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Covid-19 News Updates

New Brisbane COVID case was infectious while staying at City Backpackers hostel

New Brisbane COVID case was infectious while staying at City Backpackers hostel

People who have visited the City Backpackers, Roma Street in Brisbane at any time since 22 July will be called upon for testing after a returned traveller who stayed there tested positive to COVID-19.

Queensland Health Minister Yvtte D'Ath and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young told a press conference this morning the man is a Perth resident who had returned from the Philippines, and completed quarantine at a Quest hotel after three negative tests for the virus.

A Quest spokesperson has confirmed he was in quarantine at Quest Chermside in Brisbane's north.

The man left hotel quarantine on 17 July, but on 26 July he felt unwell and got tested at the Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital (RBWH) that night.

"It is deemed that he has been infectious in the community since the 22nd of July," D'Ath said.

"This individual has been residing at the Roma Street City Backpackers during this period."

Dr Jeannette Young noted contact tracing was underway for anyone who stayed at the hostel, and emphasised anyone who was in contact with him could have visited "anywhere in the state".

The case is one of 20 new reported COVID-19 cases in Queensland today, the other 19 relating to crew members from the bulk carrier vessel MV Sanyu which arrived in Torres Strait waters on Monday.

It was disclosed to authorities that many ship workers were sick, so health authorities boarded the vessel to test them for COVID-19.

"That ship will steam around to Weipa...if it hasn't arrived already this morning it should be arriving fairly soon. Then we will organise to take those sick crew off that ship, maintaining enough crew on that ship to keep that ship safe," Dr Young said.

"Then we'll bring those sick crew down to Brisbane to be managed in one of our quarantine facilities in Brisbane. All of that is happening as we speak."

Despite the lifting of lockdowns in South Australia and Victoria, Queensland is maintaining its hotspot designations for the two states but will be allowing some arrivals from both provided they are either Queensland residents or have been granted exemptions, and have suitable accommodation to complete home quarantine. 

At the time of writing Queensland Health has not yet updated its exposure sites list to include the hostel, but residents of the state are encouraged to check the list on a daily basis. 

Updated at 9:56am AEST on 28 July.

City council offers leg up to struggling Sydneysiders

City council offers leg up to struggling Sydneysiders

With no clear end in sight to Sydney's lockdown, the City Council plans to dish out grants, masks and food in a bid to help struggling residents.

The rescue package will set Sydney council back $5 million in grants and donations,  plus an additional $7.8 million in estimated revenue foregone each month.

"The pandemic has had a severe impact on our community and economy. We are providing support through the crisis and ensuring we're ready to help breathe life back into the city when lockdowns are lifted," Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

"Funding the provision of food and masks and offering rapid response grants to community organisations and initiatives will help us support our most vulnerable."

Though the news comes just one week after the announcement of the multi-billion dollar 2021 COVID-19 Support Package, released jointly by the NSW and federal governments, Moore gave short shrift to Canberra in today's announcement.

"The need for such drastic action highlights just how serious the situation is. It also highlights just how seriously we have been let down by the Federal Government," she said.

"We need an urgent rollout of vaccines, greater health and safety in quarantine for incoming travellers and more support for businesses and people including the urgent reinstatement of JobKeeper.

"It is the federal government's role to look after people. It is the State government's role to look after businesses. It is the City's role to reinvigorate the CBD and attract workers, visitors and tourists back to support our businesses when the time comes but we must survive before we can look to recovery."

The package covers:

  • $4 million in grants for businesses and creatives to work on initiatives to support reactivation post-lockdown.
  • $8.9 million cash and value-in-kind through existing City grant programs.
  • Donations of $300,000 each for OzHarvest and Foodbank and $100,000 for SecondBite, in order to help vulnerable communities access food.
  • An additional $250,000 in new Covid-19 community emergency quick response grants.
  • $50,000 for masks for vulnerable communities and connecting people with mental health services.
  • Extension of the outdoor dining program and waiving of associated fees through to 30 June 2022.
  • Continuing existing fee waivers for footway dining, venue hire, banners, parking services, childcare and health and compliance activities, as well as offering rent rebates on certain City-owned properties for the lockdown period, estimated to cost $7.8 million per month.

