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Covid-19 News Updates

Byron Bay, Lismore, Ballina and Richmond Valley in lockdown for one week

Byron Bay, Lismore, Ballina and Richmond Valley in lockdown for one week

The four New South Wales North Coast local government areas (LGAs) of Byron Shire, Richmond Valley, Lismore and Ballina Shire have tonight joined the list of regional hubs under lockdown following updated health advice.

The four LGAs entered lockdown at 6pm AEST today, and will remain under stay-at-home restrictions until 12.01am Tuesday 17 August, after a positive case was detected in the region.

The new restrictions came into effect just hours after the NSW state government put Tamworth into lockdown at 5pm today, and two days after Armidale entered a snap seven-day lockdown on Saturday.

The rules for these areas will be the same as those already in place across Greater Sydney, as well as Tamworth, Armidale, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Singleton, Dungog, Muswellbrook and Cessnock.

Everyone in these areas must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave. They also cannot have visitors in their home from outside their household, including family and friends.

People still can have one visitor at one time to fulfil carers' responsibilities or provide care or assistance, or for compassionate reasons, including where two people are in a relationship but do not live together.

People also cannot enter the Byron Shire, Richmond Valley, Lismore and Ballina Shire LGAs without a reasonable excuse to do so.

“We understand this is a difficult time for the community and appreciate their ongoing patience and cooperation,” the NSW Government said.

“We are asking people not to seek exceptions to the rules, but to ensure they comply with them so we do not see further cases of COVID-19 in the community.”

The lockdown comes after a man in his 50s tested positive to COVID-19 after arriving in Byron Shire.

He travelled from Sydney in late July and is currently being treated at Lismore Base Hospital.

The NSW Government has also confirmed the man did not enter Queensland during his infectious period.

Byron Shire Mayor Michael Lyon said Council was told about the situation this morning and staff are now working with authorities on getting additional testing facilities open, including the Cavanbah Centre on Ewingsdale Road at Byron Bay.

“The first message is - if anyone is not feeling well please, please go and get tested,” Lyon said.

“Details about the positive COVID case are still emerging and NSW Police and NSW Health are working on this.

“While these investigations are being done and information is being gathered people should be making sure they are checking in with QR codes whenever they go into a shop or business, wearing a face mask and social distancing."

Updated at 6.19pm AEST on 9 August 2021.

First Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in September as TGA gives green light

First Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in September as TGA gives green light

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has granted provisional approval to another COVID-19 vaccine, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison believes puts Australia on track to having 70 per cent of the population vaccinated by the year's end.

The Administration has granted provisional approval to provide Moderna's Spikevax (elasomeran) vaccine as an immunisation against COVID-19 for individuals aged 18 years and older.

Like Pfizer/BioNTech's Comirnaty vaccine which is currently the preferred option for younger people, Moderna's product is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine.

"We will have 10 million of the Moderna doses arriving before the end of this year," the Prime Minister said.

"The first one million doses is on track to arrive next month and will go to pharmacies. Then we’ll have three million in October, three million in November and three million in December.

"This is another important tool that we have in our battle against COVID."

A further 15 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been secured for 2022, but the PM is optimistic for the nearer term as well.

"We have more Pfizer, we have more AstraZeneca, and now we have Moderna," he said.

"With more than 1.3 million vaccine doses delivered in just one week, that is almost the population of the city of Adelaide, with 676 pharmacy sites, with 5,765 GPs enlisted and out there providing jabs and providing important advice, and with the state hubs that are in place and rolling out, the national plan to get jabs in working with a plan to get 70 per cent of Australians vaccinated before the end of the year."

It is recommended that the Moderna vaccine is given in two doses that are administered 28 days apart.

"The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has shown strong efficacy preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and severe COVID-19 in clinical trials," the TGA stated.

