This coronavirus article is unlocked and free to read in the interest of community health and safety. Get full digital access to trusted news from the Herald Sun and Leader for just $1 for the first 28 days.

This coronavirus article is unlocked and free to read in the interest of community health and safety. Get full digital access to trusted news from the Herald Sun and Leader for just $1 for the first 28 days.
Victoria has recorded 177 new coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the state’s total to 3967.
Twenty-five cases are connected to contained outbreaks, 151 are under investigation and one is from hotel quarantine.
Seventy-two Victorians are in hospital with coronavirus, including 17 in intensive care.
There are 1612 active cases across the state.
The number of cases that may indicate community transmission rose by 79 overnight, more than double the previous highest increase in this category.
There were more infections in Hume than any other municipality, with 222 active cases compared to 217 in Melbourne and 209 in Wyndham.
The Premier said there was no plan to move the state to a stage four lockdown, but didn’t rule the plan out.
“As I always said, if we’re planning for it, we’ll share it with the community,” Dan Andrews said on Monday.
“That’s in the hands of hard-working Victorians.
“If you don’t want a stage four, if you don’t want the lockdown to last a moment longer, then please follow the rules.”
The state’s chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton said there are “four or five new outbreaks every day”.
It comes as a Kmart staff member tested positive for coronavirus at a major Melbourne shopping centre sparking fears of more cases at the popular retail precinct.
The store at Greensborough Plaza in Melbourne’s north has been closed for deep cleaning, but will reopen tomorrow.
In a statement Kmart confirmed the incident.
“At Kmart, the health and safety of our team and customers is our highest priority and we can confirm that a team member at our Kmart Greensborough store has returned a positive result for COVID-19,” a spokesperson said.
“As soon as we were made aware, we immediately closed the store as a safety precaution and we’re currently conducting a thorough sanitisation of the store and will reopen tomorrow.
“We are working closely with the Department of Health and will continue to keep our team and customers informed.”
A number of Kmart stores have been forced to close across Melbourne in the past week as the COVID-19 crisis worsens.
A man wearing a facemask catches a tram in St Kilda. Victoria recorded 177 new cases overnight. Picture: Getty
Coles has arranged alternative meat supplies for its supermarkets after a meat processing facility in Melbourne’s west was closed due to coronavirus.
There have been 12 confirmed cases linked to Somerville Retail Services, which was forced to shut due to some staff members testing positive and others self-isolating at home.
The meatworks supplies beef, veal, pork and lamb cuts to Coles.
Coles said as a result of the closure it had made alternative arrangements.
In a statement, Coles said: “Our team is working hard to replenish our stores and we apologise if an item a customer wishes to buy is out of stock.”
– Josh Fagan
Prof Sutton said some cases from the Menarock Aged Care outbreak in Essendon had been taken to hospital.
“That’s a big outbreak, a number of staff and residents have been infected in that outbreak,” he said.
“That’s been intensively managed, including transfer of some residents to acute care.
“Again, aged care not surprisingly represented in outbreaks.
“The vast majority have involved one or sometimes two staff. And no residents. That’s a measure of staff identifying themselves as soon as they become unwell and very extensive testing of residents in lockdown.
“They’re critically vulnerable and we need to manage them as closely as we possibly can.”
In a statement released on Monday, Menarock Life confirmed 14 residents and 17 staff had tested positive for COVID-19.
A further 21 residents returned negative tests, and have since been tested for a second time to ensure their results are correct.
The facility said they were working closely with both state and federal health departments and the Royal Melbourne Hospital to “manage the situation”.
CEO Kath Warren said all precautions were being taken, including the introduction of an on-site infection control coordinator and PPE supplies from the national medical stockpile.
“The health and wellbeing of our residents is our utmost priority”, Ms Warren said.
“We appreciate that this is a very difficult time for our Menarock community at Essendon. We are working closely with federal and state health authorities and infection control experts to manage this COVID-19 outbreak.”
Prof Sutton said the Menarock outbreak was the largest aged care outbreak in Victoria and was a “concern”.
“We’re having success in the vast majority of our aged care cases have been single staff members or sometimes multiple staff members without residents becoming infected.
“But they’re all at-risk settings and we need to be mindful of doing rapid lockdowns, the outbreak squads go out on the same day and they do broad testing of all the residents to identify cases early.”
