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Victoria announces $190million package for air purifiers to be rolled out in public schools

Victoria has announced an ‘Australian first’ $190million package to roll out air purifiers in public schools as children finally return to the classroom in Term 4.

The news came after the state recorded 628 Covid cases on Wednesday, the most since August 1 last year, with three deaths.

Deputy Premier James Merlino said 50,000 air purifiers would be set up in public, and low-fee Catholic and Independent schools to help combat the spread of Covid-19 – with the first load to arrive next week.

‘Air purification devices, they remove the nasty particles in the air, including coronavirus,’ he said during Wednesday’s Covid press conference.

‘We will have a focus on higher risk settings, places like sick bays, canteens, staff room, music rooms, and more.

‘We don’t want to have a return to school and have thousands of children positive with Covid getting sick in hospital or worse, that is every parent’s worst nightmare.’ 

Victoria has announced an ‘Australian first’ $190million package to roll out air purifiers in public schools as children finally return to the classroom in Term 4, Deputy Premier James Merlino said on Wednesday

As students head back to the classrooms for Term 4 all teachers will need to have at least one vaccine by October 18

As students head back to the classrooms for Term 4 all teachers will need to have at least one vaccine by October 18

Mr Merlino said $125million from the package would go directly to the air purifiers while the extra funds would go towards grants for shade sails in schools for outdoor learning.

At home antigen testing would be carried out in a trial for school children and their families once approved by the TGA, the deputy premier said.

Year 12 students will return to the classroom during the first week of Term 4 followed by Kindergarten to Year 2 in week 3.

By the Melbourne Cup on November 2, students from all year groups will be back at their desks, the deputy premier said. 

All school staff will also need to have received at least one vaccination before October 18 and be fully jabbed by November 29. 

High schoolers and teachers will be required to wear masks while primary school students will be recommended to do so. 

‘We have to protect our kids, both from contracting the virus and also transmitting the virus when they go home to their families,’ Mr Merlino said. 

Meanwhile, the regional city of Ballarat will be released from its seven-day lockdown at midnight on Wednesday. 

In the past week 18 locally acquired infections were recorded with no new cases on Wednesday.

Victoria recorded 628 Covid cases on Wednesday, the most since August 1 last year, with three deaths (pictured protesters outside CFMEU office in Melbourne)

Victoria recorded 628 Covid cases on Wednesday, the most since August 1 last year, with three deaths (pictured protesters outside CFMEU office in Melbourne)

The regional city of Ballarat will be released from its seven-day lockdown at midnight on Wednesday

The regional city of Ballarat will be released from its seven-day lockdown at midnight on Wednesday

The city will now return to the health orders in place in the rest of regional Victoria but masks will still be mandatory both indoors and outside.

Visitors to residents’ homes will also not be allowed while gatherings of ten people can meet outside.

Religious gatherings and ceremonies will be limited to 20 people, and travel to Melbourne will be banned unless residents are given exemptions. 

Point Lonsdale in the City of Greater Geelong will also now be under the same health orders as the Borough of Queenscliffe area.

The area had been split in half with residents on the Geelong side in lockdown while those on the Queenscliffe side were free of restrictions. 

The three deaths announced on Wednesday were a woman in her 50s from Wyndham, a man in his 70s from Wyndham and a man in his 80s from Darebin. 

There are 257 people in hospital around the state with 58 on ICU. 

Melbourne is meanwhile on track to set a depressing world record on Thursday with its 235th day in lockdown since the Covid pandemic began.

It has been widely reported that no city in the world has been under stay-at-home orders longer, with Wednesday equalling Argentinian capital Buenos Aires.

The price of repeated lockdowns and the explosion of violent opposition to them in the past week is that Melbourne is now better known as the world’s most locked-down city than its former claim to being the world’s most liveable city. 

Melbourne equalled the most unpopular of world records - the city with the most days under lockdown - on Wednesday and will claim the miserable title on its own tomorrow. Pictured are thousands of anti-lockdown protesters in the city on Tuesday

Melbourne equalled the most unpopular of world records – the city with the most days under lockdown – on Wednesday and will claim the miserable title on its own tomorrow. Pictured are thousands of anti-lockdown protesters in the city on Tuesday

Disillusioned and frustrated Melburnians have been subjected to six Covid lockdowns, with residents told to stay home at some point in 14 of the past 20 months

Disillusioned and frustrated Melburnians have been subjected to six Covid lockdowns, with residents told to stay home at some point in 14 of the past 20 months

How does Australia compare?