"The vaccine has also received regulatory approval or emergency authorisation in several countries and is being widely used in the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union, the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

"Provisional approval of this vaccine in Australia is subject to certain strict conditions, such as the requirement for Moderna Australia Pty Ltd to continue providing information to the TGA on longer-term efficacy and safety from ongoing clinical trials and post-market assessment."

The TGA will make a separate announcement in due course about people aged under 18.

"Data to support the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents aged 12 to 17 years are currently under evaluation and no specific concerns have been identified to date," the administration stated.

"Australians can be confident that the TGA's review process of Spikevax (elasomeran) was rigorous.

"The decision to provisionally approve the vaccine was also informed by expert advice from the Advisory Committee on Vaccines (ACV), an independent committee with expertise in scientific, medical and clinical fields including consumer representation."

The TGA highlighted mRNA vaccines use a synthetic genetic code called RNA to give our cells instructions about how to make the coronavirus’ unique spike protein.

"When our body has made the protein encoded by the mRNA vaccine, it then recognises the spike protein as being foreign and launches an immune response against it," the administration stated.

"The RNA from the vaccine does not change, or interact, with our DNA in any way."

Updated at 4:59pm AEST on 9 August 2021.

Regional Victoria to exit lockdown from midnight tonight

Regional Victoria to exit lockdown from midnight tonight

With no new COVID-19 cases being recorded outside of Melbourne, the state’s chief health officer has advised the government to lift lockdown restrictions in regional Victoria from 11.59pm tonight.

It comes as Victoria recorded 11 new cases of the coronavirus today, all linked to known outbreaks, but only one was in quarantine while infectious.

From 11.59pm tonight, the five reasons to leave the home will be removed in regional Victoria and there will be no limit on the distance they can travel from home.

However, people will only be able to travel to Melbourne for a permitted reason, and once in the capital city travellers must abide by ongoing lockdown restrictions.

While lockdown will be lifted, private gatherings in regional Victorian homes are still not permitted, but outdoor gatherings in public spaces can occur with up to 10 people.

Face masks will also still be mandatory indoors and outdoors.

Food and hospitality will open for seated service only, and a density requirement of one person per 4sqm will apply, with a maximum of 100 people per venue. Venues smaller than 100sqm can have up to 25 people before density requirements apply.

Retail can also open and personal services such as beauty and tattooing can resume. Face masks can be removed where required for the service to be performed.

Religious gatherings and ceremonies are allowed, with density requirements of one person per 4sqm, and no more than 100 people total indoors and 300 people outdoors per venue.

Weddings and funerals are also able to have up to 50 people at a venue. This limit doesn’t include infants under 12 months of age, or the people required to conduct the service.

Community sport is open for all ages, including training and competition. Only the minimum number of participants (players, coaches, referees, officials, and carers or parents) needed to train or compete are permitted to attend, subject to a density quotient of one person per 4sqm. Spectators are not permitted.

Entertainment venues can have up to 300 people per outdoor space with a density requirement of one person per 4sqm and a cap of 100 people per space indoors. All entertainment facilities are required to have a COVID check-in marshal to monitor patrons checking-in with the Service Victoria app.

“We’ve always said the moment it’s safe to lift restrictions we will. While we continue to get on top of this outbreak in Melbourne, minimal primary close contacts and no new cases means we can ease setting in regional Victoria,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“This outbreak is an important reminder that until more Australians are vaccinated, we cannot afford complacency to creep in – we must stay safe to stay open.”

Most new Melbourne COVID cases in the community while infectious

With 10 of today’s 11 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in the community while infectious, the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has warned this trend will continue over the coming days.

“At the beginning of an outbreak we have many people not isolating," said Andrews.

"As the outbreak unfolds, more and more people will be away from others and not a risk to public health.”

The new infections takes the number of active COVID cases in this latest community outbreak to 56, which have been detected from more than 1 million test since 12 July.

“It’s a fantastic effort and it’s central to our fight against this virus,” said Andrews on Victoria meeting the one million test milestone.

