Residents of a Melbourne high-rise that have been confined to their homes since Saturday will be kept under hard lockdown for another nine days as the city’s outbreak grows.
The housing commission block at 33 Alfred street has recorded a ‘substantial’ number of virus cases, prompting Premier Daniel Andrews to extend the lock-up.
Residents of eight other towers that went under hard lockdown are being released after two of them recorded zero cases and six recorded very few cases.
They will still be subject to stay-at-home orders like the rest of Melbourne but can now leave for shopping, work and school, healthcare and exercise. Residents who have tested positive must still isolate.
Victoria recorded 165 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday as Melbourne began the first day of a six-week lockdown.
Thirty of the new cases were linked to known outbreaks – including 18 at nine public housing towers – and the source of the rest was being investigated.
The figure was Victoria’s second worst after it recorded 194 new cases on Tuesday, prompting Premier Daniel Andrews to seal off Australia’s second-biggest city.
The tower at 33 Alfred street has lots of cases, meaning it will kept under hard lockdown – where residents cannot leave at all – for another nine days
Response personnel prepare to distribute goods to residents inside a public housing tower on Thursday
Nine public housing towers (some pictured) have been locked down in response to an outbreak in Melbourne
Victorian Police check drivers’ licences on the outbound section of the Calder Highway
Workers prepare to distribute supplies outside of the public housing tower in Flemington Melbourne
Forty Victorians are in hospital with nine fighting for their lives.
The devastating daily total came as:
- 14,000 thermometers were distributed to Melbourne schools so pupils could be screened daily when they return to class for term three
- Queensland banned Victorians from entering the Sunshine State, removing the option of doing so and copping a two-week quarantine
- WA reduced exemptions for people entering from Victoria and made entrants get a mandatory test on day 11
- South Australia declares anyone entering will be tested and ordered to wear mask
- Three people test positive in Albury, NSW after one caught disease in Melbourne
Earlier on Thursday federal Health Minister Greg Hunt blamed protests, hotel quarantine breaches and poor contact tracing for Melbourne’s outbreak.
Some 10,000 people packed the city for a Black Lives Matter protest on June 6, a day after zero cases were recorded in Victoria for the first time.
Only three protesters tested positive and there is no evidence of transmission at the rally yet Mr Hunt said it helped spread the virus by leading people to believe that social distancing requirements were over.
Victoria Police are checking that people have a valid reason for leaving Melbourne
Some 10,000 people packed the city for a Black Lives Matter protest (pictured) on June 6, a day after zero cases were recorded in Victoria for the first time
Contrast: Melbourne was deserted on Thursday morning on the first day of lockdown
Workers wearing personal protective equipment are seen outside the public housing tower in Flemington
WA tightens its borders
The number of exemptions will be reduced significantly, meaning only specific essential workers, transport and freight workers and those persons approved by the State Emergency Coordinator, on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, will be permitted to enter WA.
In addition, effective from today, everyone who is permitted to enter WA, who has been in Victoria for the previous 14 days, will be served with a notice on arrival compelling them to take a COVID-19 test on Day 11 of their time in WA or at any point when symptoms develop.
Under the State of Emergency, the WA Police Force will continue to perform checks on arrivals and have the power to enforce the COVID-19 test requirement with a fine of $5,000.
‘Once the protests occurred, there were some who saw what appeared to be an understandable view of a double standard, and changed their behaviours,’ he told Nine’s Today show on Thursday morning.
‘Those behaviours – reduce the engagement and the movement with other people, increase the distance – those rules will help us save our lives.’
Mr Hunt also said that contact tracing in Victoria needs to improve.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth on Wednesday said many cases were among ‘culturally diverse communities’ meaning contact tracing could be more difficult due to language barriers.
Staff undertaking contact tracing in north Melbourne have also reportedly found that some patients are reluctant to share their close contacts.
Melbourne was gripped by panic buying on Wednesday as residents prepare for six weeks of lock down from midnight
New lockdown: Victoria on Tuesday 191 new cases of coronavirus – its worst figure yet. Pictured: Police and nurses wearing protective equipment outside tower blocks in north Melbourne
Local cases of community transmission have soared in the within Melbourne
The Herald-Sun reported that in some cases residents have been told by officials they are a close contact as long as five days after they met a confirmed patient.
‘We need to make sure and we’re offering support so as each case every day is contact-traced,’ Mr Hunt said.
‘That has to happen each day. That’s been the overwhelming view of our Chief Medical Officer and our Deputy Chief Medical Officers, that that needs to occur.’
Mr Hunt also said the hotel quarantine breaches contributed to the second wave outbreak.
Dozens of cases have been traced back to private security guards at quarantine hotels who broke social distancing rules, interacted with returned travellers and then carried the virus home to their extended families.
On Wednesday morning Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews refused to answer why he employed private security guards instead of using the police or armed forces to man hotel quarantine, as was done in other states.
In an interview on Nine’s Today show, host Karl Stefanovic asked him: ‘How could you blame Victorians yesterday for the outbreak when it was your government’s decision to employ an incompetent private security force to guard those in quarantine?
The whole of Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire has been placed back into lock down for six weeks from 11.59pm on Wednesday. Pictured: A map showing the suburbs in lockdown
A long wait: Australians braved 40-minute traffic queues to get to work this morning on the first day the New South Wales-Victoria border closed due to a huge coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne
‘That’s an unbelievably catastrophic bungle right at the front door. Why don’t you explain. Why don’t you just level with the people about what happened in quarantine? What exactly went wrong there. Why don’t you just tell the people?’
Mr Andrews said he ‘did not come on the show to argue’ and dodged the question by saying an inquiry is underway.
In a press conference afterwards he said he was not considering resigning.
On Thursday, 13 people tested positive for the virus in New South Wales, including two in the border town of Albury as 120,000 border permits were granted to let people cross into NSW.
South Australia said it would require anyone entering the state to get tested when they arrive and wear masks when interacting with locals as it launched a ‘testing blitz’ starting today.
Melbourne was placed under lockdown on Thursday, restricting all residents to their homes for six weeks, and only allowing them to leave for essential purposes.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned on Thursday that the risk of contagion in her state was ‘extremely high’ after 60,000 exemptions were granted for commuters to enter from Victoria following the first border shutdown since Spanish Flu in 1919.
Queensland has banned Victorians from entering the state after ‘too many’ were paying $2,800 for their own quarantine to get out of Melbourne.
Queensland locks out Victorians
Queensland has strengthened its border restrictions on Victorians as Melbourne goes into lockdown due to a second wave of coronavirus infections.
Previously Victorians could enter the Sunshine State if they spent two weeks in quarantine – but now they have been totally banned and will be turned back if they try to enter Queensland.
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said too many Victorians were prepared to pay $2,800 for their own quarantine just to get out of Melbourne.
He said the government wants to preserve quarantine places for Queenslanders.
From midday on Friday, Queenslanders will have to pay for their own quarantine if they are returning from Victoria.
‘Please get home now. Please get home as quickly as you can,’ Mr Miles said on Thursday.
‘They (Victoria) now have more than twice the number of cases that Queensland had in total (and) they now have more locally acquired cases than Queensland had overseas acquired cases.’
Australians from other states and territories will be allowed to enter Queensland from midday on Friday but will be required to sign a declaration form promising to get tested if they develop symptoms.
Anyone who develops symptoms but does not immediately get tested will be fined $4,000, he said.
Border passes for freight drivers will need to be renewed every week.
Next week an estimated 238,000 people were forecast to be entering the state, police said.