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Covid-19 News Updates

"There is no alternative": Victoria to enter seven-day lockdown

"There is no alternative": Victoria to enter seven-day lockdown

Victoria will enter its sixth lockdown for one week from 8pm tonight as authorities seek to stamp out the spread of "mystery" COVID-19 cases in the state.

It is expected Minister for Business Martin Pakula will make an announcement about business supports tomorrow, and the Premier is confident he can work with the Federal Government on a 50-50 split support program with automatic payments as per the recent lockdown.

"We know this will hurt a lot, and we will look to make those payments as quickly as we can using that automatic payment function that we've used before," Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Schools will close and there will only be five reasons to leave the house: getting the needed food and supplies, exercising for up to two hours, care or caregiving, authorised work or education if not possible from home, or getting vaccinated at the nearest possible location.

It comes after Victoria reported eight new locally acquired COVID-19 cases today, of which only three were connected to a known outbreak of the virus. 

"We have some reason to believe that there is COVID either in that community or has been in that community," the Premier said.

Andrews said today's decision was a "difficult one" but there was "no alternative" to the snap lockdown.

"I want to make it very clear; we only get one chance to act fast," Andrews said.

"I'd much prefer to wait two or three days, I'd much prefer that we didn't have to make this decision now. But my fear is that if we were to wait a few days...there's a chance that instead of being locked down for a week, this gets away from us and we are potentially locked down until we all get vaccinated."

Click here for a full list of exposure sites in Victoria

There has also been a positive COVID-19 detection at a sewage plant in Wangaratta, underscoring the decision to make the lockdown statewide rather than just limited to Melbourne.

"We have some reason to believe that there is COVID either in that community or has been in that community," he said.

"We don't get the luxury of assuming that we have all of the knowns, that we know everything about this. We've always got to assume there are more cases out there than we have positive test results, and with one sewage detection we have to assume that there are cases.

"That's why it's painful as it is and as counterintuitive sometimes as it as it is, we don't want this taking a hold in country Victoria. We just don't."

Under the new restrictions, shopping and exercise must be done within 5km of home or the nearest location.

Face masks will remain mandatory indoors and outdoors unless an exception applies -  this includes all workplaces and secondary schools.

Private gatherings are not permitted except for an intimate partner or nominated person visits. Public gatherings are not permitted. Exercise is limited to two people.

Childcare and Early Childhood Care will remain open. Schools will close, with primary and secondary school students returning to remote learning except for vulnerable children, and the children of authorised workers who can learn on site.

Updated at 4.30pm AEST on 5 August 2021.

WA confirms no new cases of COVID-19

WA confirms no new cases of COVID-19

Western Australia has reported no new cases of COVID-19 after concerns arose when a man working at the FMG Cloudbreak mine returned a weak positive test result yesterday afternoon.

It has been confirmed the man's close contacts have all tested negative, including his girlfriend and a housemate.

In addition, three workers who were in contact with the man have also returned negative results.

"This is very encouraging to begin with, but we need everyone to keep getting tested," WA Premier Mark McGowan said.

"In terms of close contacts, 83 have been identified so far with the majority of those on the Cloudbreak mine site.

"All are required to quarantine for 14 days and get tested."

A further 544 casual contacts have also been tracked down, with the expectation further test results will come in today.

"This is an unusual case, but we're taking it very seriously," the Premier said. 

New exposure sites have been identified in the Greenwood Village Shopping Centre on 31 July.

People who visited Coles between 3-3:30pm, Lewis Meats between 2:45-3pm and Baker's Delight between 2:45-3pm are being urged to immediately go and get tested.

Other exposure sites include the following:
Old Faithful Bar and BBQ - Fremantle
28/07/21: 5:00pm - 7:00pm

Indian Ocean Hotel (Indi Bar) - Scarborough
29/07/21: 7:30pm - 1:00am

MRKT SPACE - North Freemantle
31/07/21: 8:30am - 10:00am

Subiaco Hotel - Subiaco
31/07/21: 6:30pm - 12:00am

Southbank Day Surgery - South Perth
02/08/21: 6:30pm - 12:00am

Pathwest waiting room (Freemantle Hospital) - Freemantle
02/08/21: 1:00pm - 3:00pm

To see an updated list of exposure sites, click here.

Yesterday's positive result brings the total number of active cases of COVID-19 in the state to 10.

The state's vaccination turnout continues to be positive, with 16,388 receiving a dose yesterday. Of those, 9,453 were second doses.

Updated at 1.54pm AEST on 5 August 2021.