There are now 12,738 close contacts now associated with the active clusters, with almost 9,000 of those being staff and students of a number of schools connected to the outbreak.

“This shows how quickly this outbreak has sped up and how quickly we’ve activated a really significant response,” Victorian COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar said.

Updated at 12.00pm AEST on 9 August 2021.

Tamworth to enter lockdown, Byron Bay on high alert

Tamworth to enter lockdown, Byron Bay on high alert

New alerts are popping up all over regional NSW.

After Armidale entered a snap seven-day lockdown on Saturday, the same will happen in Tamworth from 5pm today after a woman from Newcastle who was exposed to COVID-19 visited numerous locations in the Northern Tablelands city.

Meanwhile, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the Northern Rivers community is on high alert following a new positive case in Byron Bay - a man in his 50s who travelled from Sydney in late July, who is currently being interviewed as health authorities establish exposure sites and determine the next course of action.

In the 24 hours to 8pm last night there were 283 new cases of COVID-19 in NSW and one death. Only 106 of the new cases were in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period.

"The epicentre of the virus in NSW and Sydney still remains the Canterbury Bankstown local government area (LGA)," Premier Berejiklian said.

But new clusters have the potential to take hold in other parts of the state. The Hunter and Upper Hunter regions have been in a one-week lockdown that began last Thursday, and from there it is possible the virus may have spread to almost 400km away in Tamworth.

"Unfortunately, somebody from Newcastle went to Tamworth and there's a number of exposure sites in Tamworth," the Premier said.

"There aren't any cases there yet, but we do know the person went from Newcastle to Tamworth and visited a number of locations, so as a precaution the health experts have recommended that we lock down Tamworth for one week starting from five o'clock today.

"I understand there's already been discussions with community leaders and people on the ground in that area."

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the woman who visited those exposure sites travelled from Newcastle on 4 August and arrived in Tamworth on 5 August.

"I'll just disclose that a young lady was exposed to COVID in Newcastle," Dr Chant said.

Anyone who attended the following venues in Tamworth and Newcastle at the indicated times is considered a close contact, and must get tested and isolate for 14 days:

  • Inland Cafe Tamworth - 9:15-10am, 5 August
  • The Tudor Hotel Tamworth - 11-11:40am, 5 August
  • Habesha Ethiopian Restaurant, Tamworth - 31 July - 5 August
  • Mr Rice Takeaway, Cooks Hill, Newcastle - 3-3:20pm, 4 August

If anyone attended the following venues on the specific dates and times, they are considered casual contacts and must get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result:

  • Gloria Jeans, Tamworth - 9:15-9:20am, 5 August
  • The Super Vape Store, Tamworth - 10:55-11:05, 5 August
  • Ampol Roadhouse, Tamworth - 12:25-12:30pm, 5 August

"She then returned to Newcastle on the 5th of August, and hence why there is no additional exposure being is from that time," Dr Chant said.

She said testing was also underway to determine the source of the infection for the latest case in Byron Bay.

"He is currently being re-interviewed and we are also arranging urgent testing of his two household contacts, and once we have more information we'll be alerting to the community in terms of any venues that he's checked into. At the moment we don't have any venues that he's checked in using his QR codes at this time," Dr Chant said.

11:38am AEST on 9 August 2021.



QLD down to four new locally acquired cases, all in iso

QLD down to four new locally acquired cases, all in iso

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has reported four new cases of COVID-19, who were all in quarantine for their entire infectious period and have been linked to the Indooroopilly school cluster.

"That's the sort of news we want to wake up to," the Premier said.

There are now 12,364 people in home quarantine in Queensland, and Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young has reinforced the importance that these individuals continue to follow the isolation orders given one of the new cases today is a teacher at Ironside State School.

"So we're still seeing first generation cases. We all have to remember that the incubation period is 14 days, so it's really important that all of those 12,000 people do stay and adhere to that quarantine, as we go forwards," Dr Young said.

