Victorian authorities ignored national COVID-19 guidelines in a stunning failure that sparked a second wave outbreak and forced millions back into lockdown.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee found the state’s health officials did not follow up on close contacts of infected patients and check them daily for flu-like symptoms, as is set out in the national framework.
The committee said the error contributed to Victoria’s horror spike in COVID-19 infections that threatens the entire nation’s already shaky economic recovery.
Victoria recorded 165 of Australia’s 182 new cases on Thursday, with the committee identifying ‘several areas of improvement’ for Victorian health officials and noting the close contact oversight.
‘Every case, every day, must be followed,’ a senior health official told The Australian. ‘It is the national standard.’
An Australian Health Protection Principal Committee assessment found Victorian health officers did not follow up with tested patients for any flu-like symptoms. Pictured: a patient is tested for coronavirus in Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre in Adelaide on Thursday
Police consult drivers on the outskirts of Melbourne on Thursday on the first day of the city’s secondary lockdown
Thursday was the fourth consecutive day of triple-digit new cases in Victoria, with the state’s overall total now 3,098 with more than 900 active cases.
Residents in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire re-entered lockdown for six weeks from 11.59pm on Wednesday.
People can only leave their homes for food and supplies, receive or provide care, exercise, and study or work.
Police can issue on-the-spot fines of up to $1,652 to individuals and $9,913 to businesses if they flout the rules.
Some 96,000 checks were done by police but only nine people received fines.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the restrictions were necessary because of the ‘sharp increase’ in new cases.
A restaurant with a closed due to COVID-19 restrictions sign is displayed on Chapel Street on Thursday
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.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 9,059
New South Wales: 3,453
Western Australia: 627
South Australia: 443
Australian Capital Territory: 112
Northern Territory: 30
TOTAL CASES: 9,059
CURRENT ACTIVE CASES: 962
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.
Residents of one Melbourne public housing tower will remain in hard lockdown for another nine days, with fears a quarter of them could have coronavirus.
Professor Sutton said residents of the 33 Alfred Street tower in North Melbourne will remain in self-isolation after 53 people tested positive to COVID-19.
‘We need to recognise that there might be 20 to 25 per cent of individuals in that particular tower who end up developing coronavirus and potentially more,’ he said on Thursday.
‘So that has, much like an aged care facility, been designated as everyone requiring quarantine.’
Residents in the tower will only be able to leave their apartments for medical care and supervised daily exercise.
The government has faced criticism for suddenly putting nine public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne into a hard lockdown on Saturday.
Authorities were concerned the high density ‘vertical cruise ships’ had the ‘explosive potential’ to spread COVID-19.
Some residents said that made them feel like prisoners, unable to leave their apartments for five days.
Health officials prepare to deliver supplies to residents in public housing towers in Melbourne on Thursday
Members from the Melbourne Fire Brigade prepare goods for residents in the towers on Thursday
About 2,515 residents have been tested for the virus across the towers over five days.
There are about 3,000 residents in the towers, but children were tested only if a parent returned a positive test.
Residents at 9 Pampas St and 159 Melrose St, North Melbourne, joined the rest of the city in stage three lockdown at 5pm on Thursday after no cases of coronavirus were recorded in either tower.
The remaining six towers ended hard lockdown at 11.59pm on Thursday after 105 cases were detected among them.
People in the towers who test positive, or are a close contact of someone who does, will be given the option of moving to a hotel for their quarantine period.
‘We do really encourage that. That is the safest for you and the safest for everyone else in those towers,’ Police Minister Lisa Neville said.
She said a police presence would remain at the towers to ensure public safety.
Local cases of community transmission have soared within Melbourne over the past few days
Empty streets outside Bourke Street Mall on the first day of lockdown in Melbourne CBD
A cleaner wipes down a pole in Melbourne on Thursday as the city entered its first day of six weeks in lockdown
Just 30 of the state’s new cases are linked to known outbreaks, with 135 under investigation.
Six of the new cases are linked to an outbreak at Al-Taqwa College in Truganina, which has become the state’s biggest cluster at 113 people.
The first case at the school was identified on June 27, with more than 2000 students and hundreds of staff sent into quarantine.
There is also a link between the school and the public housing towers, Prof Sutton confirmed.
