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Covid-19 News Updates
"We are scrambling for hotels, and this has got to stop. It's too much pressure so we have to put a pause," Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
After recording no new COVID-19 cases overnight and declassifying the cases of two truck drivers whose status was under investigation, the Queensland Government is now taking steps to slow down the influx of Australians from locked-down areas relocating to the Sunshine State.
"Starting from noon today we are pausing arrivals into hotel quarantine for a period of two weeks," the Premier said.
Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said this meant anyone who is not already on a flight at midday will not be able to arrive in Queensland on a right of entry pass, although people with exemptions including compassionate or end-of-life reasons, or to attend funerals, will still have rooms made available.
"We are seeing a lot of people wanting to relocate to Queensland. We understand that, it’s a beautiful state, why wouldn’t you want to live here? But we just need a pause on that," D'Ath said.
"About 85 per cent of the people who have come under right of entry passes over the last two weeks of domestic travel are simply relocating to Queensland.
"Everybody who's got a right of entry pass who is a Queensland resident or is seeking to relocate will need to reapply for their pass, and over the next fortnight we will then issue passes but we will be allocating a time period that people will be able to arrive in Queensland."
The Premier said as of yesterday there were 5,114 people in hotel quarantine in Queensland across 22 hotels.
"That's a lot of people – 3,257 are domestic arrivals, 1,857 are from overseas," she said.
"Between August the 9th and 20th, 2,750 people got border passes to relocate to Queensland. That includes 1,983 people in just one week.
"International arrivals are sometimes double and we don't find out until the day, and we often don't know from day to day, how many people are coming into Queensland from other states – they just turn up."
There are currently 37 active cases in Queensland and the number of people still in home quarantine has been reduced to 762.
Updated at 10:41am AEST on 25 August 2021.
Retail sales across the country dipped by 5.6 per cent in July month-on-month as lockdowns continued to impact the sector, according to new data released by MasterCard.
The MasterCard SpendingPulse report, which measures in-store and online sales across all forms of payment, also demonstrated retail sales were down 6.3 per cent in July compared to the same time last year.
However, when compared to July 2019, sales were actually up 6 per cent.
There were month-on-month falls in the retail categories of clothing (down 19.9 per cent), department stores (down 5.4 per cent) and food retailing (down 1.2 per cent). Household goods increased 0.8 per cent in July compared to the previous month (seasonally adjusted), however there were year-on-year falls across all retail categories.
Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra says lockdowns have a direct impact on retail sales and the pandemic pain will continue to be felt over the coming months.
“Delta is continuing to cause damage to businesses and livelihoods, in particular for our economic capital Sydney, where a nine-week lockdown is confirmed with no guarantee that restrictions will ease at the end of the month,” Zahra says.
“‘For lease’ signs are becoming a more common feature on CBD shop fronts in Sydney and Melbourne where the Delta devastation has been more severe and state and federal supports haven’t been enough to save businesses from closing their doors permanently.
“Lockdowns have a direct impact on retail sales as well as business and consumer confidence, and those impacts can be felt long after restrictions are eased, as it takes time for confidence and foot-traffic to build up again – it’s not an immediate snap back to the way things were.”
Updated at 12.25pm AEST on 23 August 2021.
A package of automatic cash grants jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments will support businesses in regional Victoria after lockdown restrictions were expanded to cover the whole state on Saturday.
The package comprises a $100.9 million allocation to the Business Costs Assistance Program, $34.5 million for regional premises that have previously received Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund grants, and $11.2 million for the Alpine Resorts Winter Support Program.
It comes after Victoria recorded 65 new cases yesterday, 21 of which were in the regional town of Shepparton where a cluster has been growing quickly.
Today the state has recorded 71 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, of which 49 are linked to known outbreaks and 22 are under investigation.
The support programs are expected to assist 20,000 businesses throughout regional Victoria, joining more than 110,000 businesses in Melbourne.
