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Victoria records four new Covid-19 cases as calls grow for lockdown to end after two false positives

Victoria has recorded four new Covid-19 cases while the state government faces mounting pressure to ease lockdown after it was revealed two cases central to the decision to extend restrictions were false positives. 

The new cases were announced on Friday and revealed to be locally acquired, bringing the state total to 65.  

It comes as the Victorian government continues to face calls to end lockdown early after they announced on Wednesday it would be extended in Melbourne until June 10.  

The decision came after health authorities declared two people, who had only ‘fleeting’ contact with infected cases, tested positive to Covid-19. 

The brief interaction raised fears of the highly contagious nature of the Indian strain of the virus and prompted chief health officer Brett Sutton to dub it an ‘absolute beast’ that was spreading ‘in settings and circumstances we’ve never seen before’.  

But on Thursday, the Health Department said the pair were actually virus-free and their test results were false positives.

Victoria has recorded four new Covid-19 cases while the state government faces mounting pressure to ease lockdown after it was revealed two cases central to the decision to extend restrictions were false positives

Perth lord mayor Basil Zempila appeared on Channel 7's Sunrise on Friday and argued the Victorian government had to be 'less conservative dealing with the Covid-19 virus'

Perth lord mayor Basil Zempila appeared on Channel 7’s Sunrise on Friday and argued the Victorian government had to be ‘less conservative dealing with the Covid-19 virus’

The revelation has prompted calls for the lockdown to end early with media personalities and politicians alike arguing there is no reason to extend the restrictions.  

Perth lord mayor Basil Zempila appeared on Channel 7’s Sunrise on Friday and argued the Victorian government had to be ‘less conservative dealing with the Covid-19 virus’.

‘Let’s be a little more on the aggressive side in terms of keeping people at work, keeping people at school, keeping everything open,’ he said.

‘We’ve said it many times: we have to learn to live with this in our community. 

‘What we can’t do, almost 18 months on now, is scare people into lockdown that they are not required to go into.’

3AW talk-back radio presenter Neil Mitchell, who presents in locked-down Melbourne, slammed the state government and accused them of scaremongering the public to extend the lockdown.

‘The problem is people in Victoria don’t trust this government anymore,’ he said.

‘That apocalyptic language we got on Wednesday, based around these cases, were clearly there to manipulate us. And people are getting angry.’ 

Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino said on Friday the restrictions were put in place following advice from health officials.

‘The proposition put forward by public health was that we needed this further seven day period for Greater Melbourne to absolutely run this thing to the ground and that remains the case,’ he said. 

The revelation has prompted calls for the lockdown to end early with media personalities and politicians alike arguing there is no reason to extend the restrictions

The revelation has prompted calls for the lockdown to end early with media personalities and politicians alike arguing there is no reason to extend the restrictions

3AW talk-back radio presenter Neil Mitchell, who presents in locked-down Melbourne, slammed the state government and accused them of scaremongering the public to extend the lockdown

3AW talk-back radio presenter Neil Mitchell, who presents in locked-down Melbourne, slammed the state government and accused them of scaremongering the public to extend the lockdown

Health experts have also dismissed professor Sutton’s claims about the virus being more contagious and using fear-mongering language by calling the virus a ‘beast’ to justify extending the draconian lockdown.    

Professor Peter Collignon from the Australians National University said there was nothing to suggest the Indian variant is behaving any different to previous Covid variants, while University of Melbourne professor James McCaw said there was ‘no evidence’ the virus spreads faster. 

On Sky News on Thursday, influential Victorian political commentator Peta Credlin unloaded on the state government as a ‘shameful embarrassment’ and a ‘four lockdown basket case’. 

Pictured: Political commentator Peta Credlin, who blasted the Victorian government for being 'incompetent' on Thursday

Pictured: Political commentator Peta Credlin, who blasted the Victorian government for being ‘incompetent’ on Thursday

‘This fortnight lockdown is only happening because Victoria’s contact tracing system can’t cope, even with just a handful of new cases each day,’ the former chief of staff to prime minister Tony Abbott said.

 She fired shots at Dan Andrews’ government for asking the federal government to help finance a rescue package for newly-jobless residents. 

Victorians in Covid hotspots can claim $500 a week from Centrelink if they are unable to work due to lockdown.

Credlin said Australians in other states should not pay for Victoria’s ‘incompetence’ in being unable to manage the virus and needing a fourth lockdown. 

‘Surely the government that orders the lockdown must pay for it,’ she said.  

‘It’s hard to begrudge people who can’t work getting some help, but I’m nonetheless frustrated to see the commonwealth, yet again, bail out and make excuses for the most destructive and incompetent state government in Australia’s history.’ 

The federal government had already given gave $46 billion to Victorians, which was three times more than the Andrews Government did, she said.

Pictured: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Peta Credlin said the state government was the most 'incompetent in Australia's history'

Pictured: Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Peta Credlin said the state government was the most ‘incompetent in Australia’s history’

Pictured: Australians lining up for Centrelink payments in Melbourne during lockdown

Pictured: Australians lining up for Centrelink payments in Melbourne during lockdown

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he did not know how much the scheme would cost, but if 100,000 people signed up that will amount to $50 million a week.

