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Another 403 coronavirus cases have been confirmed on Thursday, with five more deaths, including a man in his 50s.
It follows the Herald Sun’s exclusive report revealed one in four patients fighting for life in intensive care are aged under 50.
It comes as drive thru testing sites incorrectly told some Victorians they didn’t need to isolate while waiting for results.
The Herald Sun can reveal people at several of the state’s 160 testing sites were shown signs that were issued in May, that says they would not have to isolate if they had no symptoms.
One out of 10 positive cases are asymptomatic, according to government data.
However, Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday attempted to dismiss the matter.
“I think there was an error in a couple of the signs that were put out, I will just make the point though that the vast, vast majority, and not the sort of numbers that we were referring to yesterday, are people that are presenting at drive thru clinics they have symptoms,” he said.
“If we do asymptomatic testing in a particular occupational setting, more often than not, there would be a specific response so we would go to that workplace, we would do the testing on site or close by, or we would have people sent to a particular place if you like.
“So I don’t think there’s too many people that have presented and been asymptomatic with a sign that was the wrong sign. It’s a handful of examples.”
The DHHS website also apparently appeared to have conflicting advice.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Victorians awaiting results from a COVID-19 test should always have been isolating until they received a negative result.
He said the advice was “consistent nationally” and being asymptotic has never meant someone should leave isolation before they were cleared, despite claims some asymptomatic Victorians were told they did not need to.
Official advice would be reissued to the AMA, the College of Rural and Remote Medicine and the College of GPs, to ensure everyone was on the same page, Mr Hunt said on Thursday.
“The official Victorian advice – and this is consistent with national – is that if you have been tested, you should be isolating,” Mr Hunt said.
The state government also announced a new one-off payment of $300 to insecure workers awaiting coronavirus test results.
– Alex White
FIVE NEW DEATHS INCLUDING MAN IN HIS 50S
The new deaths include three linked to aged care — a man in his 80s, a man in his 90s, and a woman in her 70s.
The other deaths, a man in his 50s and a man in his 70s, were not linked to any known outbreaks and bring the death toll to 49.
There are currently 201 Victorians in hospital with the virus, including 40 in intensive care.
Of Thursday’s new cases, 334 are under investigation while 334 are under investigation.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the case numbers were stable but not declining.
“Statistics and logic tell you that a percentage of those people die and that’s really what’s at stake here … It’s not alarmist, it’s a fact,” he said.
“Today’s deaths show you there is an age range here and the world evidence shows you that.
“There is a growing body of evidence that shows this is not like getting a cold, where you just shake it off and a week later, you have no memory of being unwell.
“For many people, there will be lingering issues.”
VICTORIA’S COVID-19 CRISIS BY THE NUMBERS
There are currently 3630 active cases of coronavirus in Victoria, while there has been a total of 7125 cases since the start of the pandemic.
There are 239 active case in healthcare workers, of a total of 529.
447 active cases are linked to 35 aged care homes.
Public housing towers in North Melbourne and Flemington are linked to 293 active cases, while 60 cases are linked to Carlton public housing towers.
More than 1,413,100 test have been performed since the start of the pandemic.
Outbreaks across the state now total:
– 182 cases at Al-Taqwa College in Truganina;
– 73 cases at St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner;
– 67 cases at Estia Health in Ardeer;
– 55 cases at Menarock Life Aged Care in Essendon;
– 34 cases at Estia Health in Heidelberg;
– 33 cases at Arcare Aged Care in Craigieburn;
– 21 cases at Baptcare Wyndham Lodge in Werribee;
– 20 cases at Embracia Aged Care Moonee Valley in Avondale Heights;
– 72 cases at Arcare Aged Care in Craigieburn;
– 58 cases at JBS in Brooklyn;
– 29 cases at Australian Lamb Company in Colac;
– 21 cases at Clever Kids Childcare in Ashburton;
– 10 cases at Bertocchi Smallgoods in Thomastown.
MORE ADF PERSONNEL AVAILABLE
About 1470 ADF personnel were stationed across Victoria on Thursday but Health Minister Greg Hunt said that number would increase if more help was needed.
“They are working doing testing, compliance, logistics, data, but in particular, helping with that great task that Victoria faces of supporting the contact tracing, of ensuring that each case every day is followed,” Mr Hunt said.
“If more are required, more ADF personnel will be provided.
“We are literally all in this together because our national success depends on Victoria’s success.”