The lockdown recovery package adds to the $20 million CBD revitalisation fund established by the City and NSW government in October 2020, aimed at boosting the city centre economy and supporting businesses over the summer months.

The Lord Mayor also said that, moving beyond the current crisis, the Council would continue to zero in on stimulating the local economy.

"As restrictions ease, we will once again need to revitalise our city and attract workers and visitors back safely. We are opening an exciting new grants program that will encourage neighbouring businesses and creatives to collaborate on events and activations that will enliven whole city precincts," she said.

"We will continue to work closely with the NSW Government to help businesses reopen, attract patrons and operate in a Covid-safe way when the lockdown lifts."

Affected businesses will be able to seek information on how to access these grants through a concierge service operated by the City, which has provided one-on-one advice since the outset of the pandemic.

SA announces no new cases of COVID-19 ahead of lockdown lifting at midnight

SA announces no new cases of COVID-19 ahead of lockdown lifting at midnight

South Australia has recorded no new cases of COVID-19 today, prompting the state to proceed with the planned lifting of lockdown settings at midnight tonight.

However, strict restrictions will remain including seated consumption of food and beverages, and mandatory mask wearing in certain settings.

"Thank you very much to all of those people who helped us get to this situation," says South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.

"I will particularly like to thank those people who had to go into a directed quarantine situation either at home or in the medi-hotel."

The shift will still see strong measures put into place to reduce any risks of further community transmission.

"I think we're going to be getting used to seeing far more masks around South Australia," the Premier said.

"We know the situation in New South Wales at the moment, so we do need to be at a higher level of readiness."

Masks will be necessary in care facilities, personal care services such as hairdressers (for the worker and the client), and indoor public places like supermarkets.

Students and staff in education will also receive support, with twelve trucks delivering facemasks for secondary schools. Masks are also being highly recommended within other workplaces. 

The $100 million business support package has already been delivered to 2,500 businesses across the state, giving them access to the $3,000 emergency grant.

Training for sport has been deemed acceptable, however matches will not be allowed for the following week. Chruch services will also be allowed to resume with one person per 4sqm. Singing in a choir will be banned, with only one performer allowed at a time. 

The current outbreak in NSW is still causing concern for authorities in SA. 

"Our thoughts are with the people in New South Wales," Marshall said.

"We have a huge number of applications for people to return to South Australia.

"We are trying to get through those in a priortised way but the risk of people coming in from New South Wales is actually higher than people coming from overseas."

There are a total of 25 active cases in South Australia, and two people are in hospital. 

Updated at 12:00pm AEST on 27 July 2021.

Victoria to exit lockdown from midnight but some restrictions will remain

Victoria to exit lockdown from midnight but some restrictions will remain

With all of Victoria's 10 new cases of community transmission in isolation for their entire infectious period, the state will move to leave lockdown from 11.59pm tonight but many restrictions will remain in place.

Notably, Victorians will not be allowed to welcome visitors to their homes, while crowds will remain banned at AFL matches and theatres. But after living through the state's fifth lockdown, residents are sure to welcome the raft of changes announced today.

The new post-lockdown settings will be in place for two weeks, and will see the five reasons to leave the home, the 5km travel limit and the two hour exercise restrictions ditched.

Instead, more relaxed restrictions will come into effect including:

  • Schools will reopen for all year levels
  • Bars, restaurants, live music venues and pubs will reopen with the 4sqm rule in place
  • Gyms can reopen with the 4sqm rule in place
  • Community sport can resume
  • Public gatherings will be limited to 10 people
  • Funerals and weddings can go ahead with 50 people in attendance (excluding people who are intrinsic to the event going ahead)
  • Masks must be worn in both indoor and outdoor settings
  • Crowds will remain banned at AFL matches, the theatre, etc.
  • Gatherings in the home are still not permitted. People will only be able to book accommodation with their household, intimate partner or single bubble person.