‘There are around half a million casual workers – the people most likely to qualify for the payment – in the Melbourne metropolitan area,’ he said.

The money will be transferred into workers’ bank accounts in line with the disaster payment scheme which applies during fires and floods – something Credlin said was ‘fitting, because the Victorian government is a disaster’.

‘I feel for taxpayers and the rest of the country forced to again bail out a state as a four-lockdown basket case. It doesn’t seem to be learning from it’s mistakes – lurching from one crisis to the next that no amount of spin can cover up,’ she said.

‘Let there be no doubt this lockdown, first for a week and now for a fortnight, is only happening because Victoria’s tracing system can’t cope even with just a handful of new cases per day.’

After the false positives were confirmed, Victoria’s department of health said positive test results are revisited once initial isolation measures for the person and their close contacts have been established. 

‘Cases continue to be reviewed as further information comes to hand,’ health officials said.

Pictured: Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino speaks to the media at a press conference on June 3

Pictured: Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino speaks to the media at a press conference on June 3

Pictured: Victorians walk through an inner-city park in Melbourne on June 3 with masks

Pictured: Victorians walk through an inner-city park in Melbourne on June 3 with masks

‘Once contacts are isolated and public health measures are in place, those cases can be re-evaluated, their test results can be re-run and further investigations can be conducted.’ 

Experts rubbished the government’s dire warnings of a super-strain that was far more infectious than other variants.

‘What we’re seeing now clearly is people who are, they’re brushing past each other in a small shop, they’re going around a display home, they’re looking at phones in a Telstra shop,’ Covid-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar said on Tuesday.

‘This is, relatively speaking, relatively fleeting contact. They don’t know each other’s names. And that’s very different to where we’ve been before.’ 

But this claim wasn’t correct, and even before the false positives debunked it, experts said there was no evidence to support it.

‘There is no epidemiological evidence that this virus spreads faster. There is no clear reason to think this virus is spreading in different ways,’ University of Melbourne Professor James McCaw said.

‘I don’t think it is helpful to seed alarmist or doomsday-type thoughts into the community.’ 

Lockdown disaster payment each to help Victoria

Workers who lose their livelihoods because of coronavirus lockdowns will be eligible for up to $500 a week under a complex scheme aimed at helping Victorians.

The measures will apply to any part of Australia designated as a virus hotspot and locked down for more than seven days.

Melbourne is bracing to enter a second week of harsh restrictions as the state government tries to stifle an outbreak that has infected 61 people.

People who worked more than 20 hours in the week before a lockdown will be eligible for $500, while those employed for under 20 hours could access $325.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new coronavirus disaster payments would be made on a week-to-week basis.

‘Victorians just want to know that they are getting help next week,’ he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

To be eligible for the payments, workers will have to declare having less than $10,000 in liquid assets.

Welfare recipients including those on JobSeeker will not be able to access the payment.

Mr Morrison is keen to split the costs 50-50 with affected states and will discuss the idea with premiers and chief ministers at a national cabinet meeting on Friday.

Alternatively, states could agree to support business while the Commonwealth stumps up cash for households during extended shutdowns.

Once the false positives were disclosed on Thursday, with the state opposition leader Michael O’Brien accusing the government of scaremongering.

‘That’s the last thing we need at the moment. We need Victorians to be calm. We don’t need government officials trying to amp up their language and scare people,’ he said. 

Mr O’Brien insisted the health advice – a closely-guarded secret for all Australian governments – be released as ‘the very least we’re entitled to’.

‘We’re seeing our lives put on hold. We’re seeing our lives locked down and the government will not even release the public health advice,’ he said. 

Former premier Jeff Kennett went even further: ‘Another Fawlty Towers example of failure. While thousands of employees stood down. Tragic.’

Abandoned Lygon Street in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Carlton, famous for its cafes and Italian restaurants. It was hit hard in the 2020 lockdown and many businesses died

Abandoned Lygon Street in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Carlton, famous for its cafes and Italian restaurants. It was hit hard in the 2020 lockdown and many businesses died

Stacked restaurant furniture is seen outside a business along Lygon Street in Melbourne

Stacked restaurant furniture is seen outside a business along Lygon Street in Melbourne

The pair were a woman who visited a display home in Mickleham, in Melbourne’s north-west, and a man who dined at the Brighton Beach Hotel.

Close contacts of the two cases and exposure sites linked only with them will be released from quarantine measures – including every exposure site in Anglesea. 

However, the Health Department  warned people, venues, and business affected by the reclassification of the two cases must wait for individual clearance from them or a Local Public Health Unit before dropping isolation precautions. 

The Metricon site and the Brighton Beach Hotel are to remain on the government’s list of exposure sites because they are linked to other cases.     

The state recorded three new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, all of them primary close contacts of existing cases.

The results were detected among 57,519 test results received in the 24 hours to Thursday morning, a record for the state.

