Victoria is powerless to stop the state’s horror coronavirus outbreak from escalating, a senior government source has said.
The state smashed its record for new daily COVID-19 cases on Thursday as Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed another 723 infections and 13 deaths.
Mr Andrews’ announced further measures in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus – including extending the compulsory wearing of face masks to the entire state from 11.59pm on Sunday.
But the senior Australian government figure said Victorian authorities were now in a position where the only course of action is to ensure the state is ready for an onslaught of hospital-bound coronavirus patients.
‘One senior figure in government in Australia has suggested to me that Victoria is too far gone – that it does not have the structures in place to quell the virus through contact tracing,’ Sky News Political Editor Andrew Clenell said on Thursday.
‘Now it just has to make sure it has to have enough ventilators, beds and personal protective equipment.’
Cleaners at the entrance of the Epping Gardens aged care facility in Melbourne’s north on Wednesday. A source said the outbreak in Victoria had gone too far and authorities could only now ensure the state is ready to deal with a spike in hospital-bound coronavirus patients
Medical workers speak at the entrance of the Epping Gardens aged care facility
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said earlier on Thursday he supported the introduction of new measures, stating case numbers in the ‘Victorian wave’ were very concerning.
‘We have now been in this lockdown 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,’ Mr Morrison said.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday also banned residents of the Colac-Otway, Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, and the Borough of Queenscliff local government areas from receiving visitors at home from Friday.
‘It’s inconvenient, it’s challenging, but it’s essentially stage four for Melbourne and it’s something we can do in regional Victoria without causing significant economic cost but get a really significant public health benefit,’ Mr Andrews told reporters on Thursday.
He also warned Melbourne’s crippling lockdown will likely be extended if case numbers continue to rise.
‘Ultimately, every Victorian, I think deep down knows and appreciates that unless everyone plays their part this lockdown will not end anytime soon,’ Mr Andrews said.
Australia’s coronavirus cases have dramatically spiked after the first wave of cases was all but beaten
Thursday’s figure is more than double Wednesday’s 295 infections and far exceeds the state’s previous record of 532 cases on Monday.
Victoria reported an additional 13 deaths on Thursday, 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.
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.
ADF personnel are seen at Epping Gardens Aged Care on Thursday. Victoria has recorded 723 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths
He took the opportunity to criticise the anti-mask community, and warned people who film themselves arguing with police at lockdown checkpoints that they face a $10,000 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 $1652 fine and if you go through a court process it is much closer to $10,000 so it is a pretty significant penalty,’ he said.
Mr Andrews reiterated the importance of following health directives, urging the community to look out for one another.
‘This is not about human rights, this is about human life. This is not about some obscure nonsense you’ve read on a website.’
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.
Medical workers evacuate a resident from the Epping Gardens aged care facility on Thursday
Mr Andrews also announced coronavirus restrictions would be extended beyond metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire (pictured in yellow) to six local government areas (pictured in red), where residents will not be allowed to visit other homes
Mr Andrews commended the majority of residents in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire for following the mandatory face mask rule, which was introduced one week ago.
‘And I’m deeply grateful for each of them for doing that. It’s inconvenient, it’s challenging, but it’s essentially Stage 4 for Melbourne,’ he said.
The premier said extending mandatory face coverings to the rest of Victoria would provide a positive health benefit, without significant economic losses.
‘It’s something we can do in regional Victoria without causing significant economic cost, but getting a really significant public health benefit,’ he said.
‘I know that may seem counter-intuitive, and many things in this virus are. But some of the transmission is household-to-household,’ Mr Andrews said.
Regional Victoria has 255 active cases, with 159 in six local areas around Geelong.
VICTORIA’S JULY CORONAVIRUS NIGHTMARE
Thursday, July 30 – 723 cases, 13 deaths – record daily numbers for Australia
Wednesday, July 29 – 295 cases, nine deaths. Victoria has more deaths than the rest of the country combined
Tuesday, July 28 – 384 cases, six deaths
Monday, July 27 – 532 cases, six deaths
Sunday, July 26 – 459 cases, national-record 10 deaths
Saturday, July 25 – 357 cases, five deaths
Friday July 24 – 300 cases, seven deaths, contract tracing expanded
Thursday July 23 – 403 cases, five deaths, worst day for fatalities in any state, masks now mandatory
Wednesday July 22 – 484 cases, two deaths
Tuesday July 21 – 374 cases, three deaths
Monday July 20 – 275 cases, one death
Sunday July 19 – 363 cases, three deaths, notice that masks will become mandatory in lockdown areas
Saturday July 18 – 217 cases, three deaths, final Melbourne public housing tower released from hard lockdown
Friday July 17 – 428 cases, three deaths
Thursday July 16 – 317 cases, two deaths
Wednesday July 15 – 238 cases, one death
Tuesday July 14 – 270 cases, two deaths
Monday July 13 – 177 cases
Sunday July 12 – 273 cases, one death
Saturday July 11 – 216 cases, one death
Friday July 10 – 288 cases, a national daily record at the time
Thursday July 9 – 165 cases, eight of nine Melbourne public housing towers released from hard lockdown
Wednesday July 8 – 134 cases, new stage-three restrictions announced for metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire
Tuesday July 7 – 191 cases
Monday July 6 – 127 cases, two deaths, NSW border closed
Sunday July 5 – 74 cases
Saturday July 4 – 108 cases, immediate hard lockdown of nine Melbourne public housing towers
Friday July 3 – 66 cases
Thursday July 2 – 77 cases
Wednesday July 1 – 73 cases
Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured on Thursday) warned that Melbourne’s crippling lockdown will likely be extended if case numbers continue to rise. ‘Ultimately, every Victorian, I think deep down knows and appreciates that unless everyone plays their part this lockdown will not end anytime soon,’ Mr Andrews said
Victoria broke 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
Mr Andrews said there were 30 Australian Defence Force teams door-knocking in Victoria on Wednesday and 269 homes were visited.
A number of coronavirus-infected residents were not home.
‘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 was actually 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.
There were 19,921 coronavirus tests since Wednesday’s update.
Mr Andrews, who said more one in five Victorians have tested for the virus, thanked residents who have come forward for testing.
‘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.
‘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.’
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos described Thursday’s record coronavirus cases as ‘disappointing’.
Ms Mikakos said more hospitalisations and deaths are inevitable.
‘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,’ she said.
‘And that includes those in regional Victoria now.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison encouraged Australians across Victoria and the country to comply and work cooperatively with the requests being made by authorities.
‘The most concerning part of the information released today was that there were a further 13 deaths,’ Mr Morrison said.
Pictured: An aged care resident in Melbourne is taken away in an ambulance on Tuesday
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 on Wednesday said nurses from hospitals had been redeployed to short-staffed nursing homes, with 400 shifts already filled.
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.
Thursday’s 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.