Businesses in regional Victoria that do not qualify for this new support and have experienced a reduction in revenue of at least 70 per cent are encouraged to apply for the $252 million Small Business COVID Hardship Fund, which provides grants of $14,000 to successful applicants.
Commonwealth COVID-19 Disaster Payment support will apply to workers and eligible sole-trader businesses in regional areas, as they do in metropolitan areas. Since 1 July, almost $640 million in COVID-19 Disaster payments has flowed to Victoria supporting the incomes of more than 350,000 Victorians
Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said that this support package will provide assurance to businesses in the State’s regions when they need it most.
“No one wanted to be in this position, but the rapid spread of the Delta strain and the emergence of cases in regional Victoria meant there was no choice,” Pallas said.
“We are acting quickly, decisively and on public health advice to get ahead of this outbreak so we can start our return to conditions more like we remember them before the pandemic.
“This package is about helping regional businesses at a really tough time as we continue to battle this current outbreak.”
More information about the business support programs is available at business.vic.gov.au.
Elsewhere in Australia New South Wales recorded 830 locally acquired COVID-19 cases yesterday after 825 on Saturday, and the Australian Capital Territory reported 19 new cases of which six were infectious in the community.
WA introduces tourism industry support package
Tourism businesses impacted by COVID-19 in Western Australia will soon be able to apply for funding under a new package backed by the State and Federal Governments valued at up to $16.8 million.
Businesses will be able to apply for grants of up to $10,000 if they can demonstrate at least a 30 per cent reduction in turnover by comparing the period 15 May - 25 June with 10 July - 30 August.
The following funding amounts will be made available to eligible businesses:
- $2,000 grant for all sole traders and for employing businesses with an annual turnover between $50,000 and $100,000
- $5,000 grant for employing businesses with an annual turnover between $100,000 and $1 million
- $10,000 grant for employing businesses with an annual turnover between $1 million and $10 million
In order to be eligible, businesses must be:
- registered with Tourism WA as a previous grant recipient or as part of the agency’s marketing campaigns in 2020 or 2021; or
- a member of, or accredited through, a relevant tourism organisation (as of today); or
- a travel agent that has been offering domestic product to travellers.
“The continued acceleration of community spread in many parts of the country – particularly New South Wales – is now so severe it is having impacts on some WA tourism businesses,” Premier Mark McGowan.
“Western Australia’s work to keep COVID-19 largely out of the community has kept the State safe and open – enabling our tourism sector to operate in a way much of the world has been unable to over the past 18 months and fuelling an intrastate visitation boom.”
“The Tourism Assistance Grants will provide targeted support to the Western Australian businesses which have become innocent victims of community spread over east, through no fault of their own.”
City of Melbourne to absorb fee increase for ratepayers
The City of Melbourne is discounting rates for all commercial and residential ratepayers across the municipality at a total cost of $4.8 million in response to the impacts of COVID-19.
The City was entitled to implement the Victorian Government’s 1.5 per cent rate cap but made the decision to apply a 1.5 per cent rates discount, cancelling out the rates increase this year.
“Rates are necessary to support vital community services and infrastructure and we are legally required to issue them at this time, but we also know that conditions are incredibly tough, so we're doing what we can to take some pressure off for the second year in a row,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.
"This year, we're keeping rates low while delivering historic levels of infrastructure and initiatives to create jobs, support businesses and ensure Melbourne remains a safe, clean and resilient city.”
Finance, Governance and Risk lead, Councillor Philip Le Liu, said the decision to apply a discount to the rate increase was made earlier in the year when councillors endorsed the 2021-22 budget.
“All of the city’s 128,000 commercial and residential ratepayers will receive a discount, totalling $4.8 million. Around half of ratepayers will receive a discount between $10 and $50, with an average discount of $37,” Le Liu said.
“The discount will be clearly identified on a rates bill, but the amount of the discount on individual bills will differ depending on the valuation of their property.
“Rates change every year as property values change, so some ratepayers may still see their total bill go up because their property value may have changed relative to others.”