‘It is just a link, it might have gone in one direction or the other direction. There might be multiple importations into the towers or into Al-Taqwa College,’ he said, noting families have connections to the school.
Previously, an outbreak at the Cedar Meats abattoir had the notoriety of being the state’s largest coronavirus outbreak, with 111 people infected.
Five million Victorians are being encouraged to wear masks, and even make their own, to help curb the spread of the virus in the state.
All Victorians are being urged to wear face masks in public to stem the spread of the disease. Pictured: a woman wearing a face mask outside a closed shop in Prahran on Thursday
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said people could make their own face masks over buying them
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth recommends residents in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire wear masks when social distancing cannot be maintained.
‘This means if you have to leave your home for any of those reasons for which it is permissible and you are likely to find yourself in a situation where you cannot maintain 1.5-metre distance, it is advisable to be covering your face with a mask,’ Dr Coatsworth said in Canberra on Thursday.
Prof Sutton told residents to be crafty and make their own face masks instead of buying them.
‘I think people will need to make their own masks. I don’t think there should be a rush on buying single-use masks, for example, and some masks that are able to be purchased … aren’t necessarily good for rewashing and reuse over days and days,’ he said.
The state’s health department is working on providing information on how to make a basic mask that can be reused and rewashed for ‘Melburnians and beyond, use for several weeks to come’.
The whole of Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire has been placed back into lock down for six weeks. Pictured: A map showing the suburbs in lockdown
Your two-minute guide to the latest on the coronavirus crisis in Australia – as Victoria grapples with horror second wave
The coronavirus crises continues to deepen in Victoria, with fears the state’s horror outbreak could jump borders and force others into lockdown.
Australia surpassed 9,000 cases on Thursday as Melbourne battles through a second-wave which some experts predicted was inevitable.
As infections continue to rise, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews forced Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire back into stage three restrictions to slow the spread.
Here are the latest developments across the country.
People outside a coffee shop and a shop with a for sale sign in the inner city suburb of Prahran
* Residents at a North Melbourne public housing tower will remain in hard lockdown for another nine days amid infection concerns as eight other quarantined towers join the rest of Melbourne in stage three lockdowns.
* Victoria has recorded 165 new infections on Thursday with only 30 cases linked to known outbreaks. Six are connected to the states largest cluster of 113 cases at a Truganina high school.
* Australia has 182 new cases with 13 in NSW, including three family members from Albury, three in Western Australia and one in the ACT.
* WA will deny entry to anyone who has been in Victoria, with exemptions limited to people on compassionate grounds and workers in the transport and freight industry.
* South Australia will force all returning residents to be tested for the disease within 24 hours, then again after 12 days.
* Queensland will fine anyone who has travelled from interstate and refuses to be tested.
* Coronavirus restrictions have hampered the bushfire recovery effort in all states and territories, a royal commission has been told.
* Canberra’s two main universities have postponed plans to bring back international students due to new virus cases in the ACT.
Members of the Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) prepare to take food parcels to residents in a locked down public housing estate in Melbourne on July 9, 2020
* Housing loan approvals plummeted by 11.6 per cent in May, the largest fall on record, while the number of people refinancing loans had its biggest jump as people took advantage of low interest rates to reduce payments.
* Scott Morrison has rejected union calls for paid pandemic leave for all workers who need to take coronavirus tests or go into quarantine.
* Canberra will only be allowed 1500 fans for their NRL clash with Melbourne at GIO stadium on Saturday, after initial hopes for 6000 were dashed by prolonged restrictions.
* NSW Health are still yet to grant quarantine exemptions for Melbourne’s three A-league teams after they were twice thwarted from leaving Victoria before the border lockdown.
A closed shop due to Covid-19 restrictions sign is seen at the front of a restaurant on Chapel Street in the inner city suburb of Prahran on July 09, 2020
EASING OF RESTRICTIONS
* July 10 – Queensland to reopen borders to all visitors except people from Victoria.
* July 17 – NT to reopen its borders to all visitors, except Victorians.
* July 18 – WA to lift all remaining virus restrictions except border closures.
* July 20 – SA may lift mandatory quarantine for people from NSW and ACT.
* July 24 – Tasmania to reopen its borders to all the mainland except Victoria.