"Anyone who's in home quarantine, if they become positive that entire household then has to remain in quarantine for another 14 days, so this is a lengthy process but we all have to work together to get through."

She noted one case was a parent related to a child who attends Ironside, another is a household contact of a Brisbane Boys' Grammar School student, and the fourth is another household contact of an Ironside student.

Premier Palaszczuk has also announced as of 11 August the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC) will be opening as a mass vaccination centre, also with free parking.

"What we do know is some of that Pfizer is going to be coming on faster over the next couple of weeks, so from Wednesday this convention centre will be open from 8:30 to 4:30, and we are now asking people if you are between 16 and 59, you can now register on the Queensland Health website," Premier Palaszczuk said.

"Of course, a lot of people will still be going to their GPs or the pharmacist to get their vaccine. I've just heard I think that that Commonwealth Government has also approved Moderna, so we'll be getting more information about Moderna."

The Premier said there were 26,394 tests in the last 24 hours, which is a good result but Queensland residents are urged to keep up those testing numbers.

Today's update comes after 11 local government areas (LGAs) in Southeast Queensland came out of lockdown yesterday afternoon, while at the same time Cairns entered one after it was revealed a taxi driver in the Far North Queensland city had been infectious in the community for around 10 days.

The taxi driver has now been linked to a marine pilot in the Cairns area, with a lot of contact tracing now underway to establish new exposure sites. Many have been published on Queensland Health's list of sites, including Raintrees Shopping Centre in Manuda, Brothers Leagues Club in the same suburb, Café China in Parramatta Park, a medical centre and QML Pathology.

Updated at 10:49am AEST on 9 August 2021.

South East Queensland out of lockdown as Cairns emerges as new hotspot

South East Queensland out of lockdown as Cairns emerges as new hotspot

The South East Queensland lockdown will be lifted at 4pm today, but a positive case active in Cairns has plunged the state's far north into a snap three-day lockdown after it was declared a new COVID hotspot.

Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk, fresh out of hotel quarantine after returning from the Tokyo Olympics, today announced nine new cases with seven of them linked to the Indooroopilly school cluster that led to the current lockdown of 11 local government areas in the state's south-east. The other two were on the Gold Coast and Cairns.

The Cairns infection, a taxi driver, has caught authorities by surprise, leading to a 'hard and fast' response in the state's north.

"We are quite concerned about this," says Palaszczuk. "He's been infectious in the community for about 10 days."

The news comes as NSW today recorded 262 new locally acquired cases and one death, an aged-care resident in her 80s, while Victoria announced 11 new locally acquired cases with all of them not in quarantine throughout their infectious period.

Although lockdown in Queensland's South East will end at 4pm today, some restrictions will remain in place for the next two weeks, while there is a new public health directive for teachers, staff and high school students to wear masks.

"We're not out of the woods," says Palaszczuk. "We are dealing with the Delta strain; it is highly, highly infectious and I can tell you from my conversations in Tokyo and people from around the world, this strain is sweeping the world. We need to make sure we are making some extra precautions."

With the focus on the risks at schools, Queensland has also announced school staff and childcare workers as a high-risk priority group to be added to the 1B priority list for COVID-19 vaccinations. They will be joined by FIFO, freight and distribution centre workers.

"The Delta strain has taken a heavy toll on our schools, and we need to provide the best possible protection for staff and students," says Palaszczuk. "This strain of the virus moves incredibly quickly, and we need to be just as fast in our response."

South East Queensland restrictions

Although the 11 local government areas in the state's south-east are out of lockdown from Sunday at 4pm, some restrictions are still in place. These restrictions will apply to Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Ipswich, Logan City, Redlands, Sunshine Coast, Noosa, Somerset, Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and the Gold Coast.

