We will leave you for now. Thanks for reading. Stay safe, and we’ll see you tomorrow.
Let’s take a look at some of the main developments from today.
- Victorian authorities announced 723 new cases today and 13 more deaths
- The Victorian government extended mandatory mask rules to cover the entire state
- New South Wales recorded 18 new cases
- Queensland recorded three new cases, while two women who allegedly breached border rules were fined
- Woolworths will “encourage” customers in NSW and the ACT as well as Queensland hotspots to wear masks
Man in his 50s dies in Victoria
The ABC has just reported that a Portland man in his 50s has died. His death is not included in the 13 deaths recorded today, which relate to people who died over the course of Wednesday.
A high school in Sydney’s inner west has been cleared to reopen after closing temporarily due to a possible Covid-19 case.
Fort Street High School in Petersham closed on Thursday for deep cleaning as a member of its community was tested for coronavirus, AAP reports.
The co-ed selective school will open on Friday after NSW Health said the person concerned had tested negative.
Just in from NSW Health:
NSW Health is warning patrons and staff of the following venues that Covid-19 cases have been identified as attending: Harpoon and Hotel Harry in Surry Hills, Tan Viet in Cabramatta and Matinee Coffee in Marrickville.
These venues are in addition to Fitness First St Leonards, advised earlier today.
A confirmed case notified today attended Matinee Coffee in Marrickville on 26 July between 8am to 9am and on 27 July between 7am to 7.45am. People who were at this venue at the same times are advised to monitor for symptoms and immediately self-isolate and seek testing if they develop symptoms, however mild.
A confirmed case notified on 27 July and linked to the funeral gatherings cluster attended Tan Viet in Cabramatta on 23 July from midday to 2pm. People who attended at these times must self-isolate and get tested and stay isolated for a full 14 days, even if the test is negative. If symptoms develop, get tested again.
A case confirmed today who attended the Apollo Restaurant in Potts Point on 25 July also attended Harpoon and Hotel Harry in Surry Hills on 26 July, from 2.15pm to 11pm in the indoor dining areas.
People who attended Harpoon and Hotel Harry for two hours in the above time period must self-isolate and get tested and stay isolated for a full 14 days, even if the test is negative. If symptoms develop, get tested again.
The Australian share market has broken its two-day losing streak after the chairman of the US Federal Reserve pledged the central bank would use all the tools at its disposal to support the world’s largest economy.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed Thursday up 44.7 points, or 0.74%, at 6,051.1 points, while All Ordinaries index rose 49.5 points, or 0.81%, at 6,177.5.
“Pretty strong across the board today,” the SG Hiscock Australian portfolio manager, Hamish Tadgell, told AAP.
Stronger oil prices and a strong statement from the US Federal Open Market Committee promising to keep rates low and continue stimulus measures helped lift sentiment, Tadgell said.
Media wrong to identify border breach duo: Qld Human Rights Commissioner
The Queensland Human Rights Commissioner, Scott McDougall, says it was wrong for the media to publish the names and photographs of two women accused of breaching Queensland’s coronavirus restrictions.
McDougall says he was hearing from the Brisbane African community that they were experiencing a backlash.
Other Queenslanders and people from interstate caught breaching restrictions have not been publicly identified, even when their activities have led to infections or outbreaks – including the Noosa birthday party cluster and many other similar situations.
Similarly, the guards allegedly at the centre of Melbourne’s second wave of infections (still recording record daily increases and multiple fatalities) have not been publicly named or had their photographs released, nor have those working in aged care facilities and meatworks where clusters have now appeared.
The right to privacy should apply equally to everyone.
While he said the anger at the possible new waves of cases was “completely understandable”, he said naming the women did not help curb the outbreak and caused harm for them.
Already we have seen comments to ‘deport them’, ‘send them back to where they come from’, and worse, alongside appallingly hyperbolic coverage from some media outlets branding them with terms usually reserved for people accused of treason and other high-level crimes. Pictures of their homes have allegedly been posted to local residents’ groups on social media.
Some members of the community are already reporting abusive text messages and social media harassment, others are worried about their children being harassed or abused on their way to and from school.
I understand that people are frustrated and angry and fearful of another wave of infections. We can be angry at individuals for disregarding the rules, for being dishonest or reckless or putting other people at risk.
But we cannot allow this to create a second wave of Covid-related racial hostility. The actions of just two people cannot and should not be used as an excuse to harass or abuse an entire community – the vast majority of which has, like the rest of Queensland, tried to comply with the rules.
The ABC has published a story shedding more light on the Ruby Princess debacle.
Citing documents obtained under freedom of information, the broadcaster says the Australian Border Force allowed 2,700 people off the cruise ship because a senior official mistook negative tests to the common flu for negative Covid-19 tests.
You can read that story here.
Woolworths asks customers to wear face masks
Woolworths has issued a statement saying its customers will be “strongly encouraged to wear face coverings” in coming days.
The supermarket chain said customers in NSW, and ACT would be encouraged to wear face coverings from Monday 3 August, while the same recommendation would apply from tomorrow in Queensland in identified hotspots.
“The guidance is for Woolworths Supermarkets, Woolworths Metro Food Stores, BIG W, Dan Murphy’s, BWS and ALH Hotels,” the company said in a statement.
“This is in addition to the mandatory requirements for face coverings in all of Victoria, currently in place across Melbourne and Mitchell shires, with the entire state now included from Sunday.”
There is no suggestion in the company’s statement that customers would be turned away for failing to wear a mask.
The Woolworths Group chief executive, Brad Banducci, said: “Even though wearing a face covering is not mandatory in NSW, ACT or Queensland, as the largest private sector employer with stores in almost every community, we feel it’s important we lead the way in helping reduce community transmission of Covid-19.
“We’re asking our teams to lead by example, and this includes our Group Executive Team.
“Masks and face coverings are a highly visible symbol of the persistence of Covid-19. By encouraging and role modelling their use, it will further support the steps we need to collectively take to stop the spread of the virus and keep our team and customers safe.”
Staff will be provided with masks, the company said.
Aged care royal commission won't examine pandemic
The impact of the coronavirus outbreak in aged care facilities warrants a fuller inquiry than can be conducted by the current royal commission, its chair says.
AAP reported on Thursday comments from Tony Pagone QC, who said the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety could not conduct a full inquiry into the impact of the pandemic on the sector.
“We simply do not have the resources or time to conduct an inquiry that would do justice to the issues which have arisen so far and continue to change and develop,” Pagone said on Thursday.
“The issues associated with the impacts of Covid-19 in aged care warrant an inquiry of their own.”
Pagone issued the statement in an attempt to temper public expectations about the royal commission’s August hearing into the aged care sector’s response to Covid-19.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said the royal commission would have “absolute ability to go into the intricacies” of the coronavirus outbreaks in aged care facilities.
Pagone said the royal commission was not able nor intending to conduct a full inquiry into the impact of the pandemic on aged care.
He said the hearing would look at lessons to be learnt about the level of preparedness for a major infectious disease outbreak in aged care and whether the COVID-19 response appropriately balanced the needs of everyone affected by the outbreaks.
“Our inquiries may reveal, as seems likely, that there needs to be a fuller and more forensic inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 in aged care,” he said.
“Such an inquiry would need adequate time and resources extending beyond the time frame available to us.”
Pagone said it was up to the government to decide if such an inquiry should be undertaken.
“The impact of COVID-19 on Australia’s aged care sector is a national tragedy,” Pagone said.
“It is a human tragedy. At the moment, that tragedy is unfolding daily.”
The royal commission’s August 10-13 hearing will not specifically focus on the ongoing coronavirus crisis in Victoria, where 57 aged care residents have died.
There are 877 active coronavirus cases connected to outbreaks in Victorian aged care facilities.
An outbreak of 30 cases linked to Melbourne Health’s Royal Park campus was also today included in the Department of Health and Human Services’ daily update.
This outbreak has not appeared in previous updates.
We have approached the department and Melbourne Health for comment as to whether this relates to the Royal Melbourne hospital, which is at Royal Park.
Coatsworth says the effect of the mandatory mask policy will start to become more apparent over the next week.
“We’re confident it will assist things. And the extra measures that premier Andrews has suggested today will have an important effect in regional Australia.”
Could we expect to see masks mandated across the country?
It will be difficult to reach that point in places like the Northern Territory and Western Australia at the moment. As the epidemic spreads and we’re less confident about where community transmission is, then the mandatory mask policy will be implemented and has been done in regional Victoria as of this Sunday.
In New South Wales, it’s strongly recommended if you can’t socially distance you wear a mask. I’m sure Queensland in the early phases of locking down these cases in south-east Queensland at the moment is considering this also.
That leads Karvelas to the obvious question about whether that makes the case for paid pandemic leave. Coatsworth sidesteps that one, saying that in general, the role of health experts would be to quantify how significant the issue was.
“If it’s isolated cases, then you don’t need national policy to affect that,” he says.
“If it’s a substantial proportion of why this epidemic is spreading, then we need to make that clear to government, and then the arms of government that would deal with that, Treasury, industrial relations etc would need to consider the response.”
Coatsworth is asked how many more deaths we should expect. He doesn’t answer specifically, but reiterates the health department boss Brendan Murphy’s warning that we should expect more.
On the issue of people ignoring health advice and going to work, Coatsworth says there are reasons that occur.
Because they’re in financial hardship, because they’re in casual employment, all sorts of reasons like that need to be assessed and we need to find something as a government to help people get the message to stay at home. One of the important things is this doesn’t go away if we all go to work if we’ve got Covid-19. Any hardship we’re feeling at the moment is going to be magnified many fold if we don’t get this epidemic under control. That’s where we can all play a part.
Coatsworth is asked by Karvelas about about PPE shortages.
From our side, the national medical stockpile has sufficient equipment. We know the Victorian government, the aged care providers, can do their own procurement. We know that global supply chains, whilst not perfect, are in much better shape than they were during the first wave.
The deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth, is on the ABC.
He is asked by Patricia Karvelas whether all residents who test positive for Covid should be moved to hospital or treated only by a registered nurse.
I can tell you, having had my father in aged care, in three residential aged care facilities, the facilities themselves are vastly different, both in terms of their layout, their staffing, their ability to care for patients on site, to do what we call cohorting patients with Covid-19. So that decision-making has to be about the patients’ welfare. This is their home for these individuals.
Coatsworth says the patient’s clinical condition should dictate the decision.