Victoria will return to the rule that 'if you can work from home, you should work from home' but office workers will be able to return up to 25 per cent or up to 10 people - whichever is greater.

People will be free to visit ski fields again, but due to the higher risk in these settings entry to Victoria's alpine resorts will require a COVID test and receipt of a negative result within 72 hours prior to visiting. Children under 12 years of age are not required to be tested.

In addition, new border control measures will come into play from 11.59pm today and will see the state's strict "Extreme Risk Zone" permit approach currently applied to most of New South Wales extended to the local government areas of Wagga Wagga, Hay, Lockhart and Murrumbidgee.

This means travellers from those areas will be banned from entering Victoria unless they receive an essential traveller permit.

"There's a refusal to lock people in Sydney into Sydney, so therefore I have no choice but to make these changes," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

"We have seen off two Delta outbreaks - I don't think there's a jurisdiction in the world that has been able to achieve that.

"But at the same time we have to remain vigilant."

With regard to the continued mandate that masks be worn in all settings outside the home, Andrews pointed to a recent report from the Burnet Institute which found mask wearing was the single-most important control measure and "turned the epidemic around" in Melbourne last year.

Co-lead author Dr Nick Scott said the introduction of mandatory mask use by the Victorian Government on 22 July 2020 while Stage 3 restrictions were in place, turned an exponential increase in community transmission into an exponential decrease, almost overnight.

"We had a unique situation in Melbourne where masks were made mandatory as a single policy change, and compliance went from low use to a very high use of masks in the community very rapidly," Burnet Institute head of modelling and biostatistics Dr Scott said.

"What we saw was a significant 20-30 per cent reduction in the effective reproduction rate that correlated with that policy, so it turned the epidemic around from case numbers that were increasing every day to a situation where we could see the numbers were getting back under control."

In response to the news, Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra welcomed the end of severe restrictions in Victoria which would have cost around $2 billion in retail trade.

However, Zahra has called on the Federal Government to urgently reinstate business support measures to offset mounting losses of continued Delta outbreaks.

"This has been an unprecedented time with lockdowns occurring across multiple states without an adequate business safety net, leaving many businesses and their employees with mounting debts and costs while having their income cut off," Zahra said.

"With Delta we are potentially facing another economic cliff. Small businesses around the country face continued hurdles as the Delta variant threatens commercial operations particularly in NSW, which is our economic capital.

"We have called on the Prime Minister to restore a number of targeted business support measures until vaccination rates improve considerably."

Updated at 11.43am AEST on 27 July 2021.

172 community cases for NSW as virus becoming "more prominent" in Western Sydney

172 community cases for NSW as virus becoming "more prominent" in Western Sydney

COVID-19 case numbers remain high in locked-down Greater Sydney and the surrounding regions, as Premier Gladys Berejiklian flags a possible announcement tomorrow about what life will look like beyond 31 July.

There were 172 cases of community transmission recorded in NSW during the 24 hours to 8pm last night, of which only 61 are known to have been in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period.

The Premier also noted there were two deaths from the virus yesterday.

There are now 171 patients in hospital with COVID-19, of whom 46 are in intensive care with 19 on ventilation.

"Time and time again cases are popping up in workplaces, amongst workers in those critical places of employment, but also in households," the Premier said.

"Tragically, I want to extend my condolences to the families and loved ones of the two older women who succumbed to the disease yesterday."

In terms of key areas of concern, Berejiklian noted the virus was becoming "more prominent" in Western Sydney than Southwestern Sydney.

"Of course we want to ask the Southwestern community to stay vigilant. In particular I want to call out and thank the Fairfield local government area who have shown a positive result in declining number of cases, but now we've seen adjoining councils in Western Sydney increase the number of cases we have," she said.

"We ask for populations in the Canterbury Bankstown area, in the Liverpool area, in the Cumberland community in particular and also the Parramatta council area to make sure that they're vigilant, they're coming forward to get tested, and you're not leaving the house unless you absolutely have to."