Updated at 9.41am AEST on 23 August 2021.
"If we have a weekend this weekend like last weekend, well then next week it will be like Sydney. Simple as that. This will get away from us," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.
Victoria may be facing its toughest challenge yet in 2021 as the state reports 55 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases of whom only 25 were in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period.
"That is a very significant challenge. That makes today a bad day," Premier Daniel Andrews said.
In the 24 hours to midnight last night there were also two new cases in hotel quarantine, and of all new cases 49 are linked to known outbreaks and six are currently mystery cases under investigation.
The Premier said the government could not have locked down any earlier than it did and is playing its part, but the rules are "only as good as the behaviour and the choices that each of us make".
"We've got too many mystery cases out there. We need people to come forward and get tested when they have symptom; not a day later, not three days later," he said.
"It's not about looking for every loophole, every exemption, every sort of blind corner where people can't see you, to do the wrong thing."
He said the Delta variant was so wildly infectious that it would find every breach of every rule and will potentially spread because of that.
"It's not just delicate, it's not just a tipping point. We are right on the edge of this getting away from us," he said.
"We all have to make choices that recognise how serious this is. There are 700 kids that have got COVID in NSW. There are kids that are in hospital in NSW that have got COVID - no children in our country are vaccinated.
"As a parent to every other parent, that should be motivation enough. We can't be certain what the impacts of this virus are on kids. We have got a substantial number of kids infected ourselves in this outbreak - it is spreading amongst younger people and it will continue to do that unless we all play our part."
There are currently 349 active cases of COVID-19 in the state.
In more positive news, there were almost 50,000 tests in Victoria yesterday and 28,601 vaccinations administered by state clinics.
"I thank all of those nearly 30,000 people who made an appointment, kept their appointment, turned up and got the jab. That's such an important thing or you to do," he said.
"There are appointments open as we speak. Thousands of them...if you go to the website you can book, and you can book with confidence."
Updated at 12:40pm AEST on 20 August 2021.
With case numbers in New South Wales only continuing to rise, the state’s Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced Greater Sydney’s lockdown has been extended until the end of September.
In addition, local government areas (LGAs) of concern will be under even stricter rules from Monday, with a curfew to come into effect, exercise limited to just one hour per day, and more retail premises to close.
Further, across the entire state, mask wearing while outdoors will become mandatory from 30 August to avoid instances of fleeting transmission and aid police with compliance, and vaccines will become mandatory for those working in childcare or disability support for those that live or work in LGAs of concern.
It comes as NSW reported 642 cases of community transmission today and four new deaths related to COVID-19.
The Premier also announced that the Central Coast and Shellharbour will no longer be classified as ‘Greater Sydney’, but will instead become part of regional/rural NSW, giving residents in these areas hope that lockdown may end sooner than their counterparts in the NSW capital.
Lockdown in regional NSW is expected to last until at least 28 August.
The curfew will come into effect for the 12 LGAs of concern from Monday, meaning residents cannot leave the house between 9pm and 5am.
“In terms of the local government areas of concern, I can’t stress enough that we feel for you, we’ve imposed a lot of restrictions on you already,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
“But we don’t want to see more of you end up in hospital, we don’t want to see more of you lose loved ones, and it’s heartbreaking when you see disease rip through families - families who are unvaccinated and suffering the most.
“From Monday from 9pm to 5am you cannot leave your home, unless of course it is for authorised workers or emergencies.”
The Premier says the curfew is necessary based on police feedback that a small number of people are not doing the right thing at night, as well as the fact that the “overwhelming number” of cases are being reported in South and Southwest Sydney.
“As we said, Delta doesn’t leave any room for error,” Berejiklian said.
“I apologise deeply to the vast majority of people in those communities for doing the right thing, but for our own health and safety moving forward we need to make these difficult decisions.”
A number of retail premises must close except for click & collect services from Monday too, including garden centres, office supplies, hardware and building supplies, landscaping material supplies, rural supplies and pet supplies.