Regional Victorian released from lockdown

Restrictions are set to ease for regional Victoria while Melbourne remains in lockdown for another week, following three new COVID-19 cases.

Acting Premier James Merlino confirmed regional Victorians will be able to leave their home for any reason after 11.59pm on Thursday.

Under eased restrictions for regional Victoria, there will be no limit on how far people can travel and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 will be allowed.

Masks will remain compulsory indoors and outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible.

Schools, retail and hospitality will also be able to reopen.

Last year’s so-called ‘ring of steel’ to enforce the differing restrictions between Melbourne and regional Victoria isn’t coming back, with roving police patrols to be used instead.

Regional businesses will have to check the IDs of customers to ensure they’re not from Melbourne.

Service Victoria QR code check-ins will become mandatory statewide in retail settings such as supermarkets, with businesses required to manually log the visits of people who do not have mobile phones.

More than 50,000 people received a Covid-19 vaccine dose, including 23,921 administered at state-run vaccination hubs, which was also a record.

Of those, 6,226 were workers in the aged care, healthcare, or disability care sectors.

The latest infections include an 89-year-old Arcare Maidstone aged care resident, who was transferred to hospital on Wednesday. 

Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said he would not be surprised if the outbreak at the facility, in Melbourne’s northwest, grew from the current five cases.

Under eased restrictions for regional Victoria, there will be no limit on how far people can travel and outdoor gatherings of up to 10 will be allowed.

Masks will remain compulsory indoors and outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible.

Schools, retail and hospitality will also be able to reopen.

Last year’s so-called ‘ring of steel’ to enforce the differing restrictions between Melbourne and regional Victoria isn’t coming back, with roving police patrols to be used instead.

Regional businesses will have to check the IDs of customers to ensure they’re not from Melbourne.

Service Victoria QR code check-ins will become mandatory statewide in retail settings such as supermarkets, with businesses required to manually log the visits of people who do not have mobile phones. 

Two cases in Victoria's latest Covid cluster declared false positives (pictured: testing staff in full PPE at the Deer Park testing facility in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on June 1, 2021)

Two cases in Victoria’s latest Covid cluster declared false positives (pictured: testing staff in full PPE at the Deer Park testing facility in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on June 1, 2021) 

Health workers conduct COVID-19 testing at the Montague Street centre in South Melbourne, Friday May 28, 2021

Health workers conduct COVID-19 testing at the Montague Street centre in South Melbourne, Friday May 28, 2021 

Melbourne’s lockdown, meanwhile, is being extended until 11.59pm on June 10 as health authorities scramble to stamp out what they say is a more infectious variant of the virus.

However, year 11 and 12 students will be able to return to classrooms, and some outdoor work such as landscaping and painting can resume from Friday.

Residents will also be able to travel up to 10km from their residence to shop and exercise.

Prof Cheng said he was confident the seven-day extension would be ‘enough’ to contain the outbreak.

It’s expected Melbourne will then move to a similar set of restrictions to that of regional Victoria, with people unable to travel over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a ‘temporary Covid disaster payment’ for stood-down Victorian workers aged over 17.

COVID-EXPOSED VENUES ANNOUNCED OVERNIGHT 

TIER 1

Anyone who has visited the following exposure sites must immediately isolate, get a Covid test and quarantine for 14 days:

Carlton North: Joeys Scouts Carlton, May 26, between 6.00pm-7.30pm

Travancore: Elite Swimming Ascot Vale, May 25, between 5.15pm-6.00pm

Docklands: Costco Wholesale Docklands, May 31, between 3.30pm-4.20pm

Docklands: Coles Spencer Street Outlet, May 30, between 12.00pm-1.00pm

Anglesea:  Anglesea Golf Club – Bistro, Mau 25, between 6.00pm-7.30pm

TIER 2

Anyone who has visited the following exposure sites during times listed should urgently get a test and isolate until they receive a negative result:

Brunswick:  Faculty of Music, May 27, between 4.00pm-5.30pm

West Melbourne: Flagstaff Gardens, May 28, between 2.30pm-4.00pm 

Epping:  Coles Epping Aurora Village, May 25, between 9.05pm-10.00pm

Anglesea: Anglesea Transfer Station, May 25, between 9.20am-9.35am

Anglesea:  IGA, Shop 5-8, 87-89 Great Ocean Rd

-May 25, between 10.30am-11.15am 

-May 27,  between 10.15am – 11.00am

Anglesea: Oaks Bakery, May 27, between 10.30am-11.00am

Williamstown: Post Office, May 28, between 3.20pm – 4.10pm

For a full list of exposure sites, click here 

The Brighton Beach Hotel (pictured) is to remain on the exposure list because there are other cases linked to the venue

The Brighton Beach Hotel (pictured) is to remain on the exposure list because there are other cases linked to the venue 

Professor Allen Cheng speaks at a press conference held at midday in Melbourne on the 7th day the state wide lockdown

Professor Allen Cheng speaks at a press conference held at midday in Melbourne on the 7th day the state wide lockdown 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk