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Covid-19 News Updates
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."
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.
"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.
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.
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."
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 statewide...as 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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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