For the most affected facilities, the central hospitals that service them have been partnered with the Victorian aged care response centre to make sure that level of assessment is at the highest possible level for a medical specialist to decide whether a resident stays in their home or whether they go to hospital.
Labor’s Linda Burney, Pat Dodson, Warren Snowdon and Malarndirri McCarthy have issued a statement on the government’s Closing the Gap announcement.
It is 17 months since the prime minister said he would work with First Nations peak organisations on new Closing the Gap targets to reduce the disparities between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.
A closer partnership between government and First Nations organisations as well as a greater role in service delivery will be critical to seeing real and lasting progress.
Equally as important however, is that we see leadership, action and funding from the prime minister and the government.
This means funding and reform to ensure that remote housing is adequate.
It means guaranteeing access to clean water and secure food supplies – basic items that many Australians would be shocked to learn is simply unavailable in many parts of our country.
It must also mean economic development and jobs – employment programs that actually work, unlike the Community Development Program, which is discriminatory and punishes people for who they are and where they live.
We also welcome the new and emboldened role and responsibility of state, territory and local government in this national effort.
Ultimately, Closing the Gap is about ending the disparity in service delivery, and ensuring First Nations Australians have equal access to quality services.
The greater role of First Nations organisations in service delivery must not result in mainstream organisations – education, healthcare and other service providers – vacating the Indigenous space. Rather, it should energise them to work more closely with First Nations organisations.
We cannot underestimate the enormous task ahead.
The government has a real opportunity to deliver substantive investment in education and employment, health, housing and infrastructure that will change the lives of First Nations people, no matter where they live.
Bipartisanship cannot be a race to the bottom.
Three women charged over alleged Queensland border breaches
Queensland police say three women have been charged with allegedly providing false information on their Queensland border declarations.
In a statement, police say:
Police will allege that all three women travelled to Victoria and deliberately provided misleading documents at the Queensland border.
A 19-year-old Heritage Park woman, a 21-year-old Acacia Ridge woman and a 21-year-old Algester woman have all been charged with one count each of providing false or misleading documents – Section 364 of the Public Health Act (maximum penalty – 100 penalty units or $13,345) and fraud (dishonestly gain benefit/advantage) – Section 408C(1)(d) of the criminal code (maximum penalty five years’ imprisonment).
Police can also confirm that all three women are now cooperating with QPS and Queensland Health officials.
A criminal investigation is also being undertaken by Task Force Sierra Linnet investigators, which is unrelated and not connected to the alleged travel to Victoria.
All three women are currently in quarantine and are due to appear in the Brisbane magistrates court on 28 September.
[cont from previous post]
Here are the new infections and totals related to other Covid outbreaks in Victoria.
It is worth noting that there have been 33 new cases linked to Bertocchi Smallgoods in two days.
- 121 cases have been linked to Bertocchi Smallgoods in Thomastown (+21)
- 106 cases have been linked to Somerville Retail Services in Tottenham (+6)
- 82 cases have been linked to JBS in Brooklyn (4+)
- 64 cases have been linked to Australian Lamb Company in Colac (+13)
- 30 cases have been linked to Woolworths Distribution Centre Mulgrave (+1)
Victoria update: Stats and outbreaks
Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services has issued its daily statement.
As previously reported, there are 723 new cases, with 660 under investigation.
Compared to yesterday, the stricken St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner has recorded 22 new cases, with 111 now linked to the facility.
Overall, there are 877 active cases relating to outbreaks across aged care facilities, and 549 active cases among healthcare workers.
Here are the main aged care outbreaks, including how many new cases from yesterday.
- 111 cases have been linked to St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner (+22)
- 94 cases have been linked to Estia Aged Care Facility in Ardeer (+3)
- 90 cases have been linked to Epping Gardens Aged Care in Epping (+4)
- 81 cases have been linked to Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth (+3)
- 67 cases have been linked to Estia Aged Care Facility in Heidelberg (+11)
- 62 cases have been linked to Menarock Life Aged Care Facility in Essendon (no change)
- 56 cases have been linked to Glendale Aged Care Facility in Werribee (+2)
- 52 cases have been linked to BaptCare Wyndham Lodge in Werribee (+1)
- 49 cases have been linked to Outlook Gardens Aged Care Facility in Dandenong North (+5)
- 42 cases have been linked to Arcare Aged Care Facility in Craigieburn (+1)
The department says a single case in a staff member has been notified at the BlueCross Willowmeade residential aged care facility in Kilmore.
“The facility has been locked down and all staff and residents will be tested.”
Kelly has criticised the publication of the identities of two Brisbane women who tested positive to Covid-19 after travelling from Melbourne. They are alleged to have attended a party in Melbourne and failed to self-isolate when they returned to Brisbane.
One of the women has been fined after allegedly making a false border declaration.
That’s certainly, I think, a shame that that’s happened in terms of those particular individuals.
Although, I must say, that their actions were rather reckless and they’ve led to a large amount of mental concern and worry, and other effects in the wider population in the southern part of Brisbane.
So it’s not only those two that have been affected but, look, I’m not in favour of naming and shaming. That’s unfortunate that that’s happened.
Kelly is not keen to weigh in on the Western Australian hard border, noting it’s before the high court.
He is asked if he agrees with the WA state minister Ben Wyatt’s suggestion today that the hard border is the key difference that has allowed the state to avoid coronavirus outbreaks.
Kelly says the AHPPC will be providing new advice to the prime minister, Scott Morrison, tonight after meeting today. The advice will relate to any further measures that might be able to assist Victoria.
We looked at and considered what we knew from around the world and the best medical evidence that’s come forward about how to approach this problem. We also looked at what we had in terms of data from Victoria, some modelling as well around movement, in particular, but also issues around aged care and so on. So we’ve put that all together.
Kelly is asked when the numbers in New South Wales might start to become a concern.
He notes there have been 105 cases in the past week in NSW.
Kelly is pleased by the tracing efforts of the outbreaks at the Crossroads hotel and the emerging Potts Point cluster.
“I have a lot of confidence in the NSW system. But we need to be clear – with 5,000 active cases right now in Victoria, that’s an issue for all of us.”
Kelly says 10,000 contacts are being contacted every day through contact tracing in Victoria.
Kelly says the “major concern” is ongoing community transmission in Melbourne, particularly in aged care, which is of “great concern”.
On aged care, he says of the 723 new cases in Victoria, 15 were aged care residents, while 58 were aged care staff members.
That makes a total of 456 aged care residents out of 5,000 active cases in Victoria right now.
The acting chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, has stepped up in Canberra.
The 747 newly confirmed cases in the last 24 hours, 723 of which are in Victoria, is a new “unfortunate” record, he says.
Aside from Victoria and NSW, where 18 new cases were recorded, there were also new infections recorded in Queensland (four), South Australia (one) and Western Australia (one).
Now a potential Covid-19 hotspot.
The Victorian Liberal opposition says the freight industry is struggling to cope with border restrictions imposed by South Australia and NSW.
The opposition says a lack of clarity about testing rules means trucks are being turned away at state borders.
The opposition ports and freight spokeswoman, Roma Britnell, said:
Transport drivers at the South Australian border are being told testing conducted in Victoria isn’t good enough and it has to be done through that state’s health department, but testing on the border is running out.
Businesses have said to me if they’re forced to go down the line of engaging their own testing it will cost them up to $3,000 a week.
A Melbourne laundry contractor who wanted to force some of its employees back to work despite multiple confirmed Covid-19 cases has backed down, the United Workers Union says.
A union statement issued this afternoon says Spotless has withdrawn an application at the Fair Work Commission lodged yesterday.
“Workers who had been in close contact with the positive cases had previously been directed by the employer to attend work on Tuesday and Wednesday, but have now been directed to quarantine for 14 days,” the union statement said.
“The union understands Spotless will make workers use up their annual leave, personal leave or take unpaid time off work if they are not eligible for leave.”
Thanks Calla. I’ll be with you for the next few hours. If you want to get in touch, send me a note via email@example.com or through Twitter @lukehgomes.
On that note I will hand over to Luke Henriques-Gomes to take you through the afternoon.
Please stay safe, and if you have any symptoms, even just a sniffle or a headache – don’t go to work and go get a Covid-19 test. I’ll see you in the morning.
A young woman who tested positive for Covid-19 eight days after she and two friends allegedly made a false border declaration to avoid quarantine requirements when returning to Queensland from Melbourne has been fined $4,003 for making a false declaration on her border permit.
Two of the three women who travelled to Queensland tested positive to Covid-19, as did one of their sisters. The third woman who travelled with them has not returned a positive Covid-19 result.
More from AAP:
Queensland police say one of the virus-positive women was upfront about where she had been in recent weeks, but the other is refusing to give authorities her details.
It’s believed they attended a party while in Victoria.
The pair, from Logan and Park Ridge, arrived in Queensland on 21 July and spent eight days in the community before testing positive.
One of them is a cleaner at a school.
The action of the women has sparked a massive tracing mission for Queensland Health, beginning with contacting passengers seated near the pair on Virgin Australia flights VA863 and VA977.
Shopping centres, restaurants, a school, a church, and aged care centres have been closed.
The third woman who tested positive, a 22-year-old sister of one of the 19-year-olds, works at the YMCA Chatswood Hills Outside School Hours Care and is the first case of community transmission recorded in Queensland in two months.
Here is your slightly belated daily Daniel Andrews gallery:
I won’t say he looks tired, because Andrews today said he is not going to take a day off.
Schools in Melbourne should be allowed to deliver remote or flexible learning for all students, the Australian Education Union and Independent Education Union have said, saying that the current policy requiring face-to-face lessons for year 11 and 12 students and students at specialist schools is “not working”.
The unions say the Victorian government needs to “urgently” grant schools the flexibility to teach all classes remotely if needed. In a joint statement, they say:
The Department of Education’s current policy for schools in Melbourne and Mitchell shire, which requires VCE, VCAL, and special school students to access face-to-face teaching and learning on-site, is failing too many students and not enabling schools to put in place reasonable and necessary health and safety measures to protect school communities.
They say teachers understand the importance of face-to-face teaching, but that:
... in an escalating pandemic, schooling arrangements must take proper account of key health and safety issues, appropriate steps to limit transmission such as physical distancing, as well as the government’s broader advice to Victorian workers that those who can work from home should do so.
The heightened risk of transmission in Victoria is “causing significant additional anxiety to school staff and their families,” they say.