  • No more than 10 people are allowed in homes, including those who live there, and in public spaces. Visits to patients in hospital and residents in aged-care facilities are permitted, unless a person is subject to a home quarantine order.
  • Weddings and funerals are allowed a maximum of 20 people.
  • Businesses and venues, including places of worship, conventions centres, retail, dining, gyms, hairdressers, beauty and personal cares services are allowed to operate on the one person per 4sqm rule - or 50 per cent with ticketed or allocated seating for venues.
  • Community sports are not permitted over the next two weeks.
  • Masks must continue to be worn in the workplace and indoor areas where social distancing is not possible.

"If you are living within those 11 LGAs, you can travel within those LGAs but now is not the time to be travelling in regional Queensland unless you are an essential worker," says Palaszczuk. "Please put off plans to visit family and friends for the next two weeks."

Cairns lockdown

Palaszczuk says the positive case in Cairns was 'something we were not expecting' and has urged residents to get tested to determine if it had spread further into the community. A decision on extending the lockdown will be made later in the week.

From 4pm today, Cairns and Yarrabah will be in lockdown for three days with the same restrictions that applied to the 11 LGAs in sSouth East Queensland. Residents in these areas must stay at home except for the following reasons:

  • Obtaining essentials such as groceries or medications
  • Essential work if you can't work from home
  • Exercise within you r local area (within a 10km radius of your home,with no more than one person from outside your household)
  • Healthcare, including to get  a COVID-19 test or vaccination, or to provide help, care or support to a vulnerable person, or for an end-of-life vi sit to a hospital or aged-care facility.

Two visitors are allowed into a home excluding those who live there while no visitors are allowed for those in home quarrantine. Weddings and funerals can take place where they are ordinarily held with a maximum 20 people onsite including those officiating.

Schools and childcare is only open for children of essential workers and vulnerable children while universities and TAFE is online learning only. 

Masks must be worn at all times outdoors including public transport or rideshare unless alone or with members of your household; eating or drinking; doing strenuous exercise or it is unsafe. Masks must be worn indoors including workplaces, even where physical distancing is possible unless working alone in a closed office, you are at your residence and there is no one else there except people you live with; eating or drinking or it is unsafe.

The Queensland Government will be looking at a business support package for those affected in the region. Details have yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, the positive Gold Coast case has Jeannette Young, Queensland's chief medical officer, perplexed.

The positive result had a very high CT value which meant there was high level of virus detected. Subsequent tests have proved negative, and the person's family is now in isolation.

"We're waiting to get a genome sequence on it to see what it might be," says Young. "It is really important that anyone on the Gold Coast with any symptoms at all please come forward and get tested so we can work out what has happened there and whether there has been any spread."

NSW records 262 new local cases

NSW recorded 262 new locally acquired cases over the 24 hours to 8pm last night. The cases include 88 from Western Sydney's Local Health District (LHD), 31 from Sydney LHD, 21 from Nepean Blue Mountains LHD, 17 from South Eastern Sydney LHD, 12 from Hunter New England LHD, three from Northern Sydney LHD and two from Central Coast LHD.

The new cases follow a lockdown announced yesterday for the Armidale Regional Local Government Area, covering Armidale and Guyra, from 5pm until 12.01am Sunday 15 August.

Because of the rise in transmissions, 12 suburbs in the City of Penrith LGA will now be part of areas of concern, along with the eight previously identified LGAs, and have additional restrictions from 5pm today. These suburbs, which are adjacent to the Cumberland and Liverpool LGAs, are Caddens, Claremont Meadows, Colyton, Erskine Park, Kemps Creek, Kingswood, Mount Vernon, North St Marys, Orchard Hills, Oxley Park, St Clair, and St Mary's.

In line with the restrictions currently in place for Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta LGAs, people in these 12 suburbs must only obtain food or other goods and services, and exercise, within 5km of their home. You cannot travel to other areas for work unless you are an authorised worker.

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Business News Australia

Higher case numbers likely for NSW as state records 291 new local infections

Higher case numbers likely for NSW as state records 291 new local infections

New South Wales has today reported the highest daily case number from the current outbreak to date with 291 new infections confirmed.

