Public housing towers and more Melbourne postcodes are being locked down to curb the COVID outbreak. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS

politics

Victoria expands lockdown as cases surge

2020-07-04 17:32:59

The Victorian coronavirus crisis is worsening with 108 news cases reported, the second-highest daily number since the pandemic began.

Premier Daniel Andrews has been forced to lock down two further postcodes in an attempt to stop the spread of the crisis, bringing the total to 12. 

Nine public housing blocks are also being locked down for at least five days for COVID-19 testing, affecting 3000 Victorians.

“These numbers are a very real concern to all of us,” Mr Andrews told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday in regard to the latest virus numbers, and marking almost three weeks of daily rises in the double-figures at the least.

“These additional postcodes that are added tonight … will cause pain but the pain it causes, the frustration or difficulty that it causes is nowhere near the difficulties that will be experienced if we have this get away from us.”

Federal Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said he was calling an emergency meeting of medical officers across the country on Saturday evening.

He said while this is a problem in Melbourne, it is really the whole of Australia that is able to assist in responding to this outbreak.

“This is really important that we see this as a combined effort to assist our Victorian colleagues in whatever way that we can,” Professor Kelly told reporters in Canberra.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has been horrified by reports that some people are resisting tests in some of these Victorian hotspots.

Asked on the Seven Network’s Weekend Sunrise program whether the COVID test should be made compulsory, Mr Albanese said: “I am not sure about the legal issues of how that could be done.”

“The idea that someone would resist testing … people should participate in it,” Mr Albanese said.

“Not just for their own health but the health of their family and friends and others. This is something where we all have a responsibility.”

NSW reported six new cases, including an 18-year old school student from a Central Coast high school.

The five other cases reported on Saturday are all returned travellers currently in hotel quarantine, NSW Health said.

International arrivals in Sydney are being capped at 450 a day in a bid to ensure the hotel quarantining system is not stretched to breaking point, with travellers seemingly avoiding Victoria and Queensland.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said some returning travellers appeared to have changed their plans and decided to head to NSW in light of Victoria’s spike in COVID-19 cases and the Queensland government now charging for accommodation.

Western Australia confirmed one historic infection, but no new cases. 

There were no new cases reported in Queensland either, a state that is preparing to finally open its borders next Friday.

More broadly, tourism and business groups have pooled ideas to reopen Australia, providing expert advice to the federal government to reignite tourism across the country.

The Tourism Restart Taskforce has put together a series of recommendations, including a firm timetable to ease further restrictions, a call to lift all state border closures, and the need to extend the JobKeeper wage subsidy for the industry.

“This plan provides a runway back to operations for the industries that comprise Australia’s largest services export and the creator of one in 13 jobs in the Australian economy,” taskforce chair Jeremy Johnson said.

Professor Kelly said Australia has recorded 8362 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the outbreak which has killed 104 people.