More exposure sites for Melbourne as Victoria records six new locally acquired cases

More exposure sites for Melbourne as Victoria records six new locally acquired cases

"Today's numbers are very much a reminder that this virus has not gone away," Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said.

A number of new exposure sites have been listed in Melbourne today after three of the six new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 were unable to be connected to any known outbreak of the virus.

The state government today actually announced eight new cases, though two of those will be included in tomorrow's numbers as they were identified after the official cut-off for reporting new infections.

Of the six new cases, three are close contacts of an already identified case and were isolating while infectious.

However, the remaining three cannot be traced to the current outbreak, and are being treated as two new lines of investigation for contact tracers.

One is a case that was identified late yesterday and is a person who lives in the Melbourne suburb of Maribyrnong.

Another case is a person who lives in the Hobsons Bay Area and a household contact of that case has also tested positive.

Genomic sequencing to determine how the three new cases contracted COVID-19 is underway and should be available late tonight or early tomorrow.

As such, numerous exposure sites have been published online so far, and Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley anticipates more locations will be listed following further investigation.

The sites include a Coles in Yarraville, the Newport Football Club, a pharmacy in Altona North and Da Barber House in Caroline Springs. A full list of the new exposure sites can be found here.

As one of the new cases worked at a school in Truganina, everyone who also worked at Al-Taqwa College, attended the school or just visited on the 28th, 29th or 30th of July has been ordered into isolation for 14 days.

In addition, VIC Health has set up a testing site today at Al-Taqwa College.

"The Department of Health is working very closely in partnership with the Western Public Health Unit in supporting that local community and is working very closely with the school principal," Foley said.

"I want to congratulate the school as we know the school has been through this process in the past and have learnt and engaged in so many ways."

As for the two additional cases that will be reported in tomorrow's figures, COVID Commander Jeroen Weimar said they were both relatives of the couple from Maribyrnong.

"24 hours is a long time in any pandemic, and we have a significant new board of work to do over the next few hours or days or weeks ahead of us," Weimar said.

Updated at 12.38pm AEST on 5 August 2021.

Hunter and Newcastle in lockdown from 5pm today as COVID spreads into regional NSW

Hunter and Newcastle in lockdown from 5pm today as COVID spreads into regional NSW

Eight local government areas (LGAs) in the Hunter and Upper Hunter regions of New South Wales will go into lockdown from 5pm today for one week, after COVID-19 cases were detected in the area.

It comes as NSW recorded 262 new cases of community transmission over the last 24 hours, with 110 (42 per cent) of those cases isolating during their entire infectious period.

Five people died as a result of the virus yesterday, following two deaths the day before. 

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant believes the emerging cluster in the Newcastle area can be linked to a gathering at Blacksmiths Beach on Friday night.

Elsewhere in regional NSW, higher detections of COVID-19 via surveillance testing have been found in sewage from Armidale and Dubbo.

With the Hunter New England Local Health District (LHD) currently providing care for and supporting five people diagnosed with the virus, authorities have mandated a one-week lockdown for the LGAs of Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton and Muswellbrook.

The rules during the week will be the same as the lockdown restrictions for Greater Sydney, meaning face-to-face schooling is off and residents can only leave the house for essential reasons.

"That will commence at 5pm tonight and go until midnight next Thursday - so a week. Similar to what occurred in Orange," NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

"And hopefully, similar to what occurred in Orange, we'll see that restrictions will lift at that time.

"I cannot stress enough how it's so important for everybody of all ages to come forward and get the vaccine."

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the five Hunter New England cases were reported overnight, and therefore would be included in the numbers to be released tomorrow.

"While the source of the infections continues to be investigated, we now think that the source originated from a gathering on Blacksmiths Beach on Friday night, which is believed to be the source of the initial cases," she said.

"Can I just thank the people involved? I mean, not that I want to see gatherings, but I also want to people to tell us the truth if they've made a wrong judgement."

It is known that two of the new cases are students at Maitland Christian School, which has been closed for cleaning today.

"All of the parents and the children are asked to go home and isolate, and we'll provide further advice as we work through the day," Dr Chant said.

"Also, we're calling out that a couple of venues but I do have to say that as the contact tracers go through the other cases, there may be other venues."

Those locations include the Auchmuty Library at the University of Newcastle and Target at Glendale Shopping Village.

Chant has reinforced the message that the stay-at-home provisions under the new Hunter region lockdown do not permit visitors to the home; rules that apply to all home visits from people outside the household including family and friends.