The Premier continued the call-out to NSW residents to get vaccinated as part of the state's "recipe for freedom", reinforcing the message that the vaccine helps protect against serious illness and reduces how infectious you are.

"Pleasingly, from tomorrow we have increased our presence of pharmacists in Southwestern and Western Sydney providing vaccinations," she said.

"From tomorrow, over-18s will be able to access the vaccining pharmacists, and from Friday our NSW Health Hubs will be able to take bookings for people over 18 years of age for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"This is positive news in line with the health advice, so I'm asking everybody to come forward and get the vaccine."

Click here for an updated list of NSW exposure sites.

Updated at 11:33am AEST on 27 July 2021.


SA lockdown on track to end from tomorrow midnight after one new local case detected

SA lockdown on track to end from tomorrow midnight after one new local case detected

South Australia is poised to lift its lockdown from tomorrow midnight after the state recorded one new case of community transmission today, but a set of tight restrictions are expected hang around from Wednesday.

It comes as a man in his 80s who attended Tenafeate Creek Wines tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday, but was in quarantine during his infectious period. 

"I've got to say I'm very proud of South Australia and very grateful to all South Australians for the way they've adhered to restrictions that have been put in place," says Premier Steven Marshall.

"We've had one week with with very, very tough lockdown conditions. There will be a further week of restrictions in place.

"Now it's very likely that some of those restrictions will remain in place even after that."

For the week after lockdown lifts the one person per four square metre rule will return and consumption of food and beverage will be permitted indoors and outdoors. Work in retail, hospitality and construction will also be allowed.

Gyms will be allowed to re-open, with the restriction of one person per eight square metres, and a maximum of 10 people will be allowed to gather in a single household.   

Masks will still be necessary in the following high-risk settings:

  • Personal care services such as salons and hair dressers
  • Passenger transport service such as buses and taxis
  • Health care services

Schooling will return to classroom learning, however the bans on singing, dancing and shisha will not be lifted. 

17,000 people were tested yesterday, and the list of exposure sites has reached 80 locations.

Updated at 12.01am AEST on 26 July 2021.

Canterbury Bankstown now at greatest risk as New South Wales records 145 new cases

Canterbury Bankstown now at greatest risk as New South Wales records 145 new cases

The Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian has today encouraged residents of the Canterbury Bankstown local government area (LGA) to be extra vigilant in the coming days due to a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 as the state records 145 new cases of community transmission.

As such, Berejiklian has urged those living in Canterbury Bankstown to be "extra careful" and abide by the strict lockdown rules because that particular LGA is at risk of seeing COVID-19 cases spike.

The Premier also said the LGA of Fairfield, previously the state's largest hotspot, has seen a reduction in the number of new people infected with COVID-19 as residents have abided by the rules.

"I really want to thank the people of Fairfield local government area - in the last few days we've seen a reduction in the cases that local council area has," Berejiklian said.

"We also know that they're the least mobile in all of New South Wales - they've actually been doing the right thing.

"Now we know there's greater risk in the Canterbury Bankstown area. So we ask residents in the Canterbury Bankstown area, in Liverpool, in the Cumberland local government area to be extra, extra careful and please abide by the rules."

Of the 145 new cases of community transmission in NSW, of which 76 were active in the community for all or part of their infectious period, meaning only around half were isolating for the entire time they were infectious.

"Can I stress again that it's really important for people not to leave home unless they absolutely have to," NSW Premier Berejiklian said.

In addition to abiding by lockdown rules, both Berejiklian and NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant stressed the importance of getting vaccinated.

It comes after the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) changed its advice regarding the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine over the weekend, now recommending all adults aged over 18 go out and get that jab.

"I welcome the revised health advice, which now says that all adults can get the vaccine, so please come forward and get vaccinated," Berejiklian said.

"Especially in those Southwestern Sydney suburbs and Western Sydney areas. We now have additional clinics, we've got pharmacists that are online, your GPs - its really important for people to get vaccinated.

"Not only does the vaccine assist in keeping you out of hospital, but it also helps protect your loved ones because we know that the vaccine helps in reducing how contagious people are."