A black and white approach in a pandemic where circumstances change almost daily does not provide the agility our schools urgently need. Current policy arrangements leave principals with the responsibility to manage student and staff absences, parental concerns and in some instances school closures, yet they are not trusted to make the key decisions that will provide tangible support to their communities.
They say they have received “multiple reports of principals in public and Catholic schools who have been prevented from taking sensible steps to minimise risk”.
We believe school leaders need to be afforded the trust and flexibility to make the best decisions for their local circumstances. The physical and mental health and safety of our members is being ignored and must be afforded higher priority.
The current policy isn’t working for all schools and must be changed.
The Transport Workers Union has written to the federal transport minister, Michael McCormack, demanding all drivers have access to paid pandemic leave.
The TWU has also called for uniform border permit and testing requirements for drivers going across closed state borders, and said drivers should not be made to pay the fine for breaches in border rules “caused by poor systems implemented by their employers or the clients whose goods they are transporting”.
The TWU national secretary, Michael Kaine, said:
We understand that governments need to put in place measures to contain the pandemic but they must ensure that essential transport workers delivering food, fuel and medicines across closed borders must have clear rules about what they need to do.
Having different testing and permits systems for each state is confusing and risks being ineffective. We are already seeing an impact on supply chains with some drivers and operators reporting a fall-off in work and a drop in rates. We abhor the actions of wealthy retailers and manufacturers in slashing rates at this difficult time and urge the federal government to take action.
The Victorian and Tasmanian branch secretary, John Berger, added:
The government must ensure that any drivers who need to get tested or self-isolate can do so without losing pay.
It has been a tough day for Victorians, so here is an old clip of our new patron saint, chief health officer Brett Sutton, talking about treating a woman with a phobia of needles.
The Victorian government said it will spend $3.3 million over four years to support Aboriginal community-controlled organisations under the new national agreement on Closing the Gap, which has just been endorsed by all states and territories.
Minister for Aboriginal affairs, Gabrielle Williams, said:
Our collective track record on Closing the Gap falls short of expectations – it’s time we did something different.
For the first time, Aboriginal community-controlled organisations will be empowered to take a leadership role in driving change through the closing the gap strategy, by implementing reform and setting a new standard for improving outcomes for all Aboriginal people.
Outcome one – which no government has ever come close to achieving – is to close the life-expectancy gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within a generation.
The latest ABS data from 2019 shows an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander man will die on average 8.6 years earlier than a non-Indigenous man, while an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander woman will die 7.8 years earlier.
The $3.3m announcement follows Victoria’s work on treaty, establishing a truth telling process, Williams said.
Ten hospitality venues in NSW fined for breaching Covid-19 safety plans
Ten restaurants, pubs and clubs in NSW will be fined for “serious breaches of the public health orders,” the NSW government has said.
The breaches were detected by inspectors from Liquor & Gaming NSW, SafeWork NSW and NSW Fair Trading , who visited 410 licensed venues and other hospitality premises over the weekend.
They issued ten $5,000 fines, mostly against businesses that did not have a Covid-19 safety plan, had non-compliant record-keeping, or for a lack of appropriate physical distancing of patrons.
It brings the value of fines issued by inspectors since the Covid-19 safety rules came into force to $70,000.
The 10 venues fined are:
- Mapo Galbi Korean BBQ - Gosford
- Natapit Samintkaew - Central Coast
- Thai Thyme - Erina
- Hero Sushi - Erina
- Heart 2 Heart - Cumberland
- Master Hot Pot - Cumberland
- Tamworth Service Club - Tamworth
- Greyhound Social Club Ltd - Yagoona
- Hurlstone Park Hotel - Hurlstone Park
- Kingswood Hotel - Kingswood
The executive director of compliance, Peter Dunphy, said it “beggars belief that anyone would want to eat, drink and mingle, shoulder to shoulder with others during a pandemic”.
On Friday the mandatory Covid safety measures were expanded from pubs to cover all hospitality venues and that message was communicated loud and clear.
Pubs, clubs, bars, casinos, cafes and restaurants are high risk for Covid transmission. They are subject to public health order conditions specifically designed to keep them open and keep our communities safe.
It is public knowledge that Covid clusters have spread rapidly at restaurants and jumped from suburb to suburb. The measures have not been taken in vain – they are vital protections for workers and customers.
From Saturday, gyms will also be subject to stricter public health orders. Dunphry warned:
You never know who is filming or taking photos or when police and inspectors might visit your business.
Just before Albanese spoke, Labor’s Indigenous affairs spokesperson, Linda Burney, spoke about the new Closing the Gap agreement.
Labor welcomes the new targets and very much welcomes the partnership approach based on the notion of self-determination with the coalition of peak organisations.
I am a little disappointed but I understand there is work continuing on establishing a target to address the issue of domestic violence. I understand the logic behind the fact that there is no target there at the moment but there is going to be.
I am very pleased that some of the targets go to first peoples relationship with land, with water and with culture. In particular, language.
What is required now is leadership, innovation, action and a real sense of urgency. And critically, funding and commitment from all levels of government.
Burney also reiterated Labor’s support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart in its entirety – including a constitutionally-enshrined Indigenous voice to parliament and a treaty or treaties.
'No excuse' to delay paid pandemic leave any longer, says Albanese
The opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, has just been speaking in Sydney. He says the record high numbers in Victoria today, which continue to be linked to workplace outbreaks, show the urgent need for paid pandemic leave.
Albanese says that “all Australians and certainly Labor stands with all Victorians today, on figures which will be scary for all those who hear them”.
He also offered his condolences to the families of the more than 50 people who have died since 1 July.
Albanese says paid pandemic leave is now a matter of “absolute urgency”.
What we know is that an outbreak, an infection in one place can very easily lead to more infections. We have to, as a nation, be prepared to do whatever is necessary to minimise the risk of infections.
And what is clear, and has been clear for some time, is that if people have to choose between putting food on the table for their family and having the risk of going to work in order to earn income and being able to stay at home, then that puts them in a very difficult situation. And we need to provide the security that is necessary so that looking after one’s health is the first and only priority. Because the risk is just too great.
That is why Labor is calling upon the government to provide support for paid pandemic leave, for anyone, any worker who is currently not entitled to it.
Scott Morrison needs to understand the urgency of the introduction of paid pandemic leave. Frankly, there is no excuse to delay any longer. It has been 142 days since Labor has called for a special leave entitlement that would allow workers to stay at home and isolate if they are sick or suspected of being an exposed to Covid-19. The government must act and it must act as a matter of absolute urgency.
Finally, Morrison is asked about projections that another $12bn will be withdrawn from superannuation in Australia by the end of the year as part of the early super withdrawal scheme. That would bring the total amount withdrawn to $42bn – twice the government’s initial projections.
Well, it’s not ... the government’s money because it is their money. The intent for which it is used is decided by the person whose money it is. The government doesn’t give people lectures about how they should spend their money, that is not the sort of government we are.
Going to break in here to say it is that kind of government because it’s the government that introduced the cashless welfare card.
But [in] the overwhelming majority of cases my advice is people are using it actually to restructure their own personal balance sheets. They are putting it against their debts to support their mortgages and that strikes me as a very good opportunity for them to reduce their risk, to increase their financial resilience with their own resources. And in many respects, you will find that by taking those decisions, they may be, I would argue, potentially much more financially advantageous decisions they are making by redeploying their own resources to those uses right now and put them even in a stronger position in the future.
So no, I don’t have those concerns, but I think it is very important to note, we are not a government that tells people how they should spend their own money. Superannuation doesn’t belong to the superannuation fund managers. It belongs to the superannuation fund members. It is their money ... I will back them to how to spend their money every day of the week.
Morrison is asked about a particularly distressing report from the family of a person who died in aged care in Victoria, who said they were not informed of their loved one’s death until 11 hours later, when they received a call to say her body was “deteriorating” in an unrefrigerated room.
These are the distressing situations I was referring to earlier in the week. And they are incredibly distressing. They are the product of a very severe crisis that occurred in a number of these sectors and we have been fairly upfront about that and the reasons as to how that took place and why there has been the need to transfer many patients, as they become patients, into hospitals, both private and public.
There have been significant failings in those areas and that’s what the team has been working to address and to ensure that we don’t get a repeat of that.
There is a 'global responsibility' to share a Covid-19 vaccine, Morrison says
Morrison says that finding a vaccine is the predominant focus of governments worldwide, because it would allow the economy to open up again.
He says Australia has been working with the governments of other countries.
There has been collaboration and we are all dealing with the same problems. And uncertainty is one of those problems. So what you do is you just keep people in jobs, you look for every opportunity to build a Covid-safe [plan]on top every opportunity you can to do that.
And you put every other effort you can into finding a vaccine and making sure that when that vaccine is found, there is a global commitment that as soon as it is found it is shared. That is a critical issue I have been raising in many of my calls recently with other leaders and that has been well supported. Whoever finds it, wherever they are, I think there is a global responsibility to share that far and wide.
Morrison says he will not be drawn on his plans for paid pandemic leave but says he is “seriously pursuing them”.
It’s against the backdrop of Victorian premier Daniel Andrews again saying that workplace transmission is the biggest driver of the outbreak in Melbourne, and that in turn is a product of people in some industries not having sick leave.
I’m not going to be drawn on those questions at this point because we’re still working those discussions through as part of the process that the minister for industrial relations is engaged in. It is best those discussions are held there. We’re conscious of the issues and seriously pursuing them.
Morrison is asked what Victoria has done wrong in its management of the outbreak, which has resulted in such a significant increase in cases since 1 July. (7,767 new cases since 1 July.)
I may be delirious but this answer made me laugh.
The reason that we’re having problems is because there is a coronavirus. And sometimes I think we lose sight of this.
The coronavirus finds its way into the nooks and crannies of our community and once it gets there, it takes hold.
Morrison runs through the case numbers in some other nations. Basically: Victoria is experiencing the effects of a pandemic because we are in a pandemic.
Still on borders, this time the high court case over the WA border:
There is a constitutional issue here that goes well beyond the current circumstances. And I believe we can get an arrangement in place for Western Australia which completely addresses all of the premier’s public health concerns. And that can involve restrictions, it can involve restrictions on movements between states and particular places and outbreak areas and resources to support that.
On the economic impact of the continued lockdown, and the record number of cases recorded, Morrison says “the Victorian wave is certainly having that impact”.
Decisions taken by other states can also impact that result as well. That’s why we’ve been so cautious not rushing to longer-term scenarios. We’ll put forward the four-year estimates in the normal way in the budget, but as the treasury secretary I think demonstrated this morning, those estimates over a longer term would have been quickly overtaken by the events we have had.
