April 17, 2020 18:04:08
Victoria has recorded just one new coronavirus case in the past 24 hours, which Premier Daniel Andrews says is proof the state’s strategy to stop the spread of the virus is working.
- The Premier announced $260 million for the TAFE sector, which has struggled from a drop in international students
- He said elective surgery would be discussed at Tuesday’s National Cabinet meeting and could resume “fairly soon” if personal protective equipment stocks were sufficient
- Mr Andrews said Victoria was “winning the battle” against COVID-19 but he was in no rush to soften physical-distancing rules
The state did 2,700 tests in the past 24 hours which resulted in just one positive case.
“We are seeing some stability, significant stability to these numbers and that is the product of some tough rules,” Mr Andrews said.
There are 32 COVID-19 patients in Victorian hospitals, 13 of whom are in intensive care.
Mr Andrews said Victoria’s numbers were “so much better” than many parts of the world.
“I again say how proud and how grateful I am to the vast majority of Victorians who are doing the right thing,” he said.
He said it was possible Victoria could “eradicate the virus”.
“We are winning the battle,” he said.
Mr Andrews said 67 fines were issued by police in the past 24 hours to those breaching physical-distancing requirements, including a group of 13 people who met at a house to play poker and four people gathered at a friend’s house.
He said the current rules would likely be in place for at least four weeks, mirroring comments by the Prime Minister and the state’s Chief Health Officer.
The Premier said while today’s numbers were good, community transmission remained a challenge.
“This is very, very promising but it’s fragile and we can’t give back all the gains that we’ve made by rushing to change these rules,” he said.
“If we can relax in certain areas safely, where there is a reward and it far outweighs the risk, then of course that’s what we’ll do.”
Mr Andrews said there would have to be improvements in testing and contract tracing before any rules could be relaxed.
“We’re going to have to boost all our detective work, we’re going to have to boost all of our testing,” he said.
Government eyes return to elective surgery
Mr Andrews said while urgent surgeries were continuing throughout the pandemic, he was “sorry” that many elective surgeries had been cancelled.
Vic COVID-19 snapshot
- Confirmed cases so far: 1,302
- Deaths: 14
- Suspected community transmissions: 136
- Cases in hospital: 32
- Intensive care patients: 13
- Recovered patients: 1,159
- More than 75,000 Victorians tested
Updated Friday, April 17Latest information from the Victorian Government
But he said there was the possibility elective surgery could resume “fairly soon”, and indicated he would have more to say after the next National Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
“We’ve got to be very careful. We have to be careful we are not spreading the virus,” he said.
“We have to make sure we have enough protective equipment.
“We have to be careful we are not running those stocks down and then we need them if this pandemic gets away from us.”
Cash injection for struggling TAFE sector
The Premier has announced a $260 million funding package for the TAFE sector, which has been affected by international students being unable to enter the country, and other students being unable to pay their fees.
It includes an agreement to continue funding TAFE at pre-COVID-19 expected enrolment levels, despite a drop in actual enrolments.
It will also provide an additional $68.9 million in crisis support to move to online learning and ensure the training system can recover from the pandemic.
“Not every TAFE course can be done that way but you’d be quite surprised that some courses, plumbing for instance … have moved online,” Mr Andrews said.
“Training has never been more important. Getting TAFE to the other side of this virus is just what we have to do.”
Minister for Training and Skills Gayle Tierney said international students were eligible to register with the Working for Victoria program to learn new skills to help in the effort to fight the virus and to gain “part-time work after the situation has been stabilised”.
The chief executive of the Bendigo Kangan Institute, Sally Curtin, said the funding would help ensure the long-term survival of the TAFE sector.
“It recognises the special role that TAFE is playing as part of the COVID response, but also the more important critical role TAFE will play as we re-emerge out of this,” she said.
Mr Andrews said at the National Cabinet yesterday, Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe made it “very, very clear now is not the time to be running surplus budgets and to be getting into a political argument about debt and borrowings”.
“When you need the money you take advantage of the fact that we [Victoria] are a triple-A-rated economy. People are prepared to lend to us because we are seen as very, very low risk,” he said.
“That’s why you work hard to be the strongest economy in the nation, so when you need to borrow the money you’re absolutely in a position to do that.”
Mr Andrews said putting the state budget off until later in the year was “a good thing”.
“We will do what has to be done to save lives and to save jobs,” he said.
“I look forward to the Parliament approving these measures.
“These are unprecedented times and we just have to get on with it.”
The Victorian Opposition has said it will not block a government plan to set up a $24.5 billion emergency fund to deal with the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.
State Parliament will hold a one-day sitting next Thursday to pass the fund and other supply bills, which will add significantly to the state’s debt.
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said he wanted guarantees that Labor would not use the money to cover other cost blowouts.
“We have to get value for money,” he said.
“This must be a recovery based on jobs and a business-led recovery, not waste and bureaucracy.
“We can’t afford to see Labor use this massive amount of debt on cost blowouts they’ve already incurred.”
Funding for women’s health
The Government also announced a $3 million package for 12 women’s health services.
The funding will be provided over two years to help women at risk of family violence access services for their children.
Minister for Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams said nine of the services were based in regional Victoria, and three operated statewide.
The latest funding is on top of a $40.2 million package announced last week for crisis accommodation and specialist services for people suffering from, or at risk of, family violence.
Hospitals expand to prepare for influx of COVID-19 patients
The Alfred Hospital has finished a major expansion to its intensive care unit (ICU) and emergency department in preparation for an influx in COVID-19 patients.
The hospital’s intensive care capacity has doubled and ICU director Steve McGloughlin said existing ward space had already been converted into additional intensive care beds.
But his goal was to keep people out of ICU in the first place.
“From what we’ve seen in some ICUs overseas, the mortality rate for COVID-19 patients is high regardless of how many beds we have,” he said.
“That’s why we need to keep current measures in place, because they are working. Physical distancing and staying home, not spreading the disease to vulnerable community members that is the best chance we have.”
Monash Health’s new RESUS Unit has also been finished. The project used materials recycled from the Australian Grand Prix and Melbourne Cup Carnival.
The project was completed in just 15 hours.
Dr Rachel Rosler, the director of emergency medicine at the hospital, said people were very sick when they arrived and it was important to keep everyone safe.
“All of the bays have closed doors and special airflows that allow us to provide high-level intensive care-type treatment,” she said.
“We can ventilate patients. We can provide all sorts of quality care that we need to but at the same time keeping everyone safe.”
The two-story unit at Monash Medical Centre in Clayton, dubbed Spacecube, has 25 units, including six negative pressure resuscitation beds, a nurse’s station and medication room.
Monash Health chief executive Andrew Stripp said the project was pursued after the Victorian Government announced $1.3 billion for extra ICU beds and hospital equipment.
April 17, 2020 10:07:58
stories from Victoria