Updated at 11.41am AEST on 26 July 2021.

Raft of new exposure sites listed in Gold Coast, Brisbane as delayed case reports come through

Raft of new exposure sites listed in Gold Coast, Brisbane as delayed case reports come through

Update (27 July): It has been confirmed by Queensland Health that genome sequencing has linked the latest case who travelled from China to another hotel quarantine guest from South Africa, who had flown to Australia from Doha.

Queenslanders have been urged to keep a close eye on a growing list of exposure sites in the wake of revelations about two new cases in particular - a Sydneysider who is now known as the index case for a flight attendant whose positive test was revealed on Friday, and a man who returned to Australia from China.

Westfield Chermside, two Nundah locations, Harbour Town, Pacific Fair, the Q Super Centre in Mermaid Waters, a childcare centre in Parkwood, and a Chinese restaurant in Southport are among the new venues listed.

Yesterday the state's health authorities confirmed the flight crew member had likely been infected with COVID-19 when she picked up a man from Ballina, NSW - a close contact of a known COVID-19 case - on 14 July, giving some relief to regional communities and passengers connected to her previous flights to and from Longreach, Gladstone and Harvey Bay.

Today the Queensland Government has revealed one new case of community transmission who not only passed three negative COVID-19 tests before being released from hotel quarantine in Brisbane, but came forward for testing almost two weeks ago.

"I'm not sure of the acquisition of this case. It could have been in China, it could have been in hotel quarantine, or indeed it could have been in the community down in the Gold Coast," says Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young.

The man returned to his home on the Gold Coast on 12 July, but as he and his family felt unwell they went to their GP the next day and got tested.

It must be noted that visiting your local doctor is discouraged in these circumstances and that the health advice is to present to a COVID-19 testing clinic instead if you have symptoms.

"We got that first test result back yesterday, but it was a very, very high CT (cycle threshold) value so not a lot of virus, so we're just trying to work through what exactly that meant," says Dr Young.

"We got a second test done and that's come back at a moderate level of a CT value which means there's a reasonable amount of virus."

A CT value relates to how many cycles it takes for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect the virus, implying an inverse relationship between how high the CT value is and the viral load.

This value has no bearing on the severity of disease, but it can give health professionals or contact tracers a signal as to the stage of the virus a patient might be in and how infectious they are.

"So that [moderate CT value] means he's definitely at the acute stage of the new infection. So we'll just work through what that means," Dr Young says.

"We've already spoken to him, of course, and worked out where he's been out in the community and we've put all of those exposures sides up on our website. So there's quite a number of those for people to be aware of.

"Anyone who's been in the Gold Coast or in Brisbane, since 13th of July, please look at her website and check and see if you've been to any of those exposure sites."

Updated at 12:16pm AEST on 26 July 2021.


ATAGI changes AstraZeneca vaccine advice for adults in Sydney

ATAGI changes AstraZeneca vaccine advice for adults in Sydney

Advice surrounding the administration of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine has changed over the weekend, with all adults in Sydney now asked to "strongly consider" getting the jab as cases continue to rise in the New South Wales capital.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a statement on Saturday regarding the immunisation of all adults in Sydney, slightly changing its advice.

The advisory group's new advice is that all adults aged 18 years and older in greater Sydney should "strongly consider" getting vaccinated with any available vaccine, including AstraZeneca.

"This is on the basis of the increasing risk of COVID-19 and ongoing constraints of Comirnaty (Pfizer) supplies," ATAGI said.

"In addition, people in areas where outbreaks are occurring can receive the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine 4 to 8 weeks after the first dose, rather than the usual 12 weeks, to bring forward optimal protection."

The advice is a departure from ATAGI's previous communication that the AstraZeneca vaccine was not recommended for those aged under 60 because of a blood clotting risk for younger Australians.

However, due to the size of the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney, ATAGI said the benefits of receiving the AstraZeneca jab were greater than the risk of rare side effects for all age groups.

"In the context of the current risk of COVID-19 in NSW and with the ongoing constraints on Comirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine supplies, all adults in greater Sydney should strongly consider the benefits of earlier protection with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca rather than waiting for alternative vaccines," ATAGI said.

