Every single Victorian will now have to wear masks in public or face a $200 fine as the state is hit with a 723 new coronavirus cases.
Premier Daniel Andrews said from 11.59pm on Saturday it will be mandatory for people to wear masks in public statewide – rather than just in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.
Residents from the local government areas of Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, Colac-Otway and Queenscliffe also face further restrictions from 11.59pm on Thursday as authorities scramble to avoid outbreaks in regional communities.
‘It’s inconvenient, it’s challenging, but it’s essentially Stage 4 for Melbourne, and it’s something we can do in regional Victoria without causing significant economic cost, but getting a really significant public health benefit,’ he said.
Victoria’s massive number of new cases is a record – more than double Wednesday’s 295 infections and far exceeding the previous record of 532 cases on Monday.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced an additional 13 deaths, taking the state’s death toll to 105 and national figure to 189.
The fatalities are three men and three women in their 70s, three men and two women in their 80s, and two men in their 90s.
Premier Daniel Andrews said from 11.59pm on Saturday the mandatory mask wearing order active in Melbourne for the past week will be applied statewide
Mr Andrews said requiring masks statewide was a logical next step and many people in regional Victoria were already wearing them.
‘I don’t think this is the biggest leap, because I think that, again, this is a point of pride,’ he said.
‘Many, many people in regional Victoria, where they have that sense that they can’t distance, can’t maintain that 1.5m, are already wearing masks. That’s certainly the case in a number of very big regional cities.
‘We have low numbers in regional Victoria, and we want to jealously guard that. We want to keep those numbers low.
‘These are preventative steps, they’re an abundance-of-caution approach, if you like.’
Mr Andrews said that while new suburbs have been added to the lockdown, there will be no changes to how businesses and restaurants can operate.
‘You cannot visit friends. They cannot visit you. Hospitality venues will remain open,’ he said, before admitting that the decision might seem ‘counterintuitive’ to some.
‘Many things in this virus are. But some of the transmission is household-to-household,’ he reasoned.
There were 19,921 coronavirus tests since Wednesday’s update. Mr Andrews said more one in five Victorians have tested for the virus.
‘Can I thank everybody who’s presenting for a test. It’s critically important. We’re deeply grateful to you,’ he said.
‘And what that means is we can track the virus, we can put our best efforts to work to try and contain the spread beyond you and your close contacts.
Victoria is expected to announce 723 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. The state’s previous record was 532 infections on Monday
LATEST CORONAVIRUS SNAPSHOT IN VICTORIA
ACTIVE CASES: 5,885 across the state
ACTIVE CASES IN AGED CARE: 913
VICTORIANS IN HOSPITAL: 312
VICTORIANS IN ICU: 34
‘But, of course, if you’re not coming forward and getting tested, we simply don’t have that knowledge.
‘And it’s impressive to think that we have one of the highest testing rates anywhere in the world. More than one in five Victorians have been tested.’
Mr Andrews said 10 of the 13 deaths were aged care residents. There are 913 active cases in aged care facilities and a total of 5,885 active cases across the state.
There are 312 Victorians battling coronavirus in hospital and 34 patients are fighting for their lives in intensive care.
The 723 cases on Thursday is more than the 697 cases recorded in the United Kingdom on Tuesday. The UK has reported 45,961 deaths since the pandemic begun.
Mr Andrews said there were 30 Australian Defence Force teams doorknocking in Victoria on Wednesday and 269 homes were visited.
‘Now, I don’t want this to be seen as criticism or blame, but I’m obliged to point out that there were a number of people who were not home,’ he said.
‘They will be referred to Victoria Police.’
Mr Andrews said one resident – who is a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus – was at work instead of isolating at home.
‘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,’ he said.
Mr Andrews also announced coronavirus restrictions would be extended beyond metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire to the Geelong region.
Victoria is set to break the record for its single daily increase in coronavirus cases on Thursday. Pictured: Medical staff are seen at St Basil’s Home for the Aged Care in Fawkner
A resident is taken from the Epping Hardens Aged Care Home in Melbourne on Thursday
Victoria reported nine additional fatalities on Wednesday. Seven of the fatalities were linked to private aged care facilities in the state.
The aged care crisis remains a major driver of the state’s death toll and high case numbers
‘The aged care numbers, the increase in each of those facilities on a daily basis will be a significant contributor, including the staff in those facilities and our other outbreaks, especially the larger ones, are another significant contributor,’ Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said on Wednesday.
