’s CBD which was attended by 10,000 people on June 6.
The link does not necessarily mean the protesters were the original source of the public housing tower outbreak, which is the state’s largest cluster to date.
Positive cases in the towers in North Melbourne and Flemington caused its 3000 residents to endure five days of hard lockdown.
Meanwhile, a strain of COVID-19 detected in southwest Sydney — where 30 people have been struck with the virus — originated from Victoria.
Genomic tests given to NSW Health show a unique Victorian strain has hit Sydney, where there is growing concern about the number of new cases.
The genomic sequence of the Crossroads Hotel outbreak “has not been seen before in NSW”,
official NSW Health advice stated.
The laboratory analysis has mapped four of the current NSW cases to Victoria.
It is understood close examination of truck and logistics companies linked to Victoria is being undertaken in a bid to identify patient zero.
The sequencing was able to establish the Victorian strain of the virus had leaked into the border area at Albury, the western Sydney area with the four cases including:
• A man from the Blue Mountains who had dinner at the Crossroads Hotel on July 3 and had not been to Melbourne;
• A man who arrived in Sydney with a caravan from Melbourne on July 7; and
• Two Albury border cases — a woman in her 30s who travelled from Melbourne, and her family member who had not travelled from Melbourne.
“(They) are part of a new genomic cluster linked to other Victorian cases. This cluster has not been seen before in NSW,” the health advice read.
“Other cases linked to the hotel are being sequenced. This would indicate that the Crossroads is most likely linked to Melbourne.”
HEAVIER LOCKDOWN LOOMS
Authorities are engaged in high-level talks over potential stage four restrictions, with police being briefed on possible options.
Scenarios being discussed include a short blast, which would involve a complete shutdown for two to five days.
Such a crackdown would most likely be introduced as case numbers started to decline, with the aim of dramatically fast tracking the reduction in infections, enabling stage three restrictions to be eased sooner than currently planned.
Under this scenario, Victorians would be required to stay inside their homes most of the day, with limited exercise hours and curfews.
All shops except grocery stores and pharmacies would shut.
WHAT LIFE UNDER STAGE 4 RESTRICTIONS WOULD LOOK LIKE
Tougher directives for staying away from work could also be introduced.
A purported official text message was leaked on Tuesday, detailing similar measures.
Asked if the government had started planning for the next phase of restrictions Premier Daniel Andrews said it was too early to make any announcements.
“We all the way through this have tried to be as frank and clear with the Victorian community as possible,” Mr Andrews said. “If we’re planning for something, if we’ve made decisions, we announce them in pretty good time.
“We always have to look at every single option about what a next phase, a next step, will be. It will all be based on health advice, it will all be based on the data.”
It is understood a further tightening of restrictions would be likely when case numbers started to decline, to give a severe lockdown the chance to eliminate the virus.
Sources said an extension of current restrictions statewide would be a possible next step. Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Melbourne’s northwest remained the state’s coronavirus hot spot region.
“All of metro Melbourne is a concern in the sense that we’ve got cases that cover much of metro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire,” he said.
“But the northwest corridor is still where transmission is occurring.”
Prof Sutton said Victoria was currently tracking on the wrong side of the curve to consider an elimination strategy. He said further restrictions were inevitable if numbers did not start falling.
“We would do the minimum required because we know how much of an imposition it is on businesses, on people’s lives, but if it’s required to reduce transmission then it has to be in play,” he said. The Premier did not rule out the possibility of stage four restrictions.
It comes as Melbourne commuters using public transport are defying government recommendations, with some refusing to wear face masks despite major concerns the virus is spreading in the community.
Face masks are being recommended now as a result of the higher number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases currently occurring across areas in Victoria under Stage 3 restrictions as explained by Victorian Chief Health Officer by Brett Sutton
The state government last week upgraded official recommendations that Melburnians wear masks when they could not social distance, with public transport being singled out as a high priority.
On train services across the city on Wednesday morning, many commuters were not wearing masks.
Instead, there were reports of people applying make-up and eating.
This was witnessed on several train lines and includes people travelling from high infection areas and moving through major hubs like Richmond and Flinders St stations.
Two days ago, Prof Sutton released a video advising Victorians to wear masks and how to wear them properly.
This included instructions on how to make your own.
“With a virus this infectious, every bit helps and the simple action of wearing a face mask will help protect your family, your neighbours and the most vulnerable in our community,” he said.
— With Rachel Baxendale and Anna Caldwell
COMMUTERS IGNORE MASK RECOMMENDATIONS
Melbourne commuters using public transport are defying government recommendations with some refusing to wear face masks despite major concerns the virus is spreading in the community.
It comes a week after the state government upgraded official recommendations that Melburnians wear masks when they could not social distance with public transport being singled out as a high priority.
On train services across the city this morning many commuters were not wearing masks.
Instead, there were reports of people doing their make up and eating.
This was witnessed on several train lines and includes people travelling from high infection areas and moving through major hubs like Richmond Station and Flinders St Station.
Two days ago Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton released a video advising Victorians to wear masks and how to wear them properly.
This includes instructions on how to make your own.
“With a virus this infectious, every bit helps and the simple action of wearing a face mask will help protect your family, your neighbours and the most vulnerable in our community,” Mr Sutton said.
– Alex White
POLICE FINE SOCIETY-BLAMING PAIR FOR RESTRICTIONS BREACH
Two men who “blamed society” for not knowing how to change a tyre are the latest Victorians slapped with fines for disobeying stay at home orders.
Doncaster police were on patrol in Warrandyte when they came across a Nissan Pulsar missing a front tyre on Yarra Rd about 3am.
Officers spoke to the 19-year-old driver and his 22-year-old Ringwood passenger who said the tyre had got a puncture and they drove until they couldn’t go any further.
“Both stated it was not their fault that they did not know to change a tyre and blamed society for not teaching them,” police spokesman Alistair Parsons said.
The Eltham man was breath tested and returned a reading of 0.162, more than three times the legal limit for fully licensed drivers.
His licence was immediately suspended for 12 months and it is expected he will be charged on summons with drink driving offences.
The pair were each issued $1652 fines for breaching coronavirus restrictions.
– Brianna Travers
ELIMINATION OF COVID NOT AN AIM: PM
Elimination of COVID-19 will not be pursued by Australia despite growing calls for a major strategy shift from some leading epidemiologists.
Scott Morrison said it was not practical to aim to entirely remove the virus across the country because the nation was so deeply linked and reliant on other countries.
“You don’t just shut the whole country down because that’s not sustainable.,” the Prime Minister said.
“You’d be doubling unemployment, potentially even worse.
“The cure would be worse than what arguably would not be delivered anyway because as we have seen in the outbreak in Victoria, it came from a breach of quarantine.
“Unless we are going to not allow any freight or any medical supplies into Australia, or not allow any exports or anything like this, there is always going to be a connection between Australia and the rest of the world.”
Mr Morrison said he was pushing ahead with the suppression strategy along with other nations, while simultaneously working on vaccines.
Mr Morrison was in “constant contact” with Daniel Andrews about the worsening situation in Victoria.
“We are still very much in the throws in Victoria with the government just getting on top of the tracing and the tracking,” Mr Morrison said.
– Tamsin Rose
Additional reporting by Shannon Deery and Ian Royall
MORE VICTORIANS DIE, CHANCE OF HARSHER RESTRICTIONS
ABATTOIR ‘ABANDONED’ IN VIRUS TRACING ‘SHAMBLES’
MILITARY SET TO ROLL IN TO SUPPORT VICTORIA IN CRISIS
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