"Maximal protection requires two doses of vaccine, but even a single dose of either vaccine provides substantial protection (by more than 70 per cent) against hospitalisation.

"A single dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca partially reduces transmission by around half and therefore may also benefit close contacts and the community."

The updated advice preceded a Federal Government announcement on Sunday that an additional 85 million doses of the Pfizer jab had been secured - 60 million of which will come this year and 25 million in 2023.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new supply schedule would provide every Australian with a booster vaccine if required.

"We have secured an additional 85 million doses of Pfizer, which brings Australia's total Pfizer doses to 125 million," the Prime Minister said.

"This is a significant shot in the arm for Australia's vaccine supply. Every Australian will have access to a booster shot if it is needed.

"This will ensure individuals, families and communities have certainty about their continued protection against the evolving threat of COVID-19 over the next two years. We have turned the corner in Australia's vaccine programme, and this is another milestone on our pathway back to a normal life."

COVID cases rise nationally

The updates come amid a weekend during which three Australian states were in lockdown and hundreds of fines were issued and dozens charged following anti-lockdown protests in Sydney.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was "utterly disgusted" by the protests.

"It just broke my heart that people had such a disregard for their fellow citizens," the Premier said.

As the protests were happening on Saturday NSW recorded 163 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19, and then 141 on Sunday.

Interstate, South Australia and Victoria also recorded new locally acquired cases ahead of planned easing of lockdown restrictions.

SA's situation is looking positive ahead of the end of its seven-day lockdown, set to finish on Tuesday, recording one new locally acquired case on Saturday and two on Sunday - all of which were in isolation while infectious.

Victoria recorded 12 new cases on Saturday and 11 on Sunday. All of Sunday's cases were in isolation while infectious.

Meanwhile Queensland authorities are scrambling to identify new exposure sites in the state after a man from Sydney ignored quarantine orders and travelled to the state, spending days in the community.

As such, several contact tracing locations in Chermside and Nundah were issued on Sunday afternoon, including multiple times and dates for Goodstart Early Learning Centre in Parkwood on the Gold Coast from 13 to 23 July.

The full list of new Queensland exposure sites can be found here.

Updated at 10.15am AEST on 26 July 2021.

Daniel Andrews calls for "ring of steel" around Sydney as Victoria records 14 new cases

Daniel Andrews calls for "ring of steel" around Sydney as Victoria records 14 new cases

After Gladys Berejiklian today declared the COVID-19 situation in New South Wales a "national emergency", her counterpart in Victoria has demanded a ring of steel be placed around Sydney to ensure the highly infectious Delta strain stops leaking interstate.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews made the comments this morning during his daily COVID-19 update during which it was revealed the state had recorded 14 new locally acquired cases of the coronavirus overnight.

"We need a ring of steel around Sydney so that this virus is not spreading into other parts of our nation," Andrews said.

"Let's focus on fixing what's going on in Sydney, let's focus on not spreading what's going on in Sydney across the rest of our country - we'll finish up with the whole country in lockdown.

"The last thing I want is Victorians to see off this second Delta outbreak, only to have further incursions because what's been going on in Sydney has not been contained to Sydney."

It comes as Victoria records 14 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases, of which three were infectious in the community and one is still under investigation.

"We now have 75 per cent plus of our new cases isolated, no risk to public health, no risk to anyone else," Andrews said.

"That's a triumph of the work that our entire public health team is doing, but its also a testament to about 20,000 people who are at home, isolating, to keep everybody else safe."

The state conducted circa 43,500 tests yesterday which Andrews says gives health authorities a "pretty complete picture of what's going on".

The Premier has encouraged Victorians to continue to get tested to give him confidence that lockdown restrictions can ease next week.

"It's very difficult for us today, on Friday, to predict what will happen next Tuesday at midnight," the Premier said.

"But I would say that the trend is with us - these results are very encouraging."

Updated at 12.29pm AEST on 23 July 2021.