New rules for authorised workers living or working in the LGAs of concern will also be introduced, including for childcare and disability support workers, who must now have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by 30 August.
The jump in case numbers follows reports of a gathering in Maroubra, an eastern suburb of Sydney, where 11 people have since tested positive to COVID-19.
"I understand why people are tired and fatigued, but we just can't have that occurring," NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro also highlighted sewage detections in the state's regions which are giving authorities "advanced notice" of possible COVID-19 infection.
"We've touched on sewage detections and they're happening right across regional New South Wales," Barilaro said.
"But our concerns are in the areas of Cobar, Port Macquarie, Parkes and Coonamble and Bellambi down in the Illawarra.
"Clearly it's a tool that we use. Clearly it has shown us an advanced notice in areas of concern."
The news comes as the Queensland government today announced 120 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel will be deployed to police the NSW border from 25 August.
"We've also now had confirmed that the ADF will be assisting our police with the border," QLD Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.
"We welcome certainly welcome that support from the Commonwealth."
Updated at 11.22am AEST on 20 August 2021.
The Northern Territory Government has confirmed stay-at-home orders in Katherine lifted from midday (ACST) today, one day after a lockdown in Darwin ended.
It comes as the Territory reported no new cases of COVID-19 today, giving authorities the confidence to lift remaining lockdown restrictions.
Some restrictions for Darwin and Katherine will remain in place until 12pm on 26 August for high-risk categories to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the community.
People will still need to wear masks in indoor settings such as retail, but they can be taken off while seated and eating or drinking, and will not be necessary in offices when physical distancing can be maintained.
Updated at 12.24pm AEST on 20 August 2021.
Victoria has reported 57 new local COVID-19 cases of whom 44 were in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period, but an epidemiologist from the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) explains how wastewater tests show signs the virus may be circulating under the radar.
Professor Benjamin Cowie of the RMH and the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity highlights continued "unexpected detections" of COVID-19 in the wastewater system.
"While the testing program isn't necessarily a smoking gun, it does provide a really good signal and another line of intelligence for us to follow," Cowie told a press conference this morning.
"So we began targeted wastewater surveillance in high rise public housing towers and then received a detection at a complex at 480 Lygon Street in Carlton several days ago," he said.
"Based on that signal alone, we made the entire complex effectively a tier two exposure site and encouraged all the residents to get tested, and we uncovered a case living inside the building."
As a result, Cowie said authorities were able to provide that person with care and treatment, and to prevent other transmission, which he said demonstrated the potential use of use of wastewater detection as an "advanced warning system".
Often it is a case of someone shedding while no longer infectious, or epidemiologists know of someone who has COVID-19 and is isolating in the area connected to the sewage result, but at times the source is a mystery.
"That's when we really pay close attention," Cowie said.
"We have a few of these signals alerting us right now. In regional Victoria, we've seen three detections in Shepparton with our period of concern being between the 9th and the 16th of August, and I know the community in Shepparton has come out - testing numbers have increased substantially over the last few days."
There have also been wastewater detections in Lakes Entrance with a period of concern from 8-11 August, in Ardeer from 11-16 August, and new detections in the suburbs of Albion, Braybrook, St Albans, Sunshine, Sunshine North, Sunshine West and Tottenham from 15-17 August.
"And we've had three detections in some southeastern suburbs, including Dingley Village, Keysborough, Noble Park, Springvale and Springvalue South, with a period of concern being between the 11th and the 17th of August."
Photo: Professor Benjamin Cowie of the RMH and the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity
But the expert said of possibly the greatest concern was the strong and repeated detections from an industrial precinct in Sunshine West.
"Now, that's an area where nobody resides, there's no one living there, but a lot of people work there," he said.
"We've been working with businesses in this precinct on surveillance testing for the last few days, and we haven't uncovered any cases at this point, but essentially we're at the point where based on these repeat, strong detections, it becomes more likely than not that someone who works in this area actually does have coronavirus infection.