According to Premier Gladys Berejiklian the daily case numbers are likely going to stay high in the coming days, with infection numbers in the local government area (LGA) of Canterbury Bankstown of particular concern to health authorities.

"I do want to foreshadow that, given this high number of cases, we're likely to see this trend continue for the next few days," Berejiklian said.

"I'm expecting higher case numbers in the next few days and I just want everybody to be prepared for that."

Of today's cases, 91 were in isolation throughout their infectious period and 96 were in the community for part or all of their infectious period. The isolation status of 104 cases remains under investigation.

The state also reported another death today - a woman in her 60s from Southwestern Sydney who tested positive on 29 July and acquired her infection in the Liverpool Hospital.

Two new cases were reported in the Newcastle area overnight after the Hunter and Upper Hunter regions went into lockdown yesterday, however both cases are linked to already known infections.

Even though all of the cases in the Newcastle cluster are linked, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant has called upon residents of the regional hub and the surrounding areas to come forward for testing.

"We need those high testing rates to give us that assurance that we're not missing those chains of transmission," Dr Chant said.

Dr Chant also stressed that while the curve in Fairfield has been flattening, she is concerned about rising case numbers in the LGA of Canterbury Bankstown.

"We're seeing escalating cases in Campsie, Bankstown, Lakemba, Punchbowl, Wiley Park, Yagoona, Greenacre, Earlwood, Bass Hill, Canterbury and Chester Hill," Dr Chant said.

"So it is important for anyone going into that area for essential work, working in that area, living in that area to be very very vigilant.

"We are seeing transmission, potentially around shopping areas, and so I urge everyone do not enter shops when there are other people in the shop. Wait outside, keep your social distance, wear your mask correctly at all times, and stay safe."

Premier issues a "call to arms" for vaccine uptake

One of today's key messages from the NSW Premier was encouraging people to get vaccinated.

Her message comes as the state revealed around 84,000 people received a jab on Wednesday, but Berejiklian said she wants that number to increase.

"I also, again, want to really literally send out a call to arms in New South Wales: please come forward and get vaccinated," Berejiklian said.

"We are doing better than what we had previously in terms of the number of people getting vaccinated every day and that's a positive.

"I can't tell you how important it is for us to get those vaccination rates up, because it will give government better options on what we can do moving forward and certainly the health experts will feel more confident giving us advice once we know we have higher rates off vaccination."

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard echoed the Premier's comments, particularly in relation to Year 12 students in Sydney LGAs of concern who are set to receive a Pfizer jab soon, calling it a "golden opportunity".

"You have your HSC coming up in October, and in order to be able to do that safely, for you to be able to go sit your exams, you're being given a golden opportunity to attend the Qudos Bank Arena next week," Hazzard said.

"We've seen the most amazing stars in the Qudos Bank Arena. There's been Lana Del Rey, Keith Urban, Pink, just so many people.

"You have the chance to go into that stadium next week and actually land some gold by getting your first vaccination."

Updated at 11.53am AEST on 6 August 2021.

Another $400m in support on its way for Victorian businesses

Another $400m in support on its way for Victorian businesses

Around 95,000 Victorian businesses will be eligible to receive $2,800 payments under round three of the Business Costs Assistance Program (BCAP), after State and Federal Governments agreed to a co-funding scheme worth $400 million.

Pakula told a press conference this morning the payments would be made automatically to registered businesses, but those that hadn't taken part previously could apply with applications open until next week.

"Last night after the lockdown was confirmed, my department put together a $400 million package to support more than 100,000 Victorian businesses. Treasurer Pallas then spoke to Treasurer Frydenberg in order to seek Commonwealth 50 per cent co-contribution," Pakula said.

"Very pleasingly, the Commonwealth has agreed to that. I spoke to Treasurer Frydenberg about a half an hour ago.

"We are very grateful for that support. It means that this package can be in the vicinity of $400 million for a seven-day lockdown, which is above and beyond what we've been able to do in the past."