"We're also moving schools to learn from home for the week. In addition, the Morisset High School has also been closed for cleaning, and that's following a confirmed case with a student at the school," she added.

"This student resides in the Central Coast, and this case is not linked to the other cases. Separately, there's a case in the Central Coast," she said, noting eight of the nine cases in that region are in the same household.

To bolster the push for vaccination uptake Berejiklian today announced NSW has secured an extra 180,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from the Federal Government which will arrive from 9 August.

"We can redirect those doses we've taken from the regions for the HSC students, and it also means we can put the balance into those eight local government areas in Greater Sydney of concern in particular," the Premier said.

"I'm urging everybody to come forward and get vaccinated. It doesn't matter which vaccine you're offered."

Dr Chant echoed Berejiklian's plea for vaccine uptake today, pointing to the fact there are 51 people in the ICU, including younger people. There are 290 COVID cases admitted to hospital in total in NSW, and 24 on ventilators.

"I want to acknowledge that younger people have not had the opportunity to be vaccinated because of the access to Pfizer and I just want to indicate that I'm aware with that," Dr Chant said.

"But my comments are that please, now is the time to strongly consider getting vaccinated if you're over 18.

"Even one vaccination reduces hospitalisation and death, both Pfizer and AstraZeneca, by 70 per cent, and two doses achieves about 90 per cent effectiveness against hospitalisation and death. We have the tools to allow us to protect ourselves and our loved ones from COVID."

The CHO has urged people in Armidale and Dubbo to come forward for testing as COVID levels in their respective wastewater plants have risen.

"Whilst in Armidale there had been a low detection previously and that was thought to be related to a case in that area, it is no time for complacency. The levels in the sewage have become higher, and we are concerned that there may be active cases in the area of Armidale," Dr Chant said.

"Also, the Dubbo sewage plant, that also has had a detection."

Updated at 11.29am AEST on 5 August 2021.

"Encouraging" signs as most new QLD cases were in isolation, Pfizer vaccines to arrive early

"Encouraging" signs as most new QLD cases were in isolation, Pfizer vaccines to arrive early

One in every hundred Queenslanders came forward for testing yesterday in a new daily record for the Sunshine State, which has recorded 16 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 including only four who were infectious while in the community. 

Two days ago Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young indicated she would need to see new cases having been in quarantine for their full infectious period in order to lift the lockdown this Sunday.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said it was encouraging all the new community cases can be directly linked to the Indooroopilly school cluster which has now risen to 79 infections.

The majority of the new cases are students of or can be linked to Ironside State School, with the remainder connected to Brisbane Grammar School including a student and a teacher.

"Also encouraging is the fact that of the cases reported today, only three were infectious in the community for one day, and one was infectious in the community for two days," Miles said, with those dates being 30-31 July.

However, the list of exposure sites in Brisbane continues to grow with highly frequented locations including the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Coles Toowong, Woolworths Ashgrove, Stafford City Shopping Centre, Aldi in the Gap Village, The Gap Football Club, Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, and the Hyperdome Shopping Centre.

Of concern given its demographics is the listing of the Keperra Retirement Village, while a memorial service in Kenmore was also listed as an exposure site.

This adds to numerous additional sites added in recent days throughout Brisbane from Sunnybank to Woolloongabba to Fortitude Valley, not to mention various sites in the Cairns area.

With 11 local government areas across Southeast Queensland still in lockdown, the state's residents pulled out all stops to get tested in a bid to stamp out the virus.

"Queenslanders outdid themselves again when it comes to getting tested for COVID-19. We did 52,351 tests, another record for Queensland," Miles said.

"A fantastic result - what we have to do from here is keep it up."

The Deputy Premier also revealed a breakthrough with the Commonwealth Government to secure an earlier supply of Pfizer vaccines, which are set to be delivered in two batches next week and the following week.

"Last night, I can advise Queenslanders that the Prime Minister phoned the Premier and they had a very productive conversation," Miles said.

"The result of that conversation is that the Commonwealth will bring forward the delivery of some Pfizer vaccines that were allocated to Queensland for September and bring those forward to August.

"They're not additional vaccines, but they will allow for Queensland Health to do more vaccinations in August."

Miles explained the high numbers of people in quarantine in relation to the latest outbreak has led to localised constraints for home delivery services.

"Yesterday we became aware of some slight delays with online ordering," he said.

"This is a localized issue around the Indooroopilly area because of the sheer number of people in the inner western suburbs and western suburbs who are subject to those quarantine directions.