– Tamsin Rose
NEW PAYMENT FOR INSECURE WORKERS
The Premier announced a $300 payment for any worker who had tested for coronavirus and needed to take time off work while awaiting results.
He said workers who had tested and who weren’t eligible for sick leave or can’t afford to miss a shift should call 1800 675 398 to apply for the payment.
“A payment of $300 will be available to anybody who has taken a test and needs to isolate until they get their test result, is in work, but does not have sick leave they can fall back on,” Mr Andrews said.
He said it would be a “simple and easy” process to access the payment.
“What we’ve got at the moment is people who feel unwell but are not getting tested quick enough because they don’t want to be unable to go to work,” he said.
“This ensures that people are no worse off and in fact that all Victorians are better off, because we know that these patterns of behaviour are driving a number of the cases.
“It’s all about the small improvements.”
YOUNG PEOPLE AMONG THOSE IN HOSPITAL
Mr Andrews pleaded with younger Victorians to take the virus seriously if they wanted to “be able to go and have a beer.”
“(Young people) are a significant part of our new cases,” he said.
“You’ve got to follow the rules and you have to accept, for many reasons and more, this is relevant to every age group.
“There are a lot of young people who have died of this in other parts of the world.
“They are otherwise healthy and they have become ill.
“This is not just something that affects people who are of frail age”.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said four children were in hospital with the virus in Victoria.
She said 20 per cent of patients were aged under 50, and six per cent of Victorians infected with the virus were in their 60s.
“This is an issue striking many families across Victoria,” she said.
She also announced further limitations to aged care and hospital settings.
“This is designed to strike a balance between compassion,” she said.
“Generally speaking there will only be allowed to be one visitor for one hour per day,” she said.
“We have put these new policies in place so that we can put the safety of those patients and aged care residents first.”
There will be exemptions for families of palliative care residents and in some other compassionate circumstances.
FLEMINGTON WOOLWORTHS SHUTS AFTER POSITIVE CASE
An employee at the Woolworths supermarket at Newmarket Plaza in Flemington has tested positive for coronavirus, prompting a shutdown of the store on Thursday night for deep cleaning.
The employee’s last shift was on July 19, from 1pm to 8.30pm.
The company urged anyone who had been shopping in the supermarket since that date and had become unwell to take a coronavirus test.
The Woolies is located on Racecourse Rd and is just a few hundred metres from the four public housing towers that were shut down for five days earlier this month.
– Ian Royall
VIC ECONOMY EXPECTED TO BE LIMITED UNTIL CHRISTMAS
The Victorian economy is expected to be limited by coronavirus restrictions until Christmas, according to the federal government’s grim budget update.
The Treasury forecast, unveiled by Josh Frydenberg this morning, assumes that Melbourne’s current lockdown will not be extended and will last for six weeks.
From mid-September, the federal government expects Daniel Andrews will shift to step one of the national cabinet’s three-step plan to reopen the economy.
That would include a 10-person limit on indoor activities.
By mid-December, the forecast assumes Victoria will reach step three of the plan – where all other states are now at – with a 100-person limit for indoor activities and density rules applying to venues such as cafes, pubs and gyms.
– Tom Minear
PARTNERS/SUPPORT PERSON ALLOWED DURING CHILDBIRTH
Ms Mikakos announced further restrictions on people visiting hospitals.
The partner or a support person of an expecting mother will be able to be in the room with the woman for the duration of her labour.
After birth, they will be allowed to visit for two hours.
Ms Mikakos said in other settings visitors were only permitted to stay for an hour once per day.
Exemptions apply for palliative care and for parents when a child is admitted to hospital.
RESTRICTIONS TO REMAIN UNTIL REF NUMBER HALVES
The Premier said stage three restrictions would stay in place until the reproduction rate- also known as the ref number – halved.
“If the ref number stays at one, then we will see stable numbers, but we will not see falling numbers,” he said,
“If we halve the rate, then we will see our numbers come down. That’s where we have to get to.
“If we want to have businesses reopen and return to a CCVID-normal, then we can’t continue to see stable numbers. We have to drive those numbers down.
“Stability is not enough. Stability will not take us beyond this.
“If we can have a much higher percentage of people come forward closer to the onset of symptoms and then isolate. Logic tells you that you will infect less people.”
COSTCO WORKER TESTS POSITIVE BUT SUPERMARKET STAYS OPEN
Costco Moorabbin remains open despite a food demonstration worker testing positive to COVID-19.