He said the new funding added to $950 million in support paid to businesses through the May, June and July restriction periods.

He noted a wide variety of businesses would be eligible for the BCAP support, including gyms, cafes, restaurants, caterers, hairdressers, dance and swim schools, tourism businesses and events businesses.

The new funding will also go towards the Licensed Hospitality Venue Fund (LHVF), which will also be paid automatically based on the patron capacity of recipients: $5,000 for venues that hold up to 199 people; $10,000 for those that host between 200 and 499; and $20,000 for venues with a capacity of 500 or greater.

Minister Pakula added the Small Business COVID Hardship Fund, previously offering $5,000 grants with total funding worth $85 million, would be lifted to $8,000 grants with a total funding of around $139 million.

"That will be based on demonstration of turnover reduction of 70 per cent," he said.

There will be another round of support for the Alpine Business Support Program, with grants of between $5,000 and $20,000 that will support 430 Alpine businesses.

"I'd finally indicate that in regards to the Commonwealth Disaster Payments, we are waiting on a hotspot declaration from the Commonwealth - we believe that that will apply to Greater Melbourne, and those payments are up to $450 from eight to 20 hours, that's $750 for over 20 hours, administered through Services Australia," he said.

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas said the Victorian Government has provided more than $7 billion in direct economic support for Victorian businesses since the start of the pandemic.

"Every step of the way since this global pandemic began, Victoria has not shirked its responsibility to back our business community this is immediate and targeted support right now, when it is needed most," the Victorian Treasurer said.

Parliament passes rent relief scheme

The announcement comes after a commercial rent relief scheme, flagged on Tuesday, passed in Victorian Parliament yesterday.

Businesses that have experienced a loss in turnover of more than 30 per cent during the pandemic are now guaranteed to receive rent reductions, while separate support will be provided to landlords.

Tenants' percentage drop in turnover will determine the amount of initial rent relief available to the tenant.

For example, a business with a turnover of 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels can only be charged 40 per cent of its rent. Of the balance, at least half must be waived, with the remainder to be deferred.

The Government is also ensuring new businesses don't miss out on the assistance. Special arrangements will be in place to assess the turnover impacts for new businesses which were not operating in 2019.

To help landlords that are doing the right thing by eligible tenants, the Government will provide land tax relief of up to 25 per cent, in addition to any previous relief, at an estimated cost of $100 million.

Small landlords who can demonstrate acute hardship will be eligible to apply for payments as part of a $20 million hardship fund.

"This passing of this legislation provides peace of mind for small businesses who are struggling to pay the rent, giving them the security they need," Minister for Small Business Jaala Pulford said.

"Tenants and landlords have already been working together really well and we'd encourage them to continue to do so to achieve fair outcomes."

COVID-19 update

There are now 84 exposure sites in Victoria but the state's COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar expects the number will grow throughout the day, after six new locally acquired cases were reported for yesterday.

Three of those cases are linked to the Hobsons Bay community outbreak and the other three are connected to the Maribyrnong cluster. 

"A further six people remain in hospital with two in ICU (intensive care units). Both of those are on a ventilator, and we send our best wishes for a quick recovery for those people," Health Minister Martin Foley said.

"There were 29,631 tests yesterday particularly as we ramp up our targeted testing in response to the new cases."

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has listed two flights as tier one exposure sites as a positive case travelled From Sydney to Launceston via Melbourne, including VA808 and VA1364, both on 2 August.

"If you were on these flights, you need to isolate for 14 days, and of course to get tested immediately," Foley said.

"My advice is that the positive case entered Melbourne on a valid transit permit. He was screened and escorted to his transiting flight by the public health compliance team, all wearing appropriate PPE for their protection. These staff now are having to be furloughed and are being tested and isolated as a precaution.

"My understanding is that the person from Sydney was detained in Launceston, tested as part of their arrangements, sent back to Sydney, and his positive case became apparent after he had already left Tasmania on a direct flight to Sydney."