It comes as the federal health minister said 35 separate aged care services across Victoria have been hit by the virus.
“We are receiving a daily brief, the Prime Minister and myself, with regards to aged care facilities in Victoria,” Greg Hunt said.
“The latest advice I have is that there are 35 services, whether it is an aged care residence or in some way shape or form a home care residence in either a staff member or a resident identified as having been tested positive.
“This is… along with our indigenous communities, our area of greatest risk.
“Any impact in an aged care institution could have dramatic consequences.”
The Royal Melbourne Hospital today confirmed a speciality 24-bed ward had been established to deal with the influx of Aged Care patients.
It is understood the ward is in direct response to a recent spike in number at aged care facilities.
A spokesperson for the RMH said it will cater for “some of the most vulnerable” in the Victorian community.
“As part of our COVID-19 plan and ongoing support to our community, we have opened an additional COVID-19 ward to care for residents in aged care facilities,” the hospital spokesperson said.
Police inspect licenses and question drivers at a suburban roadblock site in Broadmeadows. Picture: Getty
The new cases bring pre-existing clusters to:
– Six cases at LaManna supermarket in Essendon;
– Eight cases at Cenvic Construction Riverina Apartments in Footscray
– 12 cases at Somerville Retail Services in Tottenham;
– 26 cases at Menarock Aged Care in Essendon;
– 13 cases at Glendale Aged Care in Werribee;
– 144 cases at Al-Taqwa College in Truganina (28 in staff, 76 in students, 16 in close contacts, and a further 22 cases under investigation);
– Two cases at Japara Central Park Aged Care Home in Windsor;
Prof Sutton said proper protective equipment usage was key in driving down case numbers among healthcare workers.
“There’s been a significant number (of healthcare workers) who have been infected,” he said.
“That does relate to transmission from a week, 10 days ago.
“A lot of that is obviously contact with patients, sometimes with mild symptoms, sometimes even before symptoms have emerged.
“But healthcare workers are equipped with PPE, they need to make sure that they’re wearing it across all settings in the hospital, including when they’re interacting with other healthcare workers.
“It’s a risky profession to be in the emergency department, in ICU, on any of the wards in hospitals where coronavirus patients occur.
“They need to be absolutely mindful of protecting themselves.”
Prof Sutton said he was aware of one case at the Royal Women’s Hospital in North Melbourne and another at Monash Health.
While students at Al-Taqwa College had completed a 14-day quarantine period after the initial outbreak, Prof Sutton said there were still issues surrounding potential reinfection.
“For Al-Taqwa College, clearly for those who went into quarantine more than 14 days ago, they have an entitlement and they’re safe to return,” he said.
“But there will be family outbreaks where close contacts have become positive, where
their quarantine period is extended when.
Not all students will have an entitlement to return but I think the greatest majority will have gone through the quarantine period.”
Prof Sutton said that the COVIDSafe app had not identified any additional contacts of known cases.
Cases are on the rise at two Melbourne aged care facilities, including Glendale Aged Care. Picture: Daniel Pockett/NCA NewsWire
Public hospital patients waiting for elective surgery in Melbourne and Mitchell shire will be tested for coronavirus in a bid to lower infections among health care workers.
Patients in these areas will be tested about a week before their surgery is scheduled and if positive their surgery will be postponed until they have recovered.
Exemptions will be made for those whose surgery is urgent, with no changes or extra delays for those needing emergency surgery.
Public hospitals have been urged to remain at 75 per cent of normal activity for elective surgery to allow for any surge in demand as coronavirus cases increase.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said it was vital people continue to look after their health and urged Victorians not to put off seeking medical care if they needed it.
“We understand the anxiety patients can feel when waiting for surgery and we thank all Victorians for their patience during these challenging times,” she said.
“Testing patients prior to their surgery is the best way to protect both patients and our dedicated healthcare workers from this highly infectious and deadly virus.”
The Premier said there was no plan to move the state to a stage four lockdown, but didn’t rule rule it out.
“The key point is we’ve just got to stay the course,” he said on Monday.
“Otherwise those sort of options will be our only options.
“It will be based on the case load and a proper assessment of each and every positive.
“You could have half a dozen cases in one family, if you were confident you had traced that, an outbreak but controlled, that could give you a statistical picture that didn’t speak to the facts of the matter.