Following state and federal intervention, residents are being transferred from the worst-affected homes, including 80 at St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner and 34 at Epping Gardens Aged Care Facility.
Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth has had 30 residents transferred out, while 21 people from Outlook Gardens Aged Care Facility in Dandenong North have been transferred to Mulgrave Private Hospital.
Mr Andrews said nurses from hospitals had been redeployed to short-staffed nursing homes, with 400 shifts already filled.
From Thursday, Australian Defence Force personnel and public health workers will begin doorknocking all confirmed coronavirus cases in Victoria
Pictured: An aged care resident in Melbourne is taken away in an ambulance on Tuesday
Police leave the Epping Gardens aged care facility in the Melbourne suburb of Epping on Wednesday
Up to 50 South Australian nurses will also travel to assist Victoria’s hospital and aged care staff.
The state government figures released on Wednesday show there are 952 active cases linked to aged care, with 87 facilities having active outbreaks.
Thursday’s expected record comes after two days of declining figures. The number of new cases dropped to 295 on Wednesday from 384 on Tuesday and 532 on Monday.
Every Victorian who tests positive to COVID-19 should expect a knock on the door from the military, the premier has warned, as the state bolsters efforts to contain outbreaks.
Australian Defence Force personnel and public health workers have been visiting the homes of known positive cases who could not be contacted, but from Thursday they will begin doorknocking all confirmed cases.
ADF personnel work at the Victorian state control center, which is being used for the coronavirus pandemic
An aged care resident is taken from the Epping Hardens Aged Care Home in Melbourne on Wednesday
The body of a resident is taken away from the Epping Gardens aged care facility on Wednesday
Mr Andrews said of the 500 visits already conducted, people were not home for 29 of them. Those cases have been referred to police.
‘(It) is not about compliance, but making sure that every single positive case understands what we are asking them to do,’ he told reporters on Wednesday.
‘And it is their opportunity to ask what they need from us, what can we do for you to support you in unique circumstances.’
Federal health department secretary Brendan Murphy warned that Victorians should brace for more deaths from aged care facilities every day.
‘There will be more (deaths),’ he said.
Mr Andrews reiterated the government’s ongoing message that Victorians must stay home if they are at all unwell, in order to drive down case numbers and prevent further outbreaks.
Victoria Police on Thursday morning said they issued 88 fines to individuals who breached the chief health officer directions.
Of the 88 fines issued in the last 24 hours, 26 were for failing to wear a face covering when leaving the home.
Medical transport are seen lined up the Epping Gardens Aged Care Home
Six men were fined after they were found at a short term rental property in Mornington Peninsula.
The group said they were there for a work related meeting but when police arrived the group were drinking alcohol and watching television.
There were 11 infringements handed at vehicle checkpoints, where 21,833 cars were checked.
Victoria Police also conducted 5,650 spot checks on people at homes, businesses and public places across the state.
In NSW, health authorities are fearful of a spike in coronavirus clusters as cases spread to Sydney’s densely populated eastern suburbs.
There were 19 new cases in Australia’s most populous state on Wednesday with just two in hotel quarantine.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will ban all visitors from Sydney from Saturday after two teenagers with coronavirus dodged quarantine.
The two 19-year-olds travelled to Brisbane from Melbourne via Sydney and are under investigation for allegedly giving false information on border declarations.
South Australia has imposed tougher border controls with Victoria, meaning residents can no longer return and tighter limits for towns near the edge of the two states.
Daniel Andrews says he wouldn’t want his mother in aged care
Daniel Andrews said he would not want his mother to be in some of Victoria’s coronavirus-ridden aged care homes.
The Victoria Premier was asked by a journalist if he would be happy for his 75-year-old mother Jan to be a resident in one of the 61 care homes that have suffered COVID-19 outbreaks in Victoria.
Mr Andrews replied: ‘Well my mother is in her mid 70s, she has some underlying health conditions but she lives at home.
Daniel Andrews said he would not want his mother (pictured together after election victory in 2018) to be in some of Victoria’s crisis-hit care homes
‘Some of the stories we have seen are unacceptable and I wouldn’t want my mum in some of those places,’ he said, referring to reports that some residents have been left lying in soiled sheets and without enough food.
‘I would not let my mum be in some of these places, I wouldn’t.
‘But that’s not a decision I have to make at the moment because she’s very happy to be at home and if she’s watching this she’ll be very angry that I’m even contemplating the notion of going into residential aged care,’ he joked.
The comments sparked anger, with many saying Mr Andrews’ language was ‘disrespectful’.