He said Victoria was now in a "precarious position" when it comes to where this particular series of outbreaks are at the moment.

"It is in all of our hands to continue to work together to work with our public health teams to get on top of and ahead of this particular outbreak," Foley said.

Updated at 12:07pm AEST on 6 August 2021.

QLD closer to trigger for lockdown lift, but new cases still in double digits

QLD closer to trigger for lockdown lift, but new cases still in double digits

"We're not there yet, so we genuinely need to keep doing what we've been doing so effectively," says Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young.

Queensland has reported 10 new cases linked to the Indooroopilly school cluster of whom only two were infectious while in the community, but authorities aren't yet in a position to make a call on whether a lockdown for the state's lockdown will be lifted on Sunday.

This compares to 16 new locally acquired yesterday, while the number of daily new cases who were out and about with the virus has fallen in half.

Half the new cases are adults and the other half are children, all linked in some way to Indooroopilly State High School (ISHS), Ironside State School and Brisbane Boys Grammar School.

"Eight were not infectious in the community at all, two were infectious in the community for one day and that was during the Southeast Queensland lockdown period," Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.

"That brings to 89 the total number of cases in the Indooroopilly Delta cluster."

There were 48,028 people who got tested yesterday which is short of yesterday's state record above 52,000 but still a "very, very good result", according to Miles.

"We need to continue to see low case numbers, all linked, declining infectious days in the community and a high rate of testing, and if we can keep that up then we will be able to begin to ease these restrictions," Miles said.

"That's all very reassuring, but we've got to keep it up for the next few days. We're not there yet, so we genuinely need to keep doing what we've been doing so effectively," Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young added.

Given Victoria has gone back into lockdown just seven days after lifting the previous one, Miles said hotspot restrictions will be reapplied to the state so that those arriving from Victoria after 1am Sunday will need to go into hotel quarantine.

"Yesterday was also a tragic day for New South Wales and our hearts go out to everyone in the Greater Sydney area and New South Wales more generally battling the outbreak there."

At the time of writing there have been fewer additions to Queensland Health's list of exposure sites, although another school - Anglican Church Grammar - has been listed, at one of its sporting fields. This adds to several schools listed for various dates and times, including the aforementioned schools, St Peters Lutheran College, Brigidine College, Pullenvale State School, Holy Family School and St Aidan's Anglican Girls' School.

Updated at 10:37am AEST on 5 August 2021.

NSW loan deferrals spike as lockdown continues

NSW loan deferrals spike as lockdown continues

Data released today by the Australian Banking Association (ABA) reveals more than 20,000 customers have received hardship assistance during recent lockdowns, with the majority coming from New South Wales.

Since 8 July, more than 14,500 homes loans and 600 business loans have been deferred. Comparatively, during the peak of the crisis in 2020, almost 500,000 home loans and more than 225,000 business loans were deferred.

NSW home loan deferrals account for more than two thirds of the total, while almost 80 per cent of deferred business loans are also from the state. 

ABA CEO Anna Bligh says banks are reporting many calls for assistance coming from NSW businesses and families affected by the shutdown of the construction industry.

"Lockdowns continue to bite across several states, and banks are again stepping up to help," says Bligh.

"Support is available to all small businesses and home loan customers significantly impacted by current lockdowns or recovering from recent lockdowns, irrespective of geography or industry."

This week, the number of customers accessing hardship grew by 73 per cent, with the week before seeing 153 per cent growth.

Growth in housing loan deferrals slowed from 344 per cent to 79 per cent, while growth in business loans grew from 93 per cent to 108 per cent.

Almost 24,000 people since early July have accessed support measures offered by their bank, with 64 per cent of customers opting to defer their loan repayments for up to three months.

"Given the lockdown situation in South East Queensland, banks stand ready to assist customers who need help," says Bligh.

"The sooner you talk to your bank, the sooner they can help you find a solution that is right for you."

Updated at 9.50am AEST on 6 August 2021.