"That is clearly of concern to get them tested so we can look after them and provide them appropriate treatment and care, but to protect their colleagues and indeed the entire community. So my message is that if you work in that industrial precinct come forward to be tested now, even if you don't have symptoms."
Of today's 57 new cases reported, 54 are linked to known outbreaks, mostly Al-Taqwa College students and close contacts from that school outbreak.
"So we might see further cases that are exactly the same as a result of day 13 testing," Premier Daniel Andrews said.
"There are some 296 active cases across the state, 16 people are in hospital, three of those in ICU and I'm told one of those is on a ventilator.
"There were just under 50,000 test results received overnight," Andrews said, adding this was a significant uplift on numbers which were low a few days ago.
More drive-through vaccination clinics for Victoria
The Premier said 27,581 Victorians were vaccinated yesterday, taking the number of doses in the state to 2,050,042 in state-run centres.
Following the opening of Australia's first drive-through vaccination hub in Melton there have been around 1,200 doses administered at the site, and now the government will be opening up three more centres in this format.
The Premier has announced the new drive through clinics will open at the Former Ford Factory in Broadmeadows, at Sandown Racecourse in Springvale and at the Eagle Stadium in Werribee.
The new site at the Ford Factory in Broadmeadows will be soft launched this Sunday by invitation only, and will open to the public for booked appointments from Monday 23 August.
The Sandown Racecourse clinic will be adjacent to the existing Sandown Racecourse indoor vaccination hub and will run an invitation-only soft launch on Friday. It will open to the public for booked appointments from Saturday 21 August.
Combined, these sites will have 36 bays for drive-through but have the capacity to be ramped up if needed. Victorians will be able to make bookings online or through the Coronavirus hotline, which the government says are essential.
The new site at the Eagle Stadium in Werribee will have room for both drive through and indoor vaccinations, with an expected opening towards the end of the week.
In addition, a pop-up vaccination centre opened yesterday at Peanut Farm Reserve in St Kilda. It is a walk-in, no-booking site designed for locals who are eligible for the vaccine. It administered 170 doses in its first two hours. It will operate 9am to 5pm daily for the next week. Primary Close Contacts or people with symptoms cannot attend.
There are 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine appointments available over the next four weeks and just over 80,000 Pfizer second dose appointments available.
"There are a million things that we miss about life before the pandemic and a million things we’re looking forward to doing again once we’re through this outbreak – each of those is a reason to get vaccinated," Premier Andrews said.
"We’re imploring every single Victorian to come forward and get vaccinated as soon as you can – there’s appointments available and we need you to fill them."
"Getting vaccinated is our way out of this pandemic. These new drive through clinics are convenient and easy to access – Victorians should take full advantage of them to get themselves and their loved ones vaccinated," Health Minister Martin Foley added.
Updated at 12:34pm AEST on 19 August 2021.
With COVID-19 cases still popping up in Western New South Wales, health authorities have ordered the state-wide lockdown be extended by another week until 28 August.
The decision comes as NSW reported 681 cases of community transmission today, of which at least 59 were in the community while infectious.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the decision was made due to the relatively high number of cases being recorded in different parts of the state’s regions.
“The decision for that was based on the numbers that we’ve just heard - numbers like in Western New South Wales, 25 new cases overnight,” Barilaro said.
“We know that we’ve got more cases in Western News South Wales and Southern New South Wales, Hunter New England and the Central Coast so, therefore, it is starting to show clearly that there are still concerns in regional and rural New South Wales.”
“That is why we say it is right that we stay in front of the curve, that we stay in front of the spread, and we keep regional and rural New South Wales in lockdown.”
NSW yesterday hit a new daily vaccination record, with 110,000 people coming forward to get jabbed.
The state now has 53 per cent of the population vaccinated with one dose, and 28 per cent are fully vaccinated.