Workers were on Wednesday night informed of the positive case, with the infected “food demo” staffer’s most recent shift on July 11 between 2.30 and 6.30pm.
A Costco employee told the Leader the infected colleague was a food demonstration worker who cooked and handed out free tasters near the grocery aisles.
They confirmed the person had not returned to work since July 11.
In a letter seen by the Leader, employees were told management would undertake “additional cleaning and sanitation protocols” however the store did not close.
– Brittany Goldsmith
Read the full story here.
MORE FINES DISHED OUT
Five boozed-up Victorians gathered at a Cranbourne park are among the latest Victorians to be hit with fines for disobeying stay at home orders.
A total of 47 fines were issued in the past 24 hours to people caught breaching the strict stage three orders.
In another shocking example of blatant disregard for the law amid the pandemic, three people travelling from Pakenham to Melton were pulled over by police officers.
The convoy told police they were going to a friend’s house and “didn’t know about the restrictions” in place.
The carpool will cost the trio close to $5000 in penalties.
– Brianna Travers
MANDATORY MASK ORDER ENFORCED
It comes as a mandatory mask order comes into effect across metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.
Workers and walkers were masked up on Thursday after new rules making face coverings mandatory came in overnight.
Those who ventured into Melbourne’s CBD embraced the government’s newest regulation, with many masking up in colour and style.
Football colours and flower prints, as well as surgical masks and scarfs were all in use, with most agreeing it was a simple way to help in the fight against COVID-19.
Charlotte Hinair, 24, had her mask handmade by a friend.
She said while it was a little uncomfortable, it was necessary.
“It’s not too bad but it’s always weird to put something on your face,” she said.
“I travel in about twice a week to go to work (and wear it).
“It’s a bit foggy inside but my friend makes them with vintage clothing so they’re nice and soft.”
In two hours, the Herald Sun witnessed only a handful of people without masks.
But despite following the rules and avoiding the possibility of a $200 fine, not all were happy.
Local Brett Delamare had the words “big brother” printed in his mask in a dig at the government.
“It’s all about control at this point,” he said.
“The government only found more coronavirus because they were looking for it.”
Masks are now mandatory for all people in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire when outside for one of the four essential reasons.
THREE MORE SCHOOLS CLOSED
Another three schools in Victoria closed this morning after positive tests – Grovedale West Primary School, Gleneagles Secondary College, and Lindenow Primary School.
All four schools will shut for at least three days for deep cleaning and contact tracing will begin.
Grovedale West Primary School had only been open for two days since its last closure because of coronavirus.
– James Mottershead
Read the complete list of closed schools here.
MORE VENITLATORS ARRIVE AT HOSPITALS
New stocks of ventilators have arrived in Melbourne to boost specialists’ capacity to save the most critical COVID-19 patients.
Royal Melbourne Hospital this week took delivery of 22 new ventilators, which will bolster its intensive care units from 42 beds to 64 in the coming days.
The state-of-the-art breathing machines are among hundreds ordered by the Andrews Government in the early weeks of the pandemic, which are arriving amid mounting coronavirus hospital admissions and pressure on the state’s health system.
On Wednesday there were 40 Victorian COVID-19 patients in intensive care, including 10 at RMH.
But, with critical cases already building and hospitalisations following about 10 days behind the trend in overall coronavirus cases, RMH ICU nurse unit manager Michelle Spence said the new ventilators were vital in preparing for the coming weeks.
“They are ready to go,” Ms Spence said.
“We are currently running at 30 to 35 patients, and we could very quickly go up to 42 patients today.
“We are ready and within 24 to 48 hours we could have those next 22 beds set up. It gives us the opportunity to start expanding our service and that has been the plan since March.”
Fitted with internal filters rated to prevent 99.9 per cent of particles escaping into the atmosphere, Ms Spence said the breathing machines would protect staff from infection while also saving patients’ lives.
Although the intensive care workers watched the current surge in cases with alarm, Ms Spence said months of planning and acquiring equipment such as the ventilators and PPE had them fully prepared.
However, she warned ordinary Victorians were not following the stay-at-home rules as they did during the March peak, resulting in not only more COVID-19 cases, but in general trauma cases caused by people being out in the community.
“The staff are definitely fatigued a little bit in life,” she said. “But we are ready for this. We have been training and practising and getting staffing models since March.
“We are having concerns that people are not staying home seriously.
“Social distancing worked during the first wave of the virus in March however that is no longer happening.