They’re constantly changing and they’re working over those numbers. But the supports we have are designed to move with those circumstances.
So there will certainly be more businesses in Victoria, as the secretary, I think, indicated today, who will be relying on jobkeeper post-September than would have been anticipated otherwise. It may well be the case. Decisions about borders in Queensland could lead to that outcome as well. I think that’s a little too early to say at this point. Those changes could be made just as easily in a week or so, and that could be reversed, and that economic impact, hopefully, therefore would be avoided.
Morrison makes a number of comments about the Queensland and WA borders in this press conference. He says “whatever decisions premiers take, they need to explain them”.
We had Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, earlier today attributing the record-high number of new cases to a significant increase in new outbreaks, namely in aged care.
Morrison said earlier that only 74 of the 723 new cases are in aged care, and said now that the biggest concern is untraced community transmission.
Within those numbers, when you look at the broader trend that is occurring since the lockdown, I’m advised that we’re still seeing around about, give or take, about 50 cases per day with no known source and that is the primary cause for concern. I mean, in New South Wales there are no known cases with no known source.
There are currently six cases under investigation in NSW.
Aged care facilities will be marked down for failing to provide appropriate PPE
Morrison turns to the outbreak in the aged care sector in Victoria, and says the federal government will now be enforcing the correct use of PPE in the aged care sector.
The Victorian aged care response is not only getting that further PPE out across Victoria and those further facilities, and they were again packing those last night and getting them distributed, but it is also to be enforcing the training and enforcing the use of that PPE equipment in aged care facilities.
There’s been far too much anecdotal evidence that we’ve been receiving of PPE, despite the training, despite the PPE being there, not being used the way it should. In discussions with the [aged care minister Richard Colbeck], again this morning, we agreed, and that will be communicated through to centres, that failure to comply with those requirements of using PPE will lead to marking down on people’s accreditation.
That will occur. And so they need to ensure they follow those practices. They need to do that to ensure the protection, obviously, of their residents, but also to protect the staff at these facilities. I want staff to feel very confident going to work each day in aged care facilities. The PPE is there. The training has been there.
We are confirming that again with visits by teams to bring and refresh that training, wherever it is needed, and we’re focusing obviously on those facilities that are in the areas of highest outbreaks and at greater risk, and where there are already cases.
But I can confirm you to again that it is only a small number of facilities that I would still say are in the acute stage of the critical list that we have of just over a dozen centres. Stabilisation in many of those other centres has been established. But we are keeping them on a close watching brief. It is really now about whether there are quite a number of facilities, the information is they’re being well managed.
A final question on Closing the Gap from Guardian Australia’s political editor, Katharine Murphy. She asked that, given so much emphasis has been made in this agreement on the importance of working together with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and the Coalition of 51 peak organisations, “doesn’t the success of this project that you’ve all embarked upon make the case to accelerate the Voice?”
You’ll recall that a constitutionally-enshrined Indigenous voice to parliament was a recommendation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017, the Australian government (then under prime minister Malcolm Turnbull) rejected that idea, and last year Ken Wyatt said they would look at introducing an Indigenous voice to government.
On that background, here’s Morrison’s answer:
Well, there’s never been a view from the government that has any way sort to not engage, and not listen, and not have Indigenous voices as part of the way we’re making decisions, and I think that’s what we’ve demonstrated ... I think what we’re practically demonstrating is that model is already working, it is already occurring, and I will continue to operate in that way.
Wyatt says the three groups asked to design an Indigenous voice to government are “reaching a point at which they are considering models for government to consider”.
Morrison ended the Closing the Gap section of the press conference by thanking former prime minister Tony Abbott, who “has had enormous impact on my understanding and appreciation of these issues”.
Turner said peak Aboriginal organisations would “remain at the negotiation table” to ensure the new Closing the Gap agreement works as it should, and there would also be more scrutiny on community-controlled organisations.
I believe because we’re involved in all of those decisions from now on, that we will actually get better results. Everyone has to work in the true spirit of the partnership and the resources have to be available when they’re needed to ensure that the right areas are being put there.
But you have to understand that in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, there’s been a long history of under-investment by governments and we’re dealing with that legacy, and we will deal with that legacy.
We’ll create more jobs in our organisations do the service delivery and are funded properly. We employ more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our organisations and we want that to happen because we want our people off of welfare dependency.
The commissioner of New South Wales jails, Peter Severin, says contact tracing is still under way after an inmate at a Sydney prison tested positive for Covid-19 but that no staff are currently isolating.
The man was arrested at Sydney airport on 26 July after he flew up from Melbourne. It’s understood police were alerted to his plan to travel to Sydney by NSW Health and subsequently realised he had an outstanding parole breach warrant.
Because of the fact he came from Melbourne he was always treated at all times as a person who needed to be isolated [and] treated as if the person was positive.
The initial statement released by Corrective Services NSW this morning said preliminary contact tracing showed the inmate had not had any close contacts, but Severin said that process was still ongoing.
He said no correctional services staff were currently isolating.
We obviously are doing some very careful contact tracing. While people were wearing PPE, nevertheless it is incumbent on us to do that ... in terms of our staff we’re obviously going to have a look at who was in contact with him and then we follow the protocol of self-isolation, testing, etc. I can’t talk for what actually happened at the airport side of things but I understand from reports that I’ve got from police that at all times the staff were wearing all the PPE that they wear for any flight coming from Melbourne.
At this point in time I’m not aware [of any staff in isolation] but if we do have to isolate or ask people to isolate they will do that.
Ken Wyatt is asked why the target on reducing domestic violence did not make the final list. He says it’s because they needed more time to figure out exactly how to implement that target.
In dealing with this issue we want zero tolerance of any domestic violence, of violence against women. I know that when the working group was going through this, the focus on just physical violence against women was seen as not sufficient.
That hasn’t lowered our bar for absolute extinction of domestic violence against any women, and this fits within the fourth national plan [on domestic violence] that our government has in place as well.
But our senior women have asked that we do more work on that and I respect the request that they have made, and we will come back with further work. But the target is still zero tolerance of domestic violence against our women.
A reporter asks Morrison:
We’ve heard many moving and passionate speeches by prime ministers and ministers over the last 12 years about this subject. And every year moving speeches by prime ministers and ministers lamenting the fact that governments have fallen woefully short of meeting the targets. What commitment can you give that these new targets will actually be met?
Morrison, rather masterfully, misinterprets this question.
He starts by saying the agreement has “the full backing of our entire government” and that:
I said when Ken was appointed as the first minister for Indigenous Australians, as an Indigenous Australian, that every minister in my cabinet is a minister for Indigenous Australians, because that’s the change, that’s the shift that needs to have effect to actually make more progress.
I think you’re right ... there’s never been any lack of passion or commitment or dedication from this podium, no matter who stood behind it. Every prime minister that I know has shared this passion and this dedication. But also the frustration that goes along with the lack of progress in this area. What I think is different about this process is there has been some humble learnings that has led to its development and its execution. There has been a recognition that sometimes we have been too ambitious without understanding the detail of what you actually have to do to get there.
And what I particularly like about this agreement is how, as I explained before, it gets very granular about how you get there, and how you know when you’re not getting there. And that’s very important. This evidence-led process which has an accountability to it, which I think is very important.
Now, I’d love to give you a guarantee, like every one of my predecessors would have. And endeavoured, tried to, as I am today. But I am tempered by that bitter experience of my predecessors, and my own. And so I take comfort in the fact that we’ve got a partnership now that we haven’t had before. It’s not because others didn’t want it. I think the partnership is the product of the learnings, the humble learnings that have been necessary
That sounds a bit like saying at a job interview that your biggest failing is caring too much.
Back in Canberra, the co-chair of the joint council on closing the gap, Pat Turner, says the announcement of the new agreement is “truly a historic occasion”.
This is the first time a national agreement designed to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been developed and negotiated between Australian governments, local government, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives.
I particularly want to thank you, prime minister, for your leadership in taking the first step in agreeing to establish a formal partnership between the Coalition of Peaks and governments on closing the gap. The prime minister probably didn’t fully realise what he was committing to, and possibly no government did, but maybe that was a good thing at the time.
Today we now have a comprehensive set of commitments from governments that places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations at the centre of Closing the Gap. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know what is best for our communities, not governments. And this national agreement means that decisions of government on Closing the Gap need to be negotiated and agreed with us.
But I have to say, the prime minister and Ken will know it hasn’t always been easy, and some of our negotiations have been very hard-fought. For the Coalition of Peaks, the national agreement is not just words. They represent actions that can make a real difference to the lives of our people, our families, and our communities.
We have also had the voices of more than 4,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who participated in our engagements on what should be included in the new national agreement, guiding us in our negotiations. The Coalition of Peaks is confident that the national agreement, if fully implemented, has the potential to establish a strong policy foundation to give effect to what our people have been saying for a long time is needed to make a difference. The national agreement may not include everything our people want or need to make lasting change to our lives, but this is a huge step forward.
Pat Turner is a legend.
Covid-19 detected in sewage tests at Perisher ski resort
NSW Health said it has been testing sewage networks across the state for traces of Covid-19 and has discovered positive results at Perisher ski resort.
nitial samples collected at the Perisher sewage treatment plant on Wednesday 22 July 2020 returned a positive result for the presence of Covid-19. Further sampling and analysis is required to assess the significance of this initial positive result. The positive sewage result can be due to shedding of the virus by someone who may have previously had the illness, with the virus ‘shedding’ through their system for up to four weeks later.
While no cases of Covid-19 have been identified in Perisher or Thredbo to date, it’s important that anyone who was in this area get tested if they have even the mildest of symptoms.
Also, on the new cases in Sydney, the NSW member for Coogee, Marjorie O’Neill, reported on her Facebook page yesterday that two of the new case are in her electorate, one in Bondi and one in Randwick.
That’s a move into the eastern suburbs. Previously the community transmission cases in Sydney have been around the western, southwestern, and inner-west suburbs.
More detail on new NSW cases
NSW has released the details of the 18 new coronavirus cases it recorded today.
Worryingly, six of them are still under investigation.
Of the rest, two are linked to the funeral gatherings cluster, four are linked to the Thai Rock restaurant cluster in Wetherill Park, four are linked to The Apollo restaurant in Potts Point (it’s not clear if that includes the Queensland couple, I suspect not), and two in hotel quarantine.
Because of the growing number of cases, NSW Health has advised anyone in the following suburbs to get tested for Covid-19 even if they have very mild symptoms.
- Potts Point area
- Carnes Hill shops
- Wetherill Park
- Mt Pritchard
- Bankstown City Plaza
NSW also conducted 27,147 tests yesterday – that’s more than were conducted in Victoria in the same period, which is an interesting flip and, for Victorians, probably a bit concerning.
There are now 89 cases associated with Thai Rock Wetherill Park, 57 cases associated with the Crossroads Hotel cluster, eight cases associated with Batemans Bay Soldiers Club, and 20 associated with the funerals. There are eleven cases associated with the Potts Point cluster.
And, as we previously reported, a prisoner at the Parklea Correctional Centre has tested positive. Contact tracing and environmental cleaning is underway, and the inmate is reportedly asymptomatic.
Morrison says the Closing the Gap agreement is a “very practical document”.
Pat and Ken, I commend you on the work that it’s done. It’s realistic, it’s shared, it’s evidence-based and led, it’s transparent, it’s practical, it’s ambitious.
And from this point, the real work starts. And the plans that are needed from the federal government, from the state governments, the plans that need to find their way into budgets ... But I tell you where we start – we start with what we have to do, and then we apply the resources to achieve that.
This isn’t about buckets of money, this is about changing the way we do things and ensuring that we apply the resources most effectively to achieve that.
Pat Turner has been very vocal in saying that it is about money, actually, so I look forward to her response to that comment.
Morrison announcing new Closing the Gap targets
Back to Closing the Gap. Morrison said that the process that was begun by the Rudd government in 2008 “was an entirely worthy initiative, and an initiative deserving of credit. But, innocently, there were elements of how that was done which was misguided. That’s not a criticism, that is a learning”.
He said it was wrong for the targets to be set in a top-down approach from the federal government.
One of the mistakes that have been made is, as we’ve looked at this as a federal government, we’ve decided what the gap is. We didn’t look at the gap through the eyes of Indigenous Australians. We told Indigenous Australians what the gap was that we were going to close. And somehow thought they should be thankful for that.
That was wrong-headed. That wasn’t the way to do it. We needed to understand what the gap was, looking through the lens and the eyes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They needed to tell us what the gap was that needed to be closed. And that’s what this task has been about.
Morrison is building up to it but we’ve already reported them this morning, so here are the 16 new closing the gap targets.
Morrison says he supports the Victorian government’s move to impose further restrictions on some regional local government areas.
We have now been in this lockdown now for some weeks, and we are not getting the results we would hope for. And as a result the further measures that are taken are certainly necessary. They will come at an impact to the economy – we understand that.
But, equally, not containing these outbreaks will have that effect also. And so it’s important that we continue to work together to get on top of this and to take whatever actions are necessary.
Morrison says he will announce further measures that have been taken to control the aged care outbreak later, after the Closing the Gap announcement. But he hoses down Andrews’ suggestion that the record-high number of 723 cases in one day was driven by aged care outbreaks.
Aged care cases, including staff, account for just under around about 10% of the total cases announced today. Specifically in aged care, there were 16 cases of residents. The balance, 74 in total, 58 were staff. And staff contracting the virus, my advice is predominantly from community transmission.
Morrison says Victoria coronavirus numbers 'very concerning'
Prime minister Scott Morrison is talking in Canberra alongside the federal member for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (NACCHO) chief executive Pat Turner, about the new Closing the Gap targets.
But he starts by saying that the numbers seen in Victoria today are “very concerning”.
And that’s the end of the Victorian press conference, after almost 90 minutes.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, is speaking in Canberra at 12.30pm.
Andrews foreshadows that certain industries will be asked to put forward Covid-safe plans.
Many workplaces already have mandatory daily temperature checks, regular deep cleaning, and other measures in place.
WorkSafe inspectors have conducted more than 200 inspections of high-risk workplaces.
And there will be some other announcements we’ll be able to make quite soon about Covid-safe plans in given industries. None of this is new. There’s a power of work going on with those peak bodies and individual businesses, particularly in those high-risk settings, and I’m very grateful to them for the fact that they’re engaged and they’re working with us.
The chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, is not at the update today. He is having “a well-earned break”, Andrews said, although it appears the break is only from addressing the media.
There hasn’t been a public health team person here every day. They’re here when they need to be, and they’re here when they’re not going to be taken away from something else that, with the greatest of respect to all of you, might be deemed by them to be even more important than briefing the media. They’ve got a lot to get on with and they’re working very hard.
'The virus doesn't stop, and none of us can afford to', Daniel Andrews says
Andrews has now addressed the question of his own fatigue, and we’ll note that today is the 28th straight press conference he’s given on Covid-19.
He says he gets a call at 10pm every night to tell him what’s expected in terms of total case numbers the next day.
And then the numbers are not usually confirmed until the following morning. You know, this is a very tough, tough day. But I would just say to people, as challenging as this is, it is within our control. All of us, as proud Victorians, if we follow the rules, if we play our part, then we can defeat this. We can drive these numbers down. But they will continue to go up and up, particularly [if] people go to work when they’re sick.
A journalist asks Andrews if he is getting any rest. He quips:
Do I look like I am?
Why doesn’t he take a break?
This virus doesn’t stop, and none of us can afford to. But it’s not about me, it’s about doing what has to be done. And part of my job is to accept responsibility for those things that are not done well, to fix them, to get on, to get things done. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve always done.
And an important feature of the work that I do, and the role that I have, is to stand here in front of you every day and to answer any and all questions you’ve got. And if I can’t provide you with information, to commit to coming back to you.
I am sorry I haven’t got the details in relation to business support, but I’ll come back to that tomorrow. And I will get you some further information about the payments, the hardship payments. That was simply a matter of not wanting to pull people away from processing them in order to provide an update.
Andrews to the ABC’s Raf Epstein, who has been asking about the email chain between the federal and state government on the aged care response:
Let me follow that up for you. I would be distressed if the information flowed to you is not as it should be.
You may recall that at the start of the questions and answers section of this press conference, over 40 minutes ago now, Andrews said he did not want to say why Victoria had a record 723 cases in one day because he didn’t want it to be seen as criticism of any one sector.
You may also recall that it was obvious he was talking about aged care.
He has now confirmed that.
What I was trying to avoid was getting into some aged care commentary. Perhaps I was a little bit too defensive. I was trying to make the point that there are a whole – in these 700-plus today – a particular whole lot of aged care cases.
Health minister Jenny Mikakos says that they need to see 90% compliance with health restrictions – and that includes wearing face masks – for them to be effective.
Inevitably we will see more hospitalisations and more fatalities. We know that we can only drive those numbers down if we have the overwhelming, the overwhelming compliance of Victorians in following the rules. You know, all the research tells us we need at least 90% of people doing the right thing.
So I implore Victorians to continue to follow the rules. I know it’s tiresome, people are getting weary, but it is important that everyone continues to follow all of the legal restrictions. And that includes those in regional Victoria now.
Andrews says that almost all of the workplaces that have been identified as the sources of coronavirus clusters in Melbourne are deemed to be “essential workplaces”, so introducing tougher restrictions, the dreaded stage four lockdown, would not necessarily help.
The overwhelming majority of workplaces where we have seen outbreaks, on any list that you draw up, it almost certainly would say they were probably going to be deemed essential ... I would not rule out having to take some drastic action in a number of settings, but there would be huge impacts so, again, it gets back to the point I tried to make earlier.
Putting in place restrictions for their own sake to look like you are doing things, that isn’t the issue and we have not done that, we have put in restrictions that have targeted the problem where the data tell us the problem is. So for instance, meatworks and others, this is not essentially guaranteeing that none of them close, and don’t interpret it that way, but on most lists of what is essential and what is not, those types of businesses would stay open.
So on that basis, further shutdowns, or what had been termed stage four and things of that nature, some of the European models, they would still be open and if people are going to work and they were sick, then they would still be spreading the virus.
Andrews says that people who filmed themselves arguing with police at a checkpoint in greater Melbourne were not issued an on-the-spot fine but will instead be taken to court.
They have now been found. I do not believe they received an on-the-spot fine. That is the low-level fine. I think they will be charged on summons. That will be a matter for others and I do not determine those matters but there is the on-the-spot $1,652 fine and if you go through a court process it is much closer to $10,000 so it is a pretty significant penalty.
Andrews says people should not be concerned about disclosing their movements in a contact-tracing interview because they many not have complied with all the stay-at-home orders.
I don’t think anybody has been fined by virtue of disclosure of that in the longform interview ... The real issue here is to provide information so that you get a text message telling you you are going to get a call, take the call, provide the interviewer with accurate answers. There is no sense of anybody being punished because of it. I certainly have not briefed on anyone ... I have no advice it has happened.
The most valuable commodity, and it is worth much more than $1,652, is who you have been with.
I don’t think you could ever have 2,000 people ready, and that is what we need, and in fact we have more than that, many more than that really.
Andrews says governments cannot make budget decisions “based on a potential one-in-100-year event”.
I think I would be standing at a podium as this and people would have some very firm views about all of the other things in health that were not happening because we had decided to take it out of an incredibly expensive insurance policy against a pandemic.
There is no public health team in the country that is as big today as it was before the pandemic. They have all grown, they have all had to grow by enormous factors. Just as ours has. And just as it may well need to continue to.
Andrews says he does not accept criticisms that Victoria’s health system is not appropriately resourced, saying it is unreasonable to expect they would have people standing by in case of a pandemic.
I would say to you there is a reason why Eastern Health can take over Kirkbrae, why Monash Health can take over Outlook Gardens, why Austin Health can take over Epping Gardens. That is because, across the health system, we have got more resources, not just as a result of the pandemic but year-on-year more resources and a record of investment, so I wouldn’t accept those conclusions, I would not accept that commentary.
This is a one in 100-year event and that team is bigger than it has ever been but I will boldly predict for you, when this is over, it will not be as big a team as it is now. And we will not be spending $2 billion on matters of public health because if you were to do that, then, well, I don’t know, there would not be much surgery going on or many ambulances turning up on time. This is a one in 100-year event and therefore it is completely new.
Andrews says he will not confirm whether the six-week lockdown will be extended, and urges everyone to stick to the lockdown rules.
If we were to reopen across metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell shire today, then it will not be 700 cases a day. You can add a zero to that. And our hospitals will be overrun and we will be conducting more funerals.
Andrews rejects a suggestion that Victoria’s contact tracing effort has not been up to scratch, with reports it is taking up to five days for close contacts to be approached and informed.
The obvious contrast is with NSW, which has been praised for its rapid and exhaustive contact tracing effort to track down the clusters reported in Sydney.
Andrews tells the reporter who asked this question:
I don’t accept the commentary on contract tracing that you have necessarily made. We work with local communities and we work with stakeholders and we work with everybody who is impacted by this, and this is the public health advice. That is the basis on which we act and these are preventative steps.
The question specifically went to delays in test results and contact tracing in regional Victoria, such as around Colac.
In terms of spread, what you are putting to me is there have been more people becoming infected because this was not done a week or two weeks ago, and I don’t accept that at all. There is an outbreak at a very big employer in that local community and that is the community I think you are referring to and a very small number of additional infections that are all linked back to that workplace outbreaks. And to have applied these restrictions a day ago, a week ago, a month ago, that that would have delivered a vastly different outcome, is not the public health advice and in fact the public health advice is different to that.
Andrews says the Victorian government is looking to the US, particularly Oregon, for examples about how to manage and police the wearing of face masks in hospitality venues like restaurants.
Obviously, hospitality venues are not open in Melbourne so this issue hasn’t come up yet. But they are open in regional Victoria, so rules will be set out about when you have to wear a mask and when you don’t. The rules already state you can have your mask off if you’re eating, drinking or smoking.
On the new rules around not having visitors at home in the six regional local government areas from Geelong to the Otways, Andrews says that the “vast majority” of new cases in that area are from workplace outbreaks but a smaller number are due to household spread.
We have seen a number of cases where families are giving it to each other, visitors in your home, and again, I have tried to be as clear and as frank as I can be but I will repeat this again: I will put in place the restrictions that are targeted to dealing with the problem
If this was not in people’s homes and we did not have that kind of transmission and those mystery cases as well, then we would not have to make these choices and we could be solely focused on large workplaces, high-risk workplaces. But when the advice comes in and says there is community transmission down in that corridor, there are household chains of transmission as well, then this is exactly the right step ...
If the data said this was being transmitted in cafes, restaurants, pubs, we would shut them. Don’t be in any doubt about that.
Andrews says the reproduction number, according to modelling produced for the Victorian government, is still “hovering around one”.
The key point here is until we can get only every second or every third person infecting someone else, we will not see these numbers come down
Record high numbers 'not unexpected'
Andrews says he knows the record number of 723 cases would cause “significant concern across the community”.
And I’m obviously concerned to see these numbers increase. It is not unexpected in some ways when you have got so many cases in private sector aged care, when you’ve got so many cases connected to big outbreaks in specific workplaces. It’s not unexpected that once you test those people for a reason, you want to find the virus, you want to find the number of people who have got it, and then you take appropriate steps with each of them. That will drive these numbers up.
The community transmission, the kind of mystery cases, that’s still too high. But it’s certainly not at 700. It will be a very small number in that scheme of things.
I can understand people are concerned. We are all concerned as well. And that’s why the central point, the most important point: you cannot go to work if you are sick. You simply can’t. All you will be doing is spreading the virus and putting people at risk.
He promised data yesterday on the number of people who have applied for the Victorian government’s hardship payment to encourage people to get tested, but says today that he’ll produce that data tomorrow.
I understand people are concerned, and we’re all concerned when we see numbers going up rather than coming down. But at the same time we know what’s driving at least a very large part, and a controllable part, of this. Something we can actually influence. And that is patterns of behaviour, and people continuing to go to work with symptoms.
He says employers have to step up as well, and make sure their staff stay home.
You’ve got to step up as well, just as we are, to make sure that nobody in your workplace is presenting with symptoms. And that if they’ve had a test and they turn up for work, no, they cannot be there.
Andrews was asked how the daily case numbers had jumped so high – it’s more than the previous two days combined.
I’m loathe to go into too much detail, because I frankly don’t want it to be read as a criticism of any one sector.
He then goes on to mention aged care.
So, the point that I make is that there are a number of positive cases in aged care, and therefore they are being reflected in these numbers. That’s one point.
The other issue around targeted testing, where there’s been significant outbreaks, the more outbreaks you have, the more testing you do, and you will find cases. That number is not – there’s not 700-plus community transmission cases. The community transmission number will be but a fraction of that.
On the decision to ban people in those six local government areas south-west of Melbourne from having visitors in their homes, Andrews says:
There is currently a limit that is now going to zero from midnight tonight. You cannot visit friends. They cannot visit you.
Hospitality venues will remain open. I know that may seem counterintuitive, and many things in this virus are. But some of the transmission is household-to-household. The larger part of it is, of course, in workplaces. But some of the transmission is in households. And that makes sense, when you think about it. People are not necessarily keeping their distance in their family home. It’s a natural thing, you let your guard down. Hugs and kisses and handshakes, not necessarily adhering to the protocols that are a feature of hospitality, cafes, restaurants, pubs being open. They are supervised environments. They are regulated environments. There are time limits, for instance. They’re in a very different set of circumstances.
I know that it may seem, as I said, counterintuitive that you can go to the pub but you can’t go to your mate’s place, but ultimately that’s where the data drives that decision. The data drives that decision. That’s where the transmission is.
These six local government areas obviously include Colac, which is the site of the Australian Lamb Company outbreak. As of yesterday, that cluster was at 51 cases.
Face masks now mandatory in regional Victoria, new restrictions on the surf coast
Andrews says that from midnight on Sunday, everyone in regional Victoria will have to wear a mask or a face covering whenever they’re out of the home.
That means face masks will be mandatory across Victoria, with the same exceptions that currently apply in Melbourne.
It’s something we can do in regional Victoria without causing significant economic cost, but getting a really significant public health benefit
Andrews says there are low numbers of active cases in regional Victoria “and we want to jealously guard that”. There are now 4,516 active Covid-19 cases in metropolitan Melbourne and just 255 in regional Victoria.
Most of those cases in regional Victoria, 159 of the 255, are in a corridor from Geelong across the Surf Coast.
So from midnight tonight, people in those areas are not able to have visitors in their homes, but hospitality venues will remain open.
The affected local government areas are Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, Colac Otway, and Queenscliff.
“A number of people” door-knocked by ADF contact tracing teams in Melbourne yesterday were not at home and will be referred to the police, Andrews says.
He says the ADF teams conducted 269 doorknocks yesterday as part of the new policy of going door-to-door to check on every positive case.
There were also a number of other people who, when there was a discussion, the person that the ADF and the health department, as a joint team, were looking for, the person who has a confirmed diagnosis having coronavirus, they’ve got a positive test, they weren’t home. But a family member was, and the family member helpfully pointed out that that person, a positive coronavirus case, was in fact at work.
Beyond that, there were some instances where people were not perhaps clear on what they needed to do. The important thing is that they got that information because they were door-knocked.
He says the ADF teams also spoke to a number of people who needed prescriptions filled or were running out of essential groceries, and “because of that visit, we have been able to source all of those things for those people”.
So, as I said yesterday, this is not just about compliance, it’s also about us visiting and saying: ‘What can we do for you? What do you need?’
On the worst-affected aged care homes, Andrews says that there is still “significant work that needs to be done” at St Basil’s home for the aged in Fawkner, which is being managed by the federal government.
Kirkbrae aged care is now being managed by Eastern Health, “and I am told that is stable”.
Outlook Gardens aged care is being managed by Monash Health, “and that is stable”.
Epping Gardens is being run by Austin Health. That is a “very challenging environment”, Andrews says.
There were two residents that were transferred, they were emergency transfers to Royal Melbourne hospital last night. They, I think, have been – or are in the process of being – transferred to St Vincent’s Private.
He thanks all health and aged care workers involved in the response.
And to all of those nurses and others who are doing that important work, I thank you deeply. It’s very challenging, very, very confronting, often, and they’re doing an amazing job. An amazing job. To all of our partners in that effort, we’re equally grateful. There’s no lines here. We’re all on the same team and we’re all working hard to get this job done
To family members, to residents, please know and understand we are, in a joint sense, doing everything we possibly can to provide the care and support that you or a loved one needs.
The 13 new deaths recorded overnight bring Victoria’s death toll to 105.
Ten of those deaths are believed to be people who were connected to aged care, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews says.
They included three men and three women in their 70s, three men and two women in their 80s and two men in their 90s.
We send our condolences, our best wishes, our thoughts and prayers to those families. This will be incredibly challenging. At this stage, there’s still confirming work being done, but I think 10 of those 13 are connected to aged care
There are now 312 people in hospital in Victoria with Covid-19, including 34 in intensive care.
The number of active cases associated with aged care is now at 913.
There were 19,921 coronavirus tests conducted yesterday – that’s about 5,000 fewer than the daily average this month.
Victoria records a record new 723 coronavirus cases, 13 more deaths.
Victoria has recorded 723 new coronavirus cases. That’s a new daily record, almost 200 cases higher than the previous record of 532 cases recorded on Monday, and it also brings the total number of cases recorded in the state since 1 January to 9,998.
It is also the deadliest day of the pandemic so far, with 13 new deaths recorded overnight.
Australia only hit 10,000 cases nationally 16 days ago, on 14 July.
NSW has recorded 18 new cases of coronavirus
NSW has recorded 18 new cases of coronavirus in the 24-hours to 8pm yesterday. Two of the cases were in hotel quarantine.
The treasury secretary, Steven Kennedy, has told the Covid-19 committee that it expects that 75% of businesses in Victoria receiving jobkeeper will continue on the payment because of the effect of the stage three lockdown despite the need to re-qualify after September.
Labor has asked why the government hasn’t done more to keep people in jobs. Kennedy said although a 9.25% unemployment rate (forecast for the December quarter) is “not good”, he pointed to the fact government policies are estimated to have kept 700,000 in work.
Kennedy also said that fiscal policy like monetary policy can be like “pushing on a piece of string” – there’s only so much you can do. The household savings ratio is estimated to be 20% in June, as households pay down mortgages and other loans with a “precautionary” mindset.
Kennedy warns “throwing more money” into the economy “won’t necessarily” help – fiscal policies have to be calibrated to have the largest impact possible. He said it’s hard to think of two quarters where the government has shovelled more money out the door.
We are standing by to hear from Daniel Andrews now.
Inmate at Sydney jail tests positive for Covid-19
A Sydney correctional facility has undergone deep cleaning after a prisoner tested positive for Covid-19.