"We're working closely with Woolworths and Coles in particular, to see what improvements can be made to ensure that we can be getting supplies to people in quarantine."

Meanwhile, the State Government has engaged the Care Army and NGOs to assist with the delivery of click and collect orders.

Updated at 10:51am AEST on 5 August 2021.

SPC makes COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all staff before year-end

SPC makes COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all staff before year-end

Iconic fruit processing business SPC is at the forefront of private companies in Australia by mandating that all its staff be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of November to gain entry to any company location.

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.

"Lockdowns are not a sustainable solution and the Australian economy needs to open up again," SPC chairman Hussein Riafi said.

"The Delta variant poses a significant threat to our people, our customers and the communities we serve. The only path forward for our country is through vaccination.

"As a company, we believe it is the right thing to do and we must go further to minimise risk and to protect the people we care about from the Delta variant."

As part of the mandate, all casual and permanent staff as well as contractors must have at least the first dose of the vaccine scheduled by September 15, with the first dose administered by the end of October.

Any visitors to a site run by Shepparton-based SPC, famous for its Goulburn Valley and SPC brands, will also be required to be vaccinated.

To support workers all staff will be offered compensation via paid time off when required to receive their vaccination as well as special paid leave of up to two days for any staff who may become unwell after receiving the jab.

For those with a pre-existing condition and are unable to receive the vaccine, their circumstances will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

"We have already implemented rigorous safety plans at all our sites in response to the pandemic," SPC CEO Robert Giles said.

"These plans have ensured our people's health, safety and job security while ensuring business continuity for the essential service we provide to the broader community. But Australian companies must go further by rapidly vaccinating their staff.

"By taking proactive steps now, we are shoring up our company for the future. We firmly believe that it will be manufacturers and innovators like SPC who will help drive Australia's post-COVID economic recovery."

Updated at 9.33am AEST on 5 August 2021.

No new COVID cases for Victoria

No new COVID cases for Victoria

Victorians have achieved a significant milestone within 10 days of the lifting of their fifth lockdown since the pandemic began, reporting zero new cases in the 24 hours to midnight.

Jeroen Weimar, Deputy Secretary at the Department for Health and Human Services (DHHS), says it is a pattern the state's authorities would like to keep up for as long as possible, reiterating the importance of compliance with border pass rules for travellers arriving into Victoria.

"We still have, unfortunately, nine people in hospital with coronavirus, two of whom are in ICU (intensive care unit) and both of those are on a ventilator," Weimar said.

"Of course, we send our very best wishes to all those nine people and to the others who continue to recover from coronavirus here in Victoria."

The state has recorded a total of 220 cases since the latest outbreak began in mid-June, but the number of active cases has reduced to 99.

"We had over 400 exposure sites. We're now down to 33 exposure sites we continue to manage.

"We've undertaken a total of 815,000 coronavirus tests since the 12th of July - 30,117 of those yesterday. That gives an average of around 32,000 tests a day."

Weimar added sustained high and effective testing numbers are so important in giving the public health team a really good understanding of the pattern of community transmission, and has enabled them to "get on top of it".

Updated at 12:02pm AEST on 4 August 2021.

NSW daily cases rise again to 233 as concerns raised over Newcastle waste water detections

NSW daily cases rise again to 233 as concerns raised over Newcastle waste water detections

The spread of COVID-19 shows no signs of abating in NSW where 233 daily cases were reported this morning, while two people died of the virus yesterday including a Southwest Sydney man in his 20s and a woman in her 80s who passed away at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

Fewer than half the new cases are linked to a known case or cluster, and an even lower number - 92 - were in isolation throughout their infectious period.

By NSW Health's definitions, 47 cases were infectious in the community, and the isolation status of 73 cases remains under investigation.

Both the Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant raised concerns about very high sewage rates in the Hunter-Newcastle area.

"The sewage detected high viral load, which suggests they could be undetected cases up around the Newcastle area, so we're really keen to have people come forward to get tested -  there will be a list of the drive-through places that people can go to," the Premier said.

Dr Chant noted the detections were found in the Shortland and Burwood Beach sewage treatment plants, as well as lower detections at the Belmont sewage treatment plant.

She called on people across all of the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie areas to monitor for symptoms, but particularly residents in Birmingham Gardens, Shortland, Maryland, Fletcher, Minmi, Cameron Park, Mayfield, Stockton and Fern Bay.

"It is critical that we can get those testing levels up to really understand as soon as possible whether there is any undiagnosed cases there so that we can make the best public health decisions," Dr Chant said.