“It could show a spike in a given regional city or small country town, but it wouldn’t necessarily tell you the full picture.
“That’s why the detailed contact tracing, making sure we’re scoping out what is the total field of influence, how many people has a positive case come in contact, for the 15 minutes face-to-face, or all the other rules that we apply, and the quicker you can find those people, lock them down, have them tested, that’s how you can bring control to something that may look numerically significant.”
Public health authorities will be stepping up their response in public housing towers to prevent further spread of the virus.
Pop-up testing will be made available and buildings deep cleaned regularly.
Prof Sutton said it was not known when the first coronavirus case was diagnosed in a Carlton public housing tower.
“We’re trying to roll in a public health model of response in all the other towers, that involves a real focus on prevention, that’s hand hygiene, alcohol based hand rubs, the deep cleans, the multiple high touch surface cleaning in those environments,” he said.
“But the real key element is making sure we engage with those communities within those towers, allow them to test wherever they want to, with the mildest of symptoms, and support them in their isolation and the quarantine of their close contacts.
“There has been much more intensive inreach in some of the towers in Carlton, for example, where testing has gone door to door to check in with community members to see if anyone wants to be tested and for a couple of towers that’s included symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals because when you have significant numbers in a closed setting, then asymptomatic
testing can be appropriate to pick up further cases.
“That tends not to be the case in general drive through and community testing.
“But in very concentrated outbreaks, broad testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic testing can be useful.”
Victorians have been urged to wear face masks when out and about. Picture: David Crosling/NCA NewsWire.
The Premier acknowledged that some families were having to make tough decisions to miss work for public heath reasons.
“There’s a number of people who have to make that very difficult choice between what is good for public health and the survival of their own family from an economic point of view,” Mr Andrews said.
“They look at their bank balance and they can’t say no to a shift, they can’t say no to the boss, and they’ll go to work even if they have mild symptoms, perhaps worse than that.
“That’s what the hardship payment is all about.
“This nation of insecure work and not necessarily having a safety net to fall back on, as part of your individual employment circumstances, it can drive people making that choice to be less concerned about public health than we would like.
“That’s why we have put that payment in.”
Prof Sutton said it was imperative that people not go to work if they’re sick.
“We know that pandemics can really shine a light on social inequality and economic inequality,” he said.
“People who have more insecure work and are really obliged to come to work, obviously, more likely to turn up with mild symptoms.
“So it is a challenge. We have to reach out to all of those community members in order to understand how best to support them for the things we know that will work, the isolation and quarantine, I do want to say, you know, it really is critically important not to come to work even with the mildest of symptoms.
“People who test positive and who require time off work in order to isolate or quarantine, have the hardship payments available in Victoria.”
Premier Daniel Andrews stood by the decision to allow senior students to attend school rather than remote learning.
He said public health advice remained that there was minimal risk in allowing Year 11 and 12 students to attend.
“It’s really important to send a couple of messages to every parent, every senior student, and every teacher and member of staff,” he said.
“We know this will be challenging. We know that this will be a really difficult period.
“But at the same time, I want all of those people to understand, and all Victorians to understand, we’ve followed the detailed expert advice of the chief health officer when it came to making a judgement about the very low risk and the very high reward for having our year 11 and 12s in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire back at school.”
Mr Andrews said it was essential that all Victorian students be afforded the same VCE opportunities.
“If you have two fundamentally different ways of learning across Melbourne and regional Victoria, there’s an issue about whether the Victorian certificate of education and the Victorian certificate of applied learning has utility and meaning across the state,” he said.
“We need to make sure it’s one certificate for every single student.
“It’s based on the medical advice. If the medical advice said something different, they wouldn’t be there.”
Some teachers may be able to work more flexible hours, with those who have underlying health issues able to work from home based on the decision of each principal.
“There would be a mixture of both onsite teaching and other support work, other duties that need to be performed in the school setting,” Mr Andrews said.
“Some teachers able to equip their tasks at home … it will be as flexible as it can be.”
Mental Health Minister Martin Foley today announced new targeted therapy to support young people struggling during the pandemic.
Orygen will launch a new online platform, called Moderated Online Social Therapy, which will allow for personalised support for young Victorians.
The Andrews Government has provided $6 million to fast-track the program.
It will be available first for those in Melbourne’s north and western suburbs.
The funding comes as part of a $59.4 million package for mental health services in Victoria, with demand for support services surging during the pandemic.
