Victoria has continued to buck the national trend of reporting declining coronavirus cases, with 11 more people testing positive to the virus, including six cases of unknown origin.
- Eleven new cases were reported overnight, four of which were linked to Cedar Meats
- Victoria has conducted 145,000 tests in the past fortnight and officials are waiting on the results
- Jill Hennessy appealed to Victorians to stick with the restrictions over the weekend
It comes as state and federal Coalition MPs continue to criticise the Victorian Government for trailing the rest of the country on announcing plans to relax restrictions.
At a press conference, Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said there were four new cases related to a cluster at Cedar Meats in Melbourne’s West, one case involving a person in hotel quarantine and six cases which were still under investigation.
One case has been reassigned to another state, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in Victoria to 1,477.
New South Wales has reported only five new cases in the past 24 hours, including one who contracted the virus overseas, two contacts of previously known cases and two which were still under investigation.
Western Australia and Queensland both recorded no new cases while the other states and territories are yet to update their figures.
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In the past fortnight, 145,000 tests have been conducted in Victoria.
“We’re still awaiting some test result data to give us a better understanding around community transmission risks, that’s an important consideration,” Ms Hennessy said.
A Government spokesperson said the test results would give a “clear picture” of coronavirus cases across the state, providing the evidence and more options upon which to base an easing of restrictions.
One reason cited for the continued growth in the number of new cases was the number of returned travellers being diagnosed with the virus.
Cedar Meats cluster continues to grow
Ms Hennessy said two of the new cases related to the Cedar Meats cluster were meatworkers, while another two were close contacts of meatworkers.
The additional cases brought the total related to the cluster to 75, including 59 workers and 16 close contacts.
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Ms Hennessy said she had “great confidence in the health machinery of the state” and the handling of the cluster at the meatworks.
“Once you’ve got an outbreak you’ve got to make sure that the testing mechanism is in place to respond to it properly,” she said.
John gets tested for coronavirus at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.(ABC News)
Ms Hennessey was asked if she was concerned some Victorians may be relaxing social distancing measures in anticipation of an announcement by the Premier on Monday when the state of emergency ends.
She said Victorians needed to stay at home as much as possible to reduce the risk of the highly infectious disease continuing to spread.
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While refusing to be drawn on what would be announced on Monday, her advice to Victorians was to “stick with it”.
“It is frustrating,” she said.
“It is with great anticipation that people look towards the easing of restrictions.
“So we’re really making an appeal to Victorians, stick with the advice, stick with the cautious approach.
“Resist the temptation to let your hair down. The Premier will have more to say on Monday.”
Victorians ‘itching’ to get out of their homes
Mornington resident Sue Humphrey was surprised at how many people were out and about on Saturday.
“There’s a lot. [It] must be Mother’s Day because there’s a lot of people,” she said.
“It’s good to see but I hope we’re not going to be too chaotic.”
Ms Humphrey is worried about the restrictions being lifted too soon.
“I’m very cautious. But it’s not a concern. They all seem to be keeping their distance,” she said.
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Lou Clark said people were “itching” to get out of their homes and said the main street of Mornington had been very busy.
“They’ve come out rain, hail or shine,” she said.
“I’m hoping the restrictions are lifted because the economy needs to get going.”
Cafe group gazing into the crystal ball
Melbourne cafe Kettle Black would only be able to seat 10 customers when the first round of restrictions are eased.(ABC News: James Hancock)
The Darling Group operates six cafes and restaurants in Melbourne including Higher Ground, The Kettle Black and Bambu.
The company has suffered an 85 per cent drop in revenue due to the coronavirus, with 200 staff initially stood down.
Some have since returned to work under the JobKeeper scheme.
General manager Chris Shine said the first step in easing restrictions, which would allow up to 10 guests to be seated in cafes or restaurants, would have little effect on the bottom line.
He said the company was still weighing up its options.
“A return to 10 people within the café will still ensure that we’re not profitable,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a crystal ball in a sense will we trade, how will we trade?”
Chris Shine said the worst case scenario would be if cafes were allowed to be opened, then had to close again.(ABC News: James Hancock)
He thinks the company would probably not turn a profit until the third step of easing restrictions, when up to 100 customers will be allowed to be seated.
“Step three, we’ll see over a period of time, us returning to some semblance of profitability,” Mr Shine said.
He has backed the State Government’s cautious approach to easing restrictions.
“The worst thing for us would be gearing up again, training again, purchasing our stock again and then closing down,” Mr Shine said.
“To actually do that all over again I think would hurt businesses so much more than actually a slow, staged, well thought-out, well considered return to normal trade.”
Mr Shine predicts some other restaurants and cafes in Melbourne will not survive.
“Some of the smaller operators that will need to rebuild may not have the cash reserves to get through this period or the next,” he said.
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Schools row flares again
Earlier, Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan took another swing at Mr Andrews about his reluctance to fully reopen Victoria’s schools.
Last week, Mr Tehan accused the Mr Andrews of taking a “sledgehammer” to the state’s education sector, but later withdrew the comments.
Parents in Victoria are still being told to keep their children home if they can, however Mr Andrews flagged yesterday that he would make an announcement on the issue in the coming week.
Mr Tehan today told Sky News that Tasmania’s announcement of a staged return to the classroom meant Victoria was the only state yet reveal a plan for schools to resume.
Mr Tehan said every state and territory has a plan to get students in the classroom except Victoria.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)
“Now we have every state and territory committed to a plan to getting those students back into the classroom apart from Victoria,” he said.
“So let’s hope Victoria can do it sooner rather than later.”
Federal Liberal MP Tim Wilson told ABC News Mr Andrews had questions to answer about his state’s coronavirus restrictions.
He said some were questioning whether the Premier was moving too slowly.
“There is actually now a narrative building in parts of Victoria where people are increasingly concerned that he’s probably enjoying the clampdown too much in terms of the authority and power it’s given him,” Mr Wilson said.
“And he’s not as enthusiastic to roll it back.”
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Ms Hennessy said Mr Andrews would not be troubled by “sniping from the sidelines”.
“I can assure you Daniel Andrews is motivated by one thing and one thing only and that is keeping Victorians safe,” she said.
Victoria Police has handed out 61 fines over the past 24 hours to people flouting the coronavirus restrictions.
Those fined included 11 people gathered at a park, six people drinking alcohol in a public place and others gathered at private homes.
Police said they also caught people committing criminal offences including theft and drug-related activities and conducted 854 spot checks at homes where people were supposed to be in isolation.
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