Good evening, here are the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic in Australia. This is Luke Henriques-Gomes and it’s Friday 31 July.
Victoria in crisis
Victoria was on the verge of implementing further coronavirus restrictions after a horror week that saw several more deaths and a record 732 new cases on Thursday. Daniel Andrews, the premier, announced face masks would be mandatory across the state, extending rules that made them compulsory in Melbourne. He also acknowledged the government was considering further measures, and that the state was unlikely to leave stage three restrictions in three weeks if trends continued.
Aged care system in chaos
The rising death toll in Victoria was fuelled by the spread of the virus within several aged care homes, prompting authorities to take over several facilities. A number of nursing homes were in varying states of chaos, families said, while Victoria and the federal government increasingly bickered over the ensuing crisis. Blaming the privatised system, Andrews said he would not want his own mother to be living in some nursing homes.
NSW confident of tracing despite growing cluster
New South Wales continued to record new cases of coronavirus, with a growing cluster in the inner-Sydney suburb of Potts Point involving two restaurants and a yacht club. Several schools, gyms and other venues were forced to close, but authorities believed that NSW’s tracking efforts were keeping the outbreaks in check, though the situation was “on a knife’s edge”. The government also issued a watchlist of suburbs stretching from Potts Point to the city’s west including Prestons, Cabramatta and Bonnyrigg. Queensland also closed its borders to people from greater Sydney.
Three women charged over Covid cases in Queensland
Queensland authorities were furious after three women allegedly lied on their border declaration forms to avoid quarantining after a trip to Melbourne. Two of the three women went on to test positive to the coronavirus, forcing the health department to issue a lengthy list of locations in Brisbane’s south-side now linked to Covid-19. Queensland’s human rights commission also criticised the decision of several media outlets to publish the names and photographs of the women.
Ruby Princess passengers let off ship after border force officer confused flu and coronavirus test results
Documents revealed that an Australian Border Force officer allowed passengers to disembark the Ruby Princess because he mistook negative flu results for negative Covid-19 tests. Labor called on the federal government to apologise, noting that the head of the ABF had previously blamed the NSW government.
Woolworths asks customers to wear face masks
Supermarket giant Woolworths said it would “strongly encourage” customers to wear face masks in its NSW and ACT stores from Monday. A similar recommendation began in some areas of Queensland on Friday. Face masks are mandatory in Victoria and are recommended in parts of Sydney where there is high community transmission. However, Woolworths said it would not turn customers away if they did not have a mask.
Police arrest protesters at BLM rally over Covid breaches
A peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney went ahead despite being ruled “unauthorised” by the NSW supreme court after a request from the NSW police. The decision was then upheld by the court of appeal. Police arrested and fined six people at the rally on Tuesday. Protesters had promised to call off the demonstration if the government agreed to a SafeWork NSW investigation into the death of David Dungay Jr.
Kylie Moore-Gilbert moved to notorious Iran desert prison
Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic serving a 10-year jail sentence in Iran for espionage, was moved to the Qarchak women’s prison, south-east of Tehran, and reportedly stricken with coronavirus. She was fearful, terrified and unwell inside Qarchak before she was forcibly moved from quarantine into the general prison population, sources said.
Senior adviser to PM forced to isolate
Nico Louw, a senior adviser to Scott Morrison, went into self-quarantine after he was linked to a Covid-19 case. Louw had visited the Apollo Greek restaurant in Potts Points, which is at the centre of a growing cluster in the Sydney suburb. The PM’s office confirmed the development but said Morrison’s schedule would not be affected, as per health advice.
ATO crackdown on super withdrawals
The Australian Taxation Office this week said it had launched a pilot program aimed at detecting people who had withdrawn their retirement savings when they were not eligible. It comes after the government allowed early super releases in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the ATO said people who had withdrawn the money against the rule could be taxed on withdrawals or face penalties of up to $12,600 for misleading statements.
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