Schools across locked down areas are closed to students.
It comes as fines totalling more than $200,000 have been dished out over the past 24 hours for breaches of Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions.
Victoria Police issued 133 fines to individuals – totalling $219,716.
Among those fined were 31 people caught at forbidden “gatherings” at apartments across Melbourne’s CBD.
Thirteen people were caught at a gathering in Southbank, ten at a South Wharf apartment and eight people at an apartment in the Docklands.
Police also fined 22 people at vehicle checkpoints and five people who travelled from metropolitan Melbourne to Maribyrnong to go camping.
Almost 10, triple-0 vehicles were checked by police on main arterial roads in the 24-hour period.
Police also performed 2495 spot checks at homes, business and public places.
– Aneeka Simonis
Parents should stop stressing about their children’s’ education because 2020 is being treated as a “different year”, according to Education Minister James Merlino.
About 700, triple-0 students in years prep to 10 at government schools in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will return to remote learning when term 3 starts next week.
Mr Merlino said parents need to stop worrying about how this disruption will impact their kids’ results.
“You don’t need to be the teacher of your child, you honestly don’t need to stress about your kid – they will be fine” he told KIIS FM.
“It’s a different year. Reports parents will receive for the first half of this year are different to the reports you’d normally get throughout the year.”
Mr Merlino acknowledged there will be “good days and bad days” during the period of remote learning but that it was an important step in the fight against coronavirus.
He said “no one wants to go back to remote flexible learning” but it was necessary to stop the spread of the virus.
“Outbreaks can happen anywhere … Schools are not alone in that sense. The risk is low, but the risk is not non-existent,” he told 3AW.
“You’ve got to balance the risks with the responses to it.”
Mr Merlino said every student who turned up to school today would be temperature-checked.
“If you’re not feeling well, don’t go to school,” he said.
He said elective surgeries will be ramped up to make sure people do not miss out on important treatments.
During the last lockdown, elective surgeries were put on hold to help hospitals deal with the virus.
Mr Merlino said: “You have to get the care you need and hospitals are there to provide that care. If it is like cancer or other serious conditions you have to get treatment and there are no delays for those sorts of things.”
“Please, please do not defer it.”
– Aneeka Simonis
Students in locked-down areas will be learning remotely. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images.
A further 1000 Defence personnel will be deployed across Victoria in coming days, assisting however the Victorian government sees fit.
The extra help will join 160 personnel already at testing sites cross the state and 175 assisting Victoria Police at checkpoints across the city.
Acting Commander of Defence’s COVID-19 Taskforce Major General Paul Kenny says Defence expected to head over the next few days where and how officers could be deployed.
“We are working very closely with the Victorian government and their authorities to finalise arrangements for the deployment of these 1000 personnel, including what support the ADF would be best suited to provide,” Major General Kenny said.
“While this detailed planning is occurring with the Victorian authorities, we are also working to ensure our personnel are available to be deployed quickly once the specific requests are known.”
Personnel are expected to bolster police efforts and compliance checking.
A group of personnel have also been sent to help with the Victoria Police phone line in Ballarat.
ADF personnel are also assisting efforts in South Australia and New South Wales.
– Tamsin Rose
Authorities have sent Victorians in self-quarantine text messages mistakenly saying they were free to leave ­isolation before their 14-day period ended.
The Department of Health and Human Services was unaware on Sunday night of how many people had received the wrong advice as a result of a “data entry error”.
The messages, sent on Sunday morning, told some Victorians in strict two-week isolation they were “no longer in quarantine”, several days ahead of their actual end date.
It included one Melbourne woman who was in self-­quarantine with her daughter after her partner tested positive to coronavirus only on Wednesday.
Victoria market shoppers during the second COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne. Picture: David Crosling
The woman, who did not want to be identified, said she had been repeatedly contacted by DHHS workers via phone calls, text messages and emails during their isolation period, reminding her to adhere to the strict quarantine rules.
One such email came on Sunday morning, but just 20 minutes later she received a text saying unless she was awaiting test results or had been re-exposed, she was no longer in quarantine.
“Straight away I thought, this is a mistake, something has gone wrong here,” she said.
Her daughter did not receive the misfired text.
The woman called the DHHS hotline and was told some messages had been sent in error and to ignore the latest message and instead follow the original advice to stay home.