Passengers wearing protective masks are seen collecting baggage after arriving on a Jetstar flight from Melbourne at Sydney Airport, Sydney, Thursday, July 9, 2020
AUSTRALIAN CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS
* Australia has recorded 9059 cases in total, with 1378 active cases and 7573 people recovered.
* The national death toll is 106: NSW 51, Victoria 22, Tasmania 13, WA 9, Queensland 6, SA 4, ACT 3. (Two Queensland residents who died in NSW have been included in the official tolls of both states)
GLOBAL CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS
* Cases: at least 12,041,795
* Deaths: at least 549,477
* Recovered: at least 6,586,742
Data current as of 1800 AEST July 9, taking in federal government and state/territory government updates and the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 World Map.
A new isolation order has been imposed on Thursday for people in NSW who have visited Victoria.
Anyone who enters NSW from the coronavirus-stricken state will now be forced to self-isolate at home for 14 days.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian foreshadowed a tightening coronavirus restrictions in her state.
‘It doesn’t take very long for things to escalate quickly,’ she said.
‘And it doesn’t take very long for that rate of community transmission to increase and so all of us have to be on high alert.’
She said while the rate of community transmission remains low, there was no reason to tighten social-distancing restrictions among the majority of residents.
However, she said it could take weeks to determine if ‘potential seeding that may have occurred in those border communities and also throughout other parts of New South Wales’ has crossed from Victoria into her state.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday that the risk of contagion in NSW is ‘very high’
Two police officers quiz a motorist at the Princes Freeway road block near Little River on Thursday
‘I do want everybody to feel on high alert,’ the Premier said.
‘Because if we do get results, if the data starts changing and we need to act quickly.
‘I want people to know that for the next two to three weeks in particular, all of us have to be on high alert.’
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller has indicated the border closure with Victoria could last up to six weeks, the same duration of the stage three lockdown placed on Melbourne from midnight Wednesday.
Ms Berejiklian is also considering shifting the state border to the north and annexing Albury to Victoria until the outbreak is brought under control.
Other states are ramping up coronavirus testing and strict border controls as they desperately try to stop Melbourne’s outbreak infecting the nation.
Victoria police officers watch on as drivers travel through the road block check point at Little River on Thursday
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged people to be patient as tougher border measures come into force.
‘We do not want to see the situation in Victoria repeated in any other part of the country,’ he said.
South Australia will force all returning residents to be tested for the disease within 24 hours and then again after 12 days.
All people who have spent time in Victoria will be asked to come forward and get checked regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Queensland will fine anyone, including residents, who has travelled from interstate and refuses to be tested.
Victorians will be turned around at the border rather than given the chance to go into quarantine at their own expense.
Western Australia will tighten its hard border, stopping anyone who has been in Victoria for the past two weeks from entering.
Police stationed at a checkpoint on the Western Highway between Melton and Bacchus Marsh examine drivers travelling towards Ballarat on Thursday
Tasmania has extended a state of emergency, due to end on Thursday to the end of August because of the Melbourne outbreak.
Victoria has been isolated from other states with military and police patrolling the NSW and SA borders.
International flights are also set to be capped to ease the burden on the hotel quarantine system.
Mr Morrison will discuss the issue with state and territory leaders on Friday.
‘I will be taking to national cabinet a proposal that would ease the pressure on our points of entry,’ he said.
Flights into Melbourne have stopped as infections rise.
Other capital cities are struggling to cope with rising numbers of passengers, who must spend two weeks in hotel isolation.
A police officer wearing a face mask hats with a driver at a police road block on the outskirts of Melbourne on Thursday
Plans to return international students to Canberra have been shelved after the ACT recorded four coronavirus cases in two days.
The nation’s chief medical officers have been asked to investigate the hotel quarantine system after major failures in Melbourne fanned dozens of new infections.
Mr Morrison declined to criticise the Victorian Labor government over its handling of the regime.
‘I can understand that many, many people in Victoria will be feeling very frustrated at the moment, and many are very angry,’ he said.
‘I’m aware of where they’re directing that frustration and anger but it won’t help the situation if I were to engage in any of that.’
In NSW, there were 13 new cases with 11 detected in returned travellers, one a contact of an existing case and the other from interstate.
WA’s three new cases were all from hotel quarantine.
Cleaners wearing protective face masks in Melbourne wipe down a garbage bin on the first day of lockdown on Thursday