Corrective Services NSW said on Thursday that the man, who was taken into custody on 26 July, has since tested positive for Covid-19 while at the Parklea correctional centre in Sydney’s north-west.
The inmate had been in Victoria and was arrested for driving offences before being refused bail. In a statement, Corrective Services said: “As with all fresh custodies, he was isolated from the time of his arrest by NSW police force and subsequently by CSNSW before his transfer to Parklea.”
“At Parklea the inmate underwent mandatory COVID-19 testing and has been housed in isolation in Area 6B in accordance with standard protocols for COVID-19 infection control,” a spokeswoman said.
“Preliminary contact tracing with staff and inmates has confirmed the inmate has not had any close contacts in custody, on being transported, or at Parklea CC since his arrival, in accordance with the isolation protocols.”
It marks the first and so far only confirmed case of Covid-19 among correctional staff or inmates at any NSW correctional facility. The spokeswoman said the inmate’s family were being notified and the area “forensically cleaned”.
“Our priority continues to be preventing transmission, managing isolation requirements, keeping staff and inmates safe and continuing to manage our daily operations,” Correctional Services said.
While some Ausmat teams are being sent to Victoria, their colleagues are going to Papua New Guinea.
An Ausmat team was sent to Port Moresby at the request of the prime minister, James Marape. They will provide an immediate on-ground assessment of the case management, infection control, triage, and emergency management protocols after completing PNG’s required quarantine period.
PNG declared a state of emergency this week after its case numbers doubled at the weekend.
Police in Victoria have fined 88 people for allegedly breaching public health orders. They include:
A man who was travelling from Dandenong to South Yarra (they’re 33km apart), and told police he was after a “convenience store coffee”.
Six men in a short-term rental property on the Mornington Peninsula, who told police they were there for a work meeting but “when police arrived they were drinking alcohol and watching television”.
Four people in a vehicle that was passing through a checkpoint at Wyndham, who told police they were going to Geelong (which is outside of the lockdown area) to fish.
The fines include 26 fines issued to people who were not wearing a face mask. Police said:
A number of these fines were issued after people still refused to wear a mask, even after being offered one from police or PSOs.
We have had confirmation that Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, and the health minister, Jenny Mikakos, will give a press conference at 11am. Again, we are expecting a new record high number of cases.
Meanwhile, in the Covid-19 Senate committee:
Queensland’s public health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said it was not inevitable that community transmission would return to Queensland. The cases reported yesterday are the first in the state outside of hotel quarantine since May.
I don’t think it is inevitable. I think that New South Wales is getting on top of those clusters but, until they do, it is sensible and we have seen that today, it is sensible to close the border to anyone who has been in greater Sydney.
Steve Gollschewski said 95,000 people have flown into Queensland since it opened its borders to every state and territory except Victoria on 10 July: “The vast majority have done exactly what we expect of them.”
But he says short of tracking people, police can’t always know if people are making a false declaration:
These people in our investigation, we will allege to the court, had deliberately deceived us. Knowingly and deliberately deceived us about where they have been. Now, there is no system in the world unless we track people, that can tell us exactly where this people have been.
Because they transited through Sydney, the only information available for the police was the fact that they had boarded a flight in Sydney.
The trio attended a party with 20 to 30 other people in Melbourne, Gollschewski said. That party took place against Victoria’s public health rules and police in Victoria are aware of it.
Police say Queensland women who attended Melbourne party will face charges
Police in Queensland have a “high confidence” that they have identified everyone involved in the Melbourne trip, and that it was limited to the three young women. They attended a party in Melbourne which was broken up by Victoria police.
The deputy commissioner Steve Gollschewski said:
We have high confidence that there were only three people who have gone to Victoria, have gone to this party, and then returned. We have identified those and we have identified everyone who was at the party in Victoria with our Victorian colleagues and have high confidence around that.
So our focus now is working with those young women to identify everywhere that they have been since they have come back into Queensland. As you have heard, one has been cooperative and the other has not. We will continue to use the powers we have at our disposal, including considering further offences by anyone that doesn’t cooperate with the investigation to try and get that information out so that we can absolutely focus on identifying where any risk may be in our community and take the appropriate action.
Gollschewski said charges against the three women who travelled to Melbourne – which is not the same as the three who tested positive, two of the women who travelled tested positive and the third positive case is a sister – would be finalised today. He said they would be made to appear in court rather than just being issued with infringement notices.
Police in Queensland say they have investigated the trip to Melbourne taken by three young women from Queensland, which resulted in two of them testing positive to Covid-19 after allegedly lying on their border declaration form.
The Queensland police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, said the women had gone to “extraordinary lengths to be deceitful”:
I am very disappointed with them at this stage, they went to extraordinary lengths to be deceitful and deceptive and quite frankly criminal in their behaviour and it has put the community at risk.
Carrol said police had issued more than 1,100 infringement notices since the pandemic began to people alleged to have breached public health orders, including 40 to people alleged to have made false declarations at the border:
We will review our infringement notices in the future make sure that we are taking a tough stance on this.
She said their border framework and response was “extraordinarily solid”:
We have planned for this, we have exercised this and obviously in the last few days it has come to fruition and it has worked extraordinarily well. SoI think everyone in Queensland can have high confidence that what we’re doing to protect our state is working extraordinarily and exceptionally well.
Queensland’s chief public health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said Queensland recorded six new cases yesterday – the two women who travelled to Melbourne and the sister of one of those women, and three reported today:
It has been a long time in Queensland since we have really had those sorts of new case numbers. So this is an increasingly risky time for Queensland.
Young urged anyone who had symptoms to get tested, even if they’re not in the southern Brisbane area. And she has urged Queenslanders not to travel to areas with community transmission, listing all of Victoria and Sydney alongside overseas travel in terms of riskiness.
Don’t go to places where we know there are cases. So don’t go overseas unless you really have to, don’t go to Victoria, anywhere in Victoria. And really reconsider if you need to go anywhere in New South Wales and particularly, don’t go to greater Sydney.
We know there are more cases there and that puts yourself at risk and your family at risk. And you will be required to quarantine in a hotel if you comeback.
Queensland records three new coronavirus cases, including two from Sydney
Queensland has recorded three new cases of Covid-19, including a couple who dined at the Apollo restaurant in Potts Point, Sydney.
The third case was a man in his 20s who had returned from the US and was in hotel quarantine.
The state’s health minister, Steven Miles, said the couple who returned to Queensland from Sydney had “chosen to self-isolate” on their return, “and I thank them for that decision. It has kept Queenslanders safe.”
The fact that two of these three new cases came from Sydney, as well as the fact that two of the cases were reported yesterday had transited through Sydney, underlines how important it is that we have made that decision to declare greater Sydney as a hotspot.
It will allow us to control cases returning from Sydney where we know that there are outbreaks. That means it was the right decision.
Miles said the almost 1,000 tests conducted in the south side of Brisbane yesterday was a “fourfold increase in the average number of tests we normally do in metro south, and it is exactly how we will ensure that we do not have community transmission from the cases there”.
He said 94 aged care facilities on the south side of Brisbane have been locked down to visitors “until we ensure that there is no risk of them being infected”:
Police believe they have now identified all three Queenslanders who were at that party in Melbourne. We don’t think there are any others.
Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, says more than 1,000 people in Brisbane’s southern suburbs were tested for Covid-19 yesterday in an effort to stamp out any possible community transmission from two young women who tested positive to the virus after spending eight days in the community. Statewide, 6,800 tests were conducted. Palaszczuk said:
During this time, we need to make sure that everyone is doing the right thing. We need to make sure that if you are sick, you are getting tested and I want everyone to listen to Dr [Jeanette] Young, and if you’re sick, stay at home, do not go to work. It is absolutely vital. You must keep up that social distancing. If you’re going to a shopping centre and seeing people not social distancing, you should leave. I mean now is not the time to be in extremely large gatherings where people are not social distancing.
At this stage it sounds like the prime minister, Scott Morrison, will give a press conference after the Victorian daily update.
We are expecting to get confirmation of the Victorian figures at 11am, but reports are it could be another record high number.
The previous daily record, 523 cases in 24 hours, was set on Monday, and there was some hope it could be the peak of the second wave. But the state’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said yesterday that he was not prepared to say the peak had passed because it depended on what happened in specific outbreaks, particularly in aged care.
Childcare providers in greater Melbourne and the Mitchell shire will get a measure of federal government support two weeks after the free childcare program ended.
The education minister, Dan Tehan, said $6m in funding would be used to cover 15% of the revenue of eligible childcare centres, backdated to 20 July:
We are taking action to ensure Victorian families can still access care as we deal with the current Covid-19 lockdown.
Our support will help more than 880 [childcare] services to keep their doors open and their staff employed.
It will help working families and vulnerable and disadvantaged children to continue to access outside school hours care, relieving pressure on essential workers, who will be reassured their children are being cared for while they do their important work.
The funding will be available to providers in the stage three lockdown area who can show that attendance has dropped to 40% or less, compared with the previous reference period. The lump sum payment will be available for eight weeks.
Labor’s housing spokesman, Jason Clare, is having fun. He has issued a statement this morning about the lengthy delay to produce an application form for the homebuilder program – that’s the $688m program announced back in June to provide $25,000 for new builds and major renovations that take place between June and December this year.
It’s a tight timeline, so the eight-week delay in sorting out an application form is not nothing. Clare says many more impressive documents have been written in the same time frame:
There have been many great pieces of literature written in less than eight weeks, but unfortunately the homebuilder application form is not one of them.
He’s provided a list:
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – written in six weeks.
- The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne – written in just two and a half days
- The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins – written in three weeks
- A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle – written in three weeks
- On the Road by Jack Kerouac – written in three weeks
- The Gambler by Fydor Dostoyevsky – written in 26 days
- As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner - written in six weeks
- King Solomon’s Mines by H Rider Haggard – written in six weeks
If classics like this can be written in less than eight weeks, why can’t a simple application form? Seriously, it shouldn’t take this long.
To anyone actually trying to write a book – don’t listen to him, you’re not a failure for not finishing your manuscript in eight weeks. It is, however, probably long enough to knock up a form.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners is urging people to wear face masks to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
Face masks are mandatory in greater Melbourne and the Mitchell shire, except for children under 12 and those with a medical exemption, and people doing heavy exercise like running (but only while they are running). Nationally, the official medical advice is for people to wear face masks in situations where they cannot guarantee social distancing in an area with community transmission, for example on public transport or in the supermarket in Sydney.