NSW also announced one death from COVID-18 today: a man in his 80s who died at the St George Hospital in the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile, the Australian Capital Territory recorded 16 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total number of active cases in the jurisdiction to 83.
The Territory's Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he is working with the Federal Government on developing a new support package for the tourism and hospitality sectors, as well as the potential expansion of the business hardship fund. Details of these financial packages are expected to be announced in the coming days.
Updated at 11.32am AEST on 19 August.
Lockdown orders for Greater Darwin will be lifted at noon today as planned, but people in Katherine will need to wait one more day as health authorities await testing results from casual contacts, most connected to the town's Woolworths.
There are still 12 casual contacts the territory government is trying to locate, and the town's wastewater continues to have traces of COVID-19. Detections of the virus are weak in Darwin.
"The lockdown for the Darwin-Palmerston and Darwin rural areas will end at noon today as scheduled," NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
"The lockdown for Katherine is being extended for a further 24 hours and is on track to end tomorrow," he said.
In areas where the stay-at-home orders have been lifted, people will still need to wear masks in indoor settings such as retail, but they can be taken off while seated and eating or drinking, and will not be necessary in offices when physical distancing can be maintained.
"These are the exact same rules as last time. If you're going to the supermarket or to a shop, chuck on your mask," Gunner said.
"If you're heading out for dinner or drink, wear a mask but you can remove it while you were seated, eating and drinking."
Gunner said there were 232 negative results that authorities were matching back to the original casual contact list.
"I thank all of our close and casual contacts for their cooperation and their patience this week. People have been truly terrific," Gunner said.
"We need Katherine to hang tight another day, given that we know the man was more infectious while in the community, given the movement between Katherine and remote communities, and given the number of tests that we are doing there."
Updated at 11:38am AEST on 19 August 2021.
Australian airline Qantas (ASX: QAN) has today announced it will require all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 31 March 2022.
The move means all frontline employees - cabin crew, pilots, and airport workers - will need to be fully vaccinated by 15 November 2021, and the remainder by the end of March next year.
There will be exemptions for those who are unable to be vaccinated for documented medical reasons.
"Having a fully vaccinated workforce will safeguard our people against the virus but also protect our customers and the communities we fly to," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said.
"One crew member can fly into multiple cities and come into contact with thousands of people in a single day. Making sure they are vaccinated given the potential of this virus to spread is so important and I think it's the kind of safety leadership people would expect from us.
"We provide an essential service, so this will help guard against the disruptions that can be caused by just one positive COVID-case shutting down a freight facility or airport terminal."
The policy follows consultation with Qantas and Jetstar employees, including a survey sent to 22,000 people to seek their views on vaccination.
The results showed that of those who responded:
- 89 per cent had already been vaccinated or are planning to be.
- 4 per cent were unwilling or unable to get the jab.
- Around three-quarters think it should be a requirement for all employees to be vaccinated and would be concerned if other employees in the workplace weren't vaccinated.
"It's clear that vaccinations are the only way to end the cycle of lockdowns and border closures and for a lot of Qantas and Jetstar employees that means getting back to work again. This was one of the largest responses to any survey we've conducted, even with thousands of our people stood down, which shows just how important this is for them," Joyce said.
"Since vaccines became available, we've strongly encouraged all of our people to get the jab and are offering paid time off to get it done. We were really pleased to see from the survey that more than three quarters of those who responded have already rolled up their sleeve at least once and 60 per cent have had both jabs.
"We understand there will be a very small number of people who decide not to get the vaccine, and that's their right, but it's our responsibility to provide the safest possible environment for our employees and for our customers."
The move from Qantas comes after a decision by SPC to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all staff before the end of 2021.
The decision mirrors moves made internationally by other companies like Microsoft, Google and Disney, with SPC stressing the decision will ensure the health and wellbeing of all staff and the broader community.
Shares in QAN are down 0.23 per cent to $4.41 per share at 11.49am AEST.
Updated at 12.11pm AEST on 18 August 2021.
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