A DHHS spokesman apologised for the error.
“It is as simple as a data entry error that was totally ­inadvertent,” the spokesman said. “We’re sending out multiple messages every day to ­different groups who are in different stages of quarantine.
“We’re talking about thousands of messages a day.”
Asked if they would be issuing new texts to clarify the advice, the spokesman said first they would have to identify the affected group.
“That’s a mammoth task,” the spokesman said, adding if people were concerned they had received an advice messages in error they should contact DHHS.
A government spokeswoman said on Sunday night that Victoria’s contact tracing team sent about 7000 message each day to COVID-19 positive cases and their close contacts.
“The Department of Health and Human Services has advised this was an inadvertent data entry error,” she said.
Close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases must quarantine at home for 14 days after their last contact with the infected person.
A staff member at a Melbourne refugee detention facility has tested positive to coronavirus.
The Department of Home Affairs confirmed the worker from the Mantra Hotel in Preston tested positive to the virus on July 8, a day after developing symptoms.
A deep clean is underway at the centre amid concerns the virus could have spread to detainees.
The worker’s last shift was on July 4 and no staff or detainees have so far shown symptoms of the virus.
“The staff member’s role involves very minimal contact with other staff or detainees,” a Home Affairs spokesperson said.
“No detainees or staff have been identified as a close contact as per the Health Department Guidelines.
“After discussions with Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), specifically their Public Health Unit (PHU), the risk of infection to other staff and detainees is considered low.”
– Aneeka Simonis
Five million Australians will receive a cash injection as part of the Federal Government’s economic response to the coronavirus.
The payments will start flowing into the accounts of eligible Australians from today at a cost of about $3.8 billion.
The $750 Economic Support Payment (ESP) aims to help low income Australians during the coronavirus outbreak.
It’s the second round of such payments this year, with the first lot of $750 payments made in March and April to about 6.6 million people who were receiving Centrelink payments.
Read the full story here.
Testing is ramping up at apartment towers and in high-risk communities after a coronavirus outbreak infected dozens of Carlton public housing residents.
Health authorities revealed that 28 residents in a number of Carlton towers had tested positive, as the number of cases linked to North Melbourne and Flemington public housing ballooned to 237.
It comes as a man in his 70s died of the virus, taking the state’s death toll to 24 and the nation’s to 108.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Victoria was facing the “the public health challenge of our lifetime” as 273 new cases were recorded on Sunday.
“We haven’t even gotten to a peak with this epidemic and we have to throw absolutely everything at it,” he said.
Prof Sutton said the government was closely monitoring outbreaks and high-risk areas, including public housing and apartment blocks in Carlton, Fitzroy and Dandenong.
“They will reflect the communities in which they sit,” he said.
“We should not be surprised by the presence of coronavirus in any tower, what we need to do is support the communities in those towers to manage the risk.”
Prof Sutton said authorities were “stepping up testing” in settings, such as the apartment towers in Carlton, where the virus was likely to spread quickly.
– Alanah Frost
The number of COVID-19 infections linked to a Sydney hotel at the epicentre of an outbreak has climbed as authorities come closer to tracking down patient zero.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant told 2GB’s Ben Fordham more cases linked to the Crossroads Hotel in Casula will be confirmed later today.
She was not able to say how many new infections had been detected, but said the number had climbed from nine.
An 18-year-old staff member from southwestern Sydney and a Victorian man in his 20s who dined at the hotel on July 3 are among the known cases.
Genome testing is being done on them as well as the other cases, including a woman in her 50s who is a close contact of the teenager, and a woman aged in her 40s who had dinner at the hotel on July 3.
These are in addition to the previously reported cases of a 30-year-old woman from Liverpool and a 50-year-old man from the Blue Mountains who has passed coronavirus to three members of his household, the state’s chief medical officer Kerry Chant said.
Read the full story here.
An allegedly drunk driver who blew more than six times the legal limit has been fined $1652 for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.
The 38-year-old Dandenong North man was pulled over by police after he was spotted swerving along the Princes Hwy in Dandenong at 12.15am on Monday.
He was breath tested at the scene and was taken to a nearby police station where he returned an evidentiary breath test reading of .313.
His license was suspended and his red Hyundai was impounded for 30 days.
It is expected he will be charged on summons with drink driving and traffic related matters.
– Aneeka Simonis