The RACGP Victoria chair, Dr Cameron Loy, said:
Wearing a face covering will help reduce community transmission – which is what everyone wants, the sooner people “mask up” in areas of community transmission, the sooner we will get on top of this virus.
Loy said the RACGP had produced a letter template for GPs whose patients have requested proof of a medical exemption to wearing a face mask, but he said GPs should distribute those letters “wisely”.
It is for the greater public health good that all those who can wear a face covering, do.
In these difficult times when we are seeing community transmission in many places, we all need to do our bit.
Whenever you leave your home, remember to mask up – this is about protecting yourself, your loved ones and everyone else in our community.
And remember a face mask or covering is not a suit of armour against Covid-19 – people still need to follow the other advice to stay safe, including maintaining a physical distance of 1.5m from others, regular hand washing, and cough and sneezing into your elbow.
According to the Herald Sun, some private aged care providers have not been fully cooperating with state government health teams which have moved in to control the Covid-19 outbreak.
The story is very distressing, and includes accounts like this from the family members of people who have died:
The family of Epping Gardens resident Thelma Hyatt, who died on Tuesday, say they were called by a staff member from the home almost 11 hours later and told: “When are you going to move the body? You need to move her because she’s in a body bag and we don’t have a fridge facility. And she’s deteriorating while we speak.”
The outbreaks in the residential aged care remains the biggest concern to the Victorian and Australian governments, who are trying to work together while both simultaneously saying that the other is responsible for the disaster.
As Gay Alcorn writes, that does not help aged care residents or their families, who are, frankly, terrified about what might happen to their loved ones. She writes:
But there are questions more important than who said what, and when. Why, for instance, was a Victorian centre to coordinate the response between federal and state agencies established formally only last weekend? Why were masks not made compulsory in aged care centres until 13 July, a week after Victoria went into its second lockdown? Was there really plenty of protective equipment available in aged care centres, as the federal government claims, or was it piecemeal and sometimes unavailable, as unions insist?
Why did it take so long to deal with aged care workers travelling between facilities for shifts, thereby potentially spreading the virus, and why was paid pandemic leave not introduced earlier, allowing low-paid workers to stay home when sick, when Scott Morrison was asked for it months ago?
You can read the full piece here.
The ABC News Breakfast crew of Lisa Millar, Michael Rowland and Nate Byrne are self-isolating after their floor manager’s wife tested positive for Covid-19.
The ABC scrambled to replace them on Wednesday night after finding out and Madeleine Morris, Ben Knight and Georgie Tunny were drafted to present News Breakfast for the next few days.
Deep cleaning of the ABC’s Southbank studios in Melbourne where the program is filmed has been undertaken.
The floor manager, Jo, has had close contact with the hosts because he puts their microphones on and hands them glasses of water.
Jo, whose wife works in aged care, has been tested and is awaiting his results.
The first of five Australian Medical Assistance Teams (Ausmat teams) will arrive in Victoria today to help respond to the growing crisis in the aged care sector, with more than 800 active cases in residential aged care, and 46 deaths associated with the aged care cluster since 1 July.
The Ausmat teams, which include a mix of epidemiologists, disaster and emergency medicine specialists, and planning experts, will help bolster the joint aged care coordination centre, which was established at the weekend.
They are not usually deployed domestically – these are the specialists Australia sends to humanitarian disasters. Which, you could argue, is what is happening with coronavirus outbreaks in Melbourne’s aged care sector right now.
We had a bit of fun with the products featuring the Victorian chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, yesterday. There’s a line between admiration and objectification, and crossing it isn’t cool. If you’re bored and under lockdown, I think Josh and I would both recommend you watch (or rewatch!) Buffy the Vampire Slayer and develop a crush on Giles instead. Very similar areas.
Ash Barty withdraws from US Open due to Covid-19 fears
World No.1 Ashleigh Barty has withdrawn from the US Open in a massive blow to the New York grand slam.
Not comfortable about travelling during the coronavirus pandemic, Barty is the biggest name yet to opt out of the August 31 to September 13 major because of the global heath crisis.
“My team and I have decided that we won’t be travelling to the US and Western and Southern Open and the US Open this year,” Barty said in a statement to AAP on Thursday.
“I love both events so it was a difficult decision but there are still significant risks involved due to Covid-19 and I don’t feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position.
“I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and I look forward to being back in the US next year.
“I will make my decision on the French Open and the surrounding WTA European tournaments in the coming weeks.”
NAB will cut the opening hours of 114 regional bank branches so that they’re only open in the morning.
The bank, which is Australia’s biggest agricultural lender, says the branches will be open between 9.30am and 12.30pm but staff will be available outside those hours by phone and online.
NAB’s head of personal banking, Rachel Slade, said a quarter of transactions in branches take place between 9.30am and 10.30am.
She said the Covid-19 crisis showed the bank that more work could be done remotely:
The chance for more of our bankers to work from anywhere is something I am very excited about. We think this move will strike that balance, keeping the doors open at 114 branches around the country and providing the opportunity for around 300 bankers to learn skills while we continue to serve our customers well.
About 300 bankers are affected. The new hours start on 17 August.
NSW Health has issued a correction to a previous warning for people who attended two pubs in Mount Pritchard, western Sydney, last week.
Authorities had previously issued 14-day self-isolation orders for anyone who attended the Mounties pub on Meadows Road on Friday 24 July, from midnight to 3am, 11am to 3.30pm, and 7pm to midnight, and on Saturday 25 July from midnight to 3am.
They have now also told anyone who was at the pub from 7pm to midnight on Thursday 23 July to self-isolate for 14 days and get tested if they develop any symptoms of Covid-19.
NSW Health also corrected the potential exposure period at a second Mount Pritchard pub, Pritchard’s Hotel on Elizabeth Drive. Previously, people who attended from 7pm to 7.45pm on Thursday 23 July were told to get tested if they feel sick. That has now changed to Friday 24 July from 5pm to 7pm.
Anyone feeling unwell – even with the mildest of symptoms such as a runny nose or scratchy throat – is urged to self-isolate and seek testing. Do not go to work or catch public transport until you are cleared of Covid-19.
The announcement of the new Closing the Gap targets came as another Aboriginal death in custody, the third in two months, was reported in Western Australia. The 47-year-old man was discovered unresponsive in his six-person dormitory cell at Roebourne prison on Wednesday morning.
The Natsils co-chair Cheryl Axleby said the tragedy was a reminder of the need for ambitious justice targets of at least a 23% year-on-year reduction in the incarceration rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and 28% year-on-year for youth detention, and the targets that were actually settled on were “not acceptable”:
We agree with minister Wyatt, who expressed weeks ago that a 2093 parity date will hinder progress. Governments could have increased the ambition of adult justice targets but chose not to, against the advice of Natsils and the coalition of peaks. If we are equal partners in this agreement, why is our expert advice being ignored by governments when they know our lives are on the line?
Axleby said the new national agreement did not include everything that the coalition of peak Aboriginal community controlled organisations wanted, nor everything that Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people need to improve their lives:
The Closing the Gap agreement has been a missed opportunity by governments to commit to ending the over-incarceration of adults and children within 10 years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially children, need to be with their community, not in prison. This is a matter of political will; if Australian governments had decided on Monday to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years, this would have immediately reduced the over-incarceration of our children.
The question of raising the age of criminal responsibility, from the current age of 10, was considered and dismissed at the Australian Council of Attorneys General on Monday.
New Closing the Gap targets announced but Ken Wyatt says funding is a 'separate process'
The big news this morning is the release of the new national agreement on Closing the Gap.
The 16 new targets include, for the first time, reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care (a 45% reduction by 2031); reducing the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children in youth detention (a 30% reduction by 2031); and reducing the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults (a 15% reduction by 2031).
The federal Indigenous affairs minister, Ken Wyatt, told Radio National this morning that there was no announcement of new funding connected to the targets. The co-chair of the joint council which developed the targets, Pat Turner, previously said that without considerable additional funding the targets would not be achieved.
The peaks will be resourced but those matters to do with funding are a separate process.
He said the new Closing the Gap process would be different to the first iteration of the program, introduced in 2008 by the former prime minister Kevin Rudd, because it is the product of a collaboration between federal, state and territory, and local governments, as well as the coalition of 51 peak Aboriginal community-controlled organisations.
Only two of the previous 10 targets have been met. Wyatt said that failure was in part due to the first targets being the sole responsibility of the federal government:
I think the glaring gap was accountability.
The minister said state and territory governments had agreed the last set of targets “but the accountability rested with the commonwealth, which is why the results were reported in federal parliament”.
Now, everyone has to report and the responsibility for meeting the targets and delivering programs to that end is shared between federal and state governments and Aboriginal community-controlled organisations:
The responsibility sits with all three groups. The commonwealth, the state and territory governments, and the community organisations.
Three schools in regional Victoria and three in NSW are among the more than 100 closed for deep cleaning across Australia today because of a positive test result for Covid-19.
The Fort Street high school in Petersham, Sydney, is closed awaiting the results of a possible positive test, while Freeman Catholic college in Bonnyrigg Heights and Mary Immaculate Catholic primary school in Bossley Park, both in western Sydney, will be shut until 10 August after confirmed cases. The news comes as NSW announces tighter restrictions for indoor gyms and health officials warn that the state is on a “knife’s edge”.
In central Victoria, the Catherine McAuley college and St Joseph’s primary school in Bendigo are closed for deep cleaning after a student at one and a teacher at the other tested positive, and the Holy Rosary school in Heathcote was closed as a precaution.
According to the Department of Education in Victoria, about 100 schools are closed in Victoria because of Covid or other reasons – although mostly, it’s Covid. In greater Melbourne and the Mitchell shire, only students in years 11 and 12, or students at specialist schools, are attending on campus, but they return to remote learning whenever there’s an exposure at their schools.
The Victorian government will begin handing out 1m reusable masks from today, and school students and teachers will be among the first recipients. But the focus of that state remains on aged care, with the death toll expected to continue to rise.
Meanwhile, communities is southern Brisbane have been told to be on alert for any possible symptoms as Queensland tries to stamp out any possible community transmission of the disease caused by two young women, who allegedly provided false information on border documents and spent eight days in the community with symptoms before testing positive on Tuesday. The case prompted the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, to declare a ban on anyone from greater Sydney travelling to Queensland from Sunday.
Let’s crack on. You can reach me on Twitter @callapilla or on email at firstname.lastname@example.org.