"In terms of other sewage detections, we have had low levels of detection from the Coffs Harbour sewage treatment plant, and the Mudgee sewage treatment plant. Again, we want to see high rates of testing there."

Updated at 11:34am AEST on 4 August 2021.

NSW sets vaccination targets after confirming 199 local COVID-19 cases

NSW sets vaccination targets after confirming 199 local COVID-19 cases

New South Wales recorded 199 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night, with almost a quarter of those people being out in the community during their infectious period.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian also highlighted plans to reach the six million mark for administered vaccine doses by the end of the month, as currently only 19.2 per cent of the adult population has received two doses.

"We're looking forward to us getting more jabs - six million is the target I want to set by the end of August 29," the Premier said.

"We're at 3.9 million. I suspect we'll be at four million by end of the week or in the next few days.

"The more of us that get vaccinated, the greater chance we have to live freely."

Efforts to vaccinate the population will be focused on the eight local government areas of concern: Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown, Liverpool, Cumberland, Blacktown, Parramatta, Georges River and Campbelltown. The Premier is urging people to avoid entering them during this period.

"Workplaces and households are the main places where the virus is transmitting."

"If you must leave the house, assume everybody you are coming into contact with has the virus."

Testing rates continue to be strong after 104,536 people came forward yesterday. There are a total of 53 cases in ICU, with 14 patients aged 40 or under.

Updated at 11:45am AEST on 3 August 2021.

"Stay put": Queensland CHO reveals key metric for lockdown lifting as 16 new cases recorded

"Stay put": Queensland CHO reveals key metric for lockdown lifting as 16 new cases recorded

Update (1:57pm): Since this story was published more exposure sites have been listed by Queensland Health, including Brigidine College and a swim school in St Lucia.

Queensland has reported 16 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 overnight, with Chief Health Officer (CHO) Dr Jeannette Young encouraged by the fact all were linked to the Indooroopilly school cluster.

Two more schools have been added to the growing list of exposure sites as well - Holy Family School in Indooroopilly and St Aidans Anglican Girls' School in Corinda - and given the nature of the latest outbreak, nine of the new cases are young people.

The update lifts the total number of positive cases in the cluster to 47, after 34,718 Queenslanders came out to get tested yesterday - a figure that is still shy of the 40,000 daily testing goal set by the CHO.

There are now 7,995 people in quarantine in the state including more than 400 health workers, which is putting the health system under increased strain. 

Dr Young also confirmed all cardiac surgeons at the Queensland Children's Hospital (QCH) had to be in quarantine, so authorities have worked through how one of them will be able to operate on urgent cases as they arise.

"We do have a large proportion of of our critical health workers now in quarantine, so unfortunately we have had to delay some surgery and some outpatient work to manage that," she clarified.

When asked what it would take to lift the lockdown this coming Sunday, Dr Young gave an indication of what the state would need to achieve.

"I will want to have seen that any new cases that have been coming up have been in quarantine for their full infectious period," she said.

This cannot be said of the latest cases, some of whom have been infectious in the community for up to six days.

"It's too early in the outbreak to expect that all of these people will have been in quarantine," she added.

The CHO said 20 per cent of people infected with COVID-19 don't develop any symptoms but can still pass on the virus, which is why lockdowns work because they allow the virus to "burn out".

"We do need to continue testing throughout all of those 11 LGAs and throughout Queensland. It's really important so that we can just make sure that we don't have any other transmission events, any outbreaks happening," she said.

"Please don't move the virus. So wherever you are in the 11 LGAs, if you can at all just stay put so that that virus then doesn't move, because we know that there are people out there who could have been infected and have no symptoms.

"If you don't need to leave home, don't leave home."

She also clarified her recommendations for people who are not able to wear masks for medical reasons.

"If you cannot wear a mask because of a medical reason - and there are medical reasons for it - and you haven't been vaccinated, you are at really high risk, so stay home and the Care Army has been activated again and they will help if you can't organise food or essential goods," she said.

"Don't go out of your home if you can't wear a mask, I hope I'm being really clear.

"That is to protect yourself. Please don't find excuses to not wear a mask. I think masks have stopped the last 14 incursions of this virus into our state from spreading; it is just this 15th one that has led to spread. Masks are absolutely critical."

Dr Young said she was also pleased to see very little traffic on the roads this morning, which shows residents are listening to the authorities' recommendations about the clearest pathway out of lockdown.

Click here for the full list of updated exposure sites, which health authorities recommend you check regularly if you are in or have been in Queensland recently.

Updated at 10:47am AEST on 3 August 2021.