“We need to have the beds ready so they don’t need to be full of people who are doing the silly things and being out there, but that is exactly what’s happening.”
VIRUS BLASTS HOLE IN VICTORIAN BUDGET
The coronavirus pandemic has blown a multi-billion hole in the Victorian economy with a $7.5 billion deficit flagged by Treasurer Tim Pallas.
Revealing the revised Victorian economic figures on Thursday, Mr Pallas described the
economic hit as “devastating.”
However, he remained confident that the Victorian economy “will make it through to the other side of this pandemic”.
“This is grim,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest economic challenges, the state, Australia and the world economy has faced in history.”
Read the full story here.
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos says young people in Victorian hospitals with coronavirus make up 20% of patients
MASKS A MUST FOR VICTORIAN POLLIES IN CAPITAL
Victorian MPs will be expected to wear masks when working in Canberra from Thursday.
While parliament has been cancelled for the start of August, staff and politicians who travel from Victoria to the ACT on exemptions should wear face coverings.
The Herald Sun can reveal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, in Canberra to deliver the budget update, will be expected to don a mask to and from the office, but not while speaking.
A Department of Health spokesman said anyone travelling from Victoria needed to wear a mask in case they had been exposed to COVID-19 and “they inadvertently become a risk to others”.
“Australians travelling from a state or territory where there is higher levels of community transmission compared to the state they have been granted permission to visit should follow the mask advice of the state they originated from,” the spokesman said.
Last week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison cancelled the sitting fortnight at the start of August due to the Melbourne outbreak.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Tony Smith and Senate president Scott Ryan on Wednesday agreed to Labor’s request for a working group to plan how and when parliament would sit.
They suggested the federal and ACT chief medical officers address the group to outline the risks that need to be mitigated.
Parliament is due to sit again at the end of August.
It’s understood the major parties could also consider new pairing arrangements so some Victorian MPs did not have to attend in person.
AGED CARE CRISIS IN VICTORIA
Australia’s leading doctor has emotionally described the impending disaster facing Victoria.
Tony Bartone, the president of the Australian Medical Association, said there has been an “astronomical explosion” in cases in the state’s care homes.
“Our residents in aged care facilities are just a heartbeat away from calamity,” he told the Today show this morning.
“We have seen this astronomical explosion in cases there. The PPE is not being worn. Infection control procedures are not being implemented in some.
“This is just absolutely unsustainable and we are just going to see the (case) numbers continue to rise.
“It is extremely concerning, it is worrying to us on the frontline.”
Host Karl Stefanovic was visibly taken aback by Dr Bartone’s emotion.
“That man is considered, that man is knowledgeable, and that man is incredibly worried,” he said. “Incredibly worried. He’s saying we need help. We need help here in Victoria.”
Australian Medical Association President Dr Tony Bartone says his colleagues are concerned about the direction Victoria is heading in.
AGED CARE CENTRES BATTLE MOUNTING WAVE
Coronavirus outbreaks at aged-care centres in Melbourne have continued to surge, with 383 cases and 13 deaths now linked to the vulnerable facilities.
Authorities are battling to contain multiple clusters as staff and residents contribute to the state’s rising infection figures.
St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner recorded 18 new cases on Wednesday, bringing that cluster to 69.
The chair of Australia’s peak multicultural body called for people to follow health guidelines at aged care homes to prevent further outbreaks.
Mary Petestos from the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia issued the plea following the outbreak at St Basil’s Home for the Aged.
Ms Petestos said the cluster at St Basil’s, which is under the auspices of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, was a major concern.
“These are alarming numbers for the Greek community and we must prepare and be vigilant to avoid similar outbreaks elsewhere,” she said.
“The outbreak shows the need to reinforce guidelines, especially for those who are vulnerable or in contact with vulnerable people.”
There are now 54 infections linked to Estia Health in Ardeer, 37 to Glendale Aged Care in Werribee and 30 cases attributed to Arcare Aged Care in Craigieburn.
All 383 cases are spread across 45 sites.
Premier Daniel Andrews said work had begun to help facilities manage outbreaks.
“Aged care is a really challenging setting, particularly private sector aged care,” he said.
“Whether it’s face masks, cohorting workers or taking residents who can’t be appropriately cared for in place to a tertiary hospital. All of those steps. They will bring a sense of control.”
Federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said it was vital people with symptoms stayed home.
“This is essential for everyone and especially for those working in settings with people who are most at risk,” he said.
— Kieran Rooney, Tamsin Rose and Josh Fagan