Australia remains among the most heavily locked-down countries on earth according to a respected international data project.

Oxford University’s Covid-19 Stringency Index, which produces a composite score to measure each country’s government policy responses, gave Australia a score of 71.76 the last time the data was updated 10 days ago.

That was the same score as Cuba.

The score is based on nine indicators including school closures, workplace closures, and travel bans. 

Only Honduras (75), Argentina and Iraq (both 75.93), China (76.39), Panama (77.31) and New Zealand (81.02) scored higher. 

Longsuffering Melbourne won’t just eclipse the unwanted world record, it will smash it as Premier Daniel Andrews’ roadmap to freedom won’t end lockdown until October 26.

At that point Melbourne would have been under various lockdowns for 268 days, with a stay-at-home-order in place for at least part of the month for 14 of the past 20 months.

While some countries have experienced various Covid restrictions for long periods during 2020 and 2021, none have endured so many days under stay-at-home orders.

Melbourne’s disastrous lockdown record is made of a 111 day lockdown from July to October last year and the current lockdown, which will be 83 days if it ends as planned on October 26.

The city had three other lockdowns: 43 days, ending last May; 5 days in February 2021; 14 days in May-June 2021; and 12 days this July.  

This week the patience of thousands of people in Melbourne completely ran out, as disillusionment and anti-lockdown protests grew and morphed into public disorder across the city since Saturday.

The city’s tradies have been among its most visible dissenters, with thousands reacting angrily to Premier Andrews’ draconian mandate to shut down all construction for two weeks.  

The peak union CFMEU distanced itself from the actions of protesters on Monday, saying it ‘condemns far right extremist violence’.

Images of violent clashes between police and protesters in Melbourne have gone viral around the world

Images of violent clashes between police and protesters in Melbourne have gone viral around the world

The escalating protests on Melbourne's streets have led to scenes Australia and the rest of the world has not associated with its former status as the world's most liveable city

The escalating protests on Melbourne’s streets have led to scenes Australia and the rest of the world has not associated with its former status as the world’s most liveable city

Its National Secretary Dave Noonan claimed the crowd was ‘heavy infiltrated by neo-Nazis’.

But as the city’s increasingly violent protests enter their fourth day the number of protesters has only grown.

The huge crowds rallying on Tuesday and Wednesday appear to represent much wider anger with Melbourne’s continual and draconian lockdowns than niche groups are capable of.

Police have so far made hundreds of arrests amidst continual clashes and calls for the rallies to end.

As they struggled to contain the protests police have also come in for accusations of heavy-handed tactics.

Footage showed two officers pepper-spraying an elderly woman on Saturday, while photographer Luis Ascui, who works for Daily Mail Australia and some of the nation’s other top news publications, was targeted by a young officer, who sprayed pepper foam directly into his eyes. 

Demonstrators were left outraged after footage showed two officers deploying pepper spray at a woman during violent protests in Richmond, Melbourne, on Saturday

Demonstrators were left outraged after footage showed two officers deploying pepper spray at a woman during violent protests in Richmond, Melbourne, on Saturday 

Luis Ascui was alongside an elderly woman who got pepper sprayed while on the ground moments have they attacked him

Luis Ascui was alongside an elderly woman who got pepper sprayed while on the ground moments have they attacked him 

Images and video of thuggish protesters fighting with and attacking police, hurling smoke bombs and bottles on the streets of Melbourne have gone worldwide.

American news website Bloomberg ran an article about Melbourne titled ‘Life in the World’s Most Locked Down City’. 

KRWG media in New Mexico reported: ‘The Australian city of Melbourne – once deemed the world’s most livable, is now one of the most locked down’.

Recent data showed Victoria experienced by far the biggest population decline of any Australian state this year

Victoria’s population fell 0.6 per cent in the year to March 2021, although mainly due to lost migration.

Australia remains among the most heavily locked-down countries on earth according to a respected international data project, but Melbourne easily eclipses all other Australian cities – including Sydney. 

Special Victorian police officers are seen during the tradies protest on Tuesday

Special Victorian police officers are seen during the tradies protest on Tuesday

Recent data showed Victoria experienced by far the biggest population decline of any Australian state this year

Recent data showed Victoria experienced by far the biggest population decline of any Australian state this year

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk