Victoria has tightened its border restrictions and introduced a new hotel quarantine permit after the state recorded 79 new cases.
Travellers will be required to obtain a ‘departing hotel quarantine permit’ after they complete two weeks isolation interstate and before they enter Victoria.
‘That is about making sure that we further strengthen our border arrangements against the threat of interstate incursions, particularly the prospects of incursions through hotel quarantine,’ health minister Martin Foley said on Friday.
Travellers will need to take a Covid-19 test 17 days after arriving in Australia. They are ‘strongly recommended’ to then get another test at 21 days.
Of the new cases, fifty-three are linked to known outbreaks, with the source of the remaining 26 under investigation.
The growing number of mystery cases has raised concerns that authorities will be forced to extend lockdown beyond September 2.
Mr Foley said it was too early to decide if restrictions would be eased on time.
‘There are still areas of really great concern out there,’ he said. ‘The situation in this particular outbreak has evolved.’
Mr Foley praised the number of residents turning out to get vaccinated with 33,611 jabs administered in the last 24 hours
A new permit system will also be rolled out for people leaving hotel quarantine, Mr Foley announced
Travellers will be required to obtain a ‘departing hotel quarantine permit’ after they complete two weeks isolation interstate and before they enter Victoria
Ten cases have been linked to the Shepparton cluster, one to Royal Melbourne Hospital, nine to Broadmeadows and six to the Carlton and Burnswick clusters.
Two are connected to the Caroline Springs Square outbreak, one to Geelong, two in Monash and 46 in western suburbs.
‘This is where the incursions from New South Wales landed, in that part of Victoria,’ Mr Foley said.
The health minister revealed most residents were doing the right thing despite the wide spread of the virus in the western suburbs.
‘The western suburbs is disproportionately a community that is full of essential workers and permitted workers,’ he said.
‘They are out and about and there are other issues, about a very small number of some people, not just confined to the western suburbs, who do not follow the rules.’
There are 37 patients in hospital and 14 being treated in the intensive care unit with nine on ventilators.
Mr Foley said he was ‘bitterly disappointed’ after it was revealed four jockeys breached lockdown to stay at an Airbnb on Wednesday night.
‘We are always disappointed when people do not follow the rules and we understand racing Victoria are taking immediate measures,’ he said.
Jamie Kah, Ethan Brown, Ben Melham and apprentice jockey Celine Gaudray have each been fined $5452 for staying at the house on the Mornington Peninsula.
Of the new cases, 10 are linked to the Shepparton cluster, nine to Broadmeadows, six to Brunswick and 46 to western suburbs
Mr Foley praised the number of residents turning out to get vaccinated with 33,611 jabs administered in the last 24 hours.
‘We have seen an incredible demand from young people aged 18-39 who have come forward to be vaccinated over recent days,’ he said.
‘It’s both for AZ bookings and for the new Pfizer bookings. And that is really, really impressive.’
Premier Dan Andrews is considering scrapping a blanket ban on playgrounds because there is no concrete evidence that the virus is transmitted at any parks at all, despite a small scare.
The spike in case numbers – there were also 80 on Thursday – was the highest daily increase since September 2 last year, when 110 cases were reported.
Victorian premier Dan Andrews angered many parents when he closed children’s playgrounds earlier this month (pictured, a family out and about in Melbourne)
Playgrounds, basketball courts, skate parks and exercise equipment in metropolitan Melbourne were closed from August 16 after CHO Brett Sutton said the measure was needed to reduce transmission of the Delta variant (pictured, a council worker closes off a swing set near the CBD)
Victoria’s latest lockdown, which is scheduled to end on September 2 at 11.59pm, will more than likely be extended, with more mystery cases emerging each day as well as a high percentage of cases not in isolation.
Despite the rise in case numbers, health authorities have said any evidence of playground transmission remains inconclusive.
‘We don’t get a definitive answer. We don’t have an alternative explanation and that becomes a working hypothesis,’ chief health officer Brett Sutton said.
‘We can’t see the virus transmit from one person to another so we don’t know definitively.’
Earlier this month, Andrews defended his unpopular decision to close children’s playgrounds in Melbourne, pointing out 50 children in the city had tested positive for Covid-19.
‘We have seen evidence of transmission between people that don’t even know each other and don’t know that they were in the company of each other,’ the premier said at the time.
The Premier defended the decision – despite authorities stating there was no concrete link to Covid-19 transmission from any playgrounds
Dan Andrews is now believed to be leaning towards re-opening the playgrounds within days – despite a recent spike in Covid case numbers
‘This is tough. But the best thing we can all do is stick together and hopefully drive down the numbers.’
Playgrounds, basketball courts, skate parks and exercise equipment in metropolitan Melbourne were closed from August 16 after Professor Sutton said the measure was needed to reduce transmission of the Indian delta variant.
The decision was widely slammed by lockdown-weary Melbourne families with children struggling during their sixth round of stay-at-home orders.
‘Getting to a playground is one of the few things you have left to alleviate boredom with the kids, it’s a punch in the guts,’ Melbourne father Toby Cummings said.
Professor Sutton explained the rationale for the decision.
‘There have been instances where parents supervising children at playgrounds were sitting down, drinking coffee and not wearing masks or social distancing,’ he said.
‘That’s the transmission risk, and the more we can get on top of each and every time – whether it’s a small and moderate or a significant contributor to that overall burden of transmission – we have to get to the finish line fast, so that this doesn’t drag on and on.’
A number of doctors, paediatricians and infectious disease experts also urged the Andrews government to rethink the closure of playgrounds, warning the mental health toll for children could outweigh the risk of coronavirus transmission.
Of the new cases, fifty-three are linked to known outbreaks, with the source of the remaining 26 under investigation
Mr Foley said it was too early to decide if restrictions would be eased as planned on September 2