Victoria has tightened border restrictions and introduced a new hotel quarantine permit after the state registered 79 new cases.
Travelers must obtain a ‘hotel departure quarantine permit’ after completing two weeks of isolation on the highway and before entering Victoria.
“That’s about making sure we further strengthen our border regimes against the threat of interstate incursions, especially the prospects of hotel quarantine incursions,” Health Secretary Martin Foley said Friday.
Travelers are required to take a Covid-19 test 17 days after arriving in Australia. They are ‘highly recommended’ to take another test after 21 days.
Of the new cases, 53 have been linked to known outbreaks, and the source of the remaining 26 is under investigation.
The growing number of mysterious cases has raised concerns that authorities will be forced to extend the lockdown beyond September 2.
Mr Foley said it was too early to decide whether restrictions would be relaxed in time.
“There are still areas of really great concern out there,” he said. “The situation in this particular outbreak has evolved.”
Mr Foley praised the number of residents vaccinated with 33,611 shots administered in the past 24 hours
A new permit system will also be introduced for people leaving the hotel quarantine, Mr Foley announced
Travelers must obtain a ‘hotel departure quarantine permit’ after completing the two-week isolation and before entering Victoria
Ten cases have been associated with the Shepparton cluster, one with the Royal Melbourne Hospital, nine with Broadmeadows and six with the Carlton and Burnswick clusters.
Two are linked to the outbreak in Caroline Springs Square, one to Geelong, two in Monash and 46 in the western suburbs.
“This is where the New South Wales raids landed, in that part of Victoria,” said Mr. Foley.
The health minister revealed that most residents were doing the right thing, despite the widespread spread of the virus in the western suburbs.
“The western suburbs are disproportionately a community of essential workers and permitted workers,” he said.
“They’re out and about and there are other issues, about a very small number of people, not just limited to the western suburbs, who aren’t following the rules.”
There are 37 patients in hospital and 14 are being treated in the intensive care unit with nine on a ventilator.
Mr Foley said he was “bitterly disappointed” after it was revealed that four jockeys had broken the lockdown to stay at an Airbnb on Wednesday night.
“We are always disappointed when people don’t follow the rules and we understand that racing Victoria takes immediate action,” he said.
Jamie Kah, Ethan Brown, Ben Melham and apprentice jockey Celine Gaudray have each been fined $5,452 for staying at the house on the Mornington Peninsula.
Of the new cases, 10 have been linked to the Shepparton cluster, nine to Broadmeadows, six to Brunswick and 46 to the western suburbs
Mr Foley praised the number of residents who were vaccinated with 33,611 shots administered in the past 24 hours.
“We have seen an incredible demand in recent days from young people between the ages of 18 and 39 who have applied to be vaccinated,” he said.
“It’s for AZ bookings as well as the new Pfizer bookings. And that’s really impressive.’
There will also be a new permit system for people who leave the hotel quarantine. Residents must undergo a Covid-19 test 17 days after starting quarantine.
The figures come as Prime Minister Dan Andrews is considering lifting a blanket ban on playgrounds as there is no concrete evidence that the virus is not being transmitted in any park, despite a minor scare.
The peak in the number of cases – there were also 80 on Thursday – was the highest daily increase since September 2 last year, when 110 cases were reported.
Victorian Prime Minister Dan Andrews angered many parents when he closed children’s playgrounds earlier this month (pictured, a family out and about in Melbourne)
Playgrounds, basketball courts, skate parks and fitness equipment in metropolitan Melbourne were closed from August 16 after CHO Brett Sutton said the measure was needed to reduce transmission of the Delta variant (pictured, a council employee closes a swing near the CBD )
Victoria’s latest lockdown, which is expected to end at 11:59pm on September 2, will more than likely be extended, with more mystery cases that pop up every day, as well as a high percentage of cases that don’t stand alone.
Despite the rise in cases, health authorities have said: the evidence of playground transfer remains inconclusive.
“We’re not getting a definitive answer. We don’t have an alternative explanation and that’s going to be a working hypothesis,” chief health officer Brett Sutton said.
“We can’t see the virus pass from one person to another, so we don’t know for sure.”
Earlier this month, Andrews defended his unpopular decision to close children’s play areas in Melbourne, pointing out that 50 children in the city had tested positive for Covid-19.
“We’ve seen evidence of transmission between people who don’t even know each other and don’t know they were in the company of each other,” the prime minister said at the time.
The Prime Minister defended the decision – despite authorities saying there was no concrete link to Covid-19 transmission from playgrounds
Dan Andrews is now believed to be leaning towards reopening the playgrounds in days – despite a recent spike in Covid cases
“This is tough. But the best we can all do is stick together and hopefully bring the numbers down.”
Playgrounds, basketball courts, skate parks and fitness equipment in metropolitan Melbourne were closed from August 16 after Professor Sutton said the measure was necessary to reduce transmission of the Indian delta variant.
The decision was widely criticized by tired Melbourne families with children struggling on their sixth round of home orders.
“Going to a playground is one of the few things left to relieve boredom in the kids, it’s a punch in the guts,” said Melbourne dad Toby Cummings.
Professor Sutton explained the reason for the decision.
“There have been instances where parents supervising children sat down on playgrounds, drank coffee and did not wear masks or take social distancing,” he said.
“That’s the transfer risk, and the more we can get on top of it every time — whether it’s a small and moderate or significant contribution to that overall transfer burden — we need to get to the finish line quickly so this doesn’t drag on.”
A number of doctors, pediatricians and infectious disease experts also urged the Andrews administration to reconsider the closure of playgrounds, warning that the toll on children’s mental health could be greater than the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.