As it happened: Victoria records just two COVID-19 cases as state considers lifting 5km lockdown rule; UK to re-enter lockdown as Australian death toll stands at 904October 17, 2020
- Victoria has recorded just two new cases of COVID-19 and no further deaths, in much welcome news for locked down residents fearing the spread of the Shepparton cluster. Premier Daniel Andrews has said the state is well placed to take “significant steps” out of lockdown on Sunday
- NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has foreshadowed further easing of coronavirus restrictions next week if new COVID-19 case numbers stay low over the weekend. NSW recorded just one new locally acquired case in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday.
- Qantas has confirmed it will run several rescue flights, underwritten by the federal government, to bring up to 1315 stranded Australians home from India, the UK and South Africa.
- There’s been emotional scenes at Sydney International Airport today as three flights from New Zealand arrive under new ‘bubble’ arrangements with NZ. Passengers on these flights will not need to undergo hotel quarantine but may need to quarantine when they return to New Zealand.
- US Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris has cancelled her travel plans for the rest of the week after two people associated with the campaign tested positive for COVID-19, the campaign said in a statement.
Day in review
That's all from us today. Thanks for reading along, for commenting and for sending us tips and photos.
A brief look back on the day that was:
Melbourne’s restaurants, cafes, pubs and most of its shops will remain empty for at least
another week, despite Victoria's daily COVID-19 case numbers falling to their lowest since June on Friday with just two cases reported.
Premier Daniel Andrews said it was unlikely that retail and hospitality would be included in Sunday’s much-anticipated announcement of the next stage of lockdown but raised the possibility of them opening from next Sunday, October 25.
Meanwhile, the inquiry into the state's hotel quarantine program, that led to Victoria's deathly second wave of coronavirus, will reconvene next week.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is preparing for ‘significant’ announcements on Sunday.Credit:Eddie Jim
Thousands of Australians who are stranded overseas will be returned home over the next six months in an expanded rescue scheme using new Qantas flights and a quarantine camp near Darwin.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison struck a formal deal with the Northern Territory government on Friday to use the former workers' camp to help overcome capacity problems in the major cities.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has foreshadowed further easing of coronavirus restrictions next week if COVID-19 case numbers are low over the weekend.
NSW recorded one new locally acquired case in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday – a household contact of a confirmed case linked to the Lakemba GP clinic – bringing that cluster to 16. There were also four new cases among travellers in hotel quarantine.
And overseas, newly confirmed COVID-19 cases have surged across Europe over recent weeks as autumn kicks in, prompting authorities to bring back measures that had been relaxed over the summer. The Czech Republic, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, France and Britain are among the countries causing particular concern.
We'll be back early again tomorrow morning with our free live coverage. Until then, stay save and good night.
Latest Chinese outbreak traced to dock workers at contaminated hospital
The cause of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a hospital in the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao was traced to two infected dock workers.
The workers had check-ups in an examination room at the Qingdao Chest Hospital that was contaminated after it was not disinfected properly, a Qingdao health official told a media briefing.
One of the workers had tested positive for the virus in late September, but only developed symptoms after 20 days, on Oct. 14, the Qingdao Municipal Health Commission said in a statement.
No details were given on the second worker. Both of them were asymptomatic, the official said.
In September, Qingdao health authorities found coronavirus contamination on some packages stored by a seafood importer after two of its handlers tested positive for the virus but displayed no symptoms.
It was unclear whether or not the two handlers were the two infected dock workers.
In response to the outbreak, Qingdao launched a city-wide testing blitz and expects to complete testing all of its 9 million residents by Friday.
It reported 13 new infections this week, most linked to the Qingdao Chest Hospital, where infected travellers arriving from overseas had been treated in an isolation area.
Shepparton testing waits now less than 30 minutes
Waits for getting a COVID-19 test are now less than half an hour after long queues formed earlier this week and people were turned away as sites reached full capacity, according to the local council's CEO.
Goulburn Valley Health chief executive Matt Sharp said while Shepparton had just three cases in total on Friday morning, the coming 48 hours would prove crucial in determining whether the virus had spread.
As of Friday there had been no new additional cases found in Shepparton, after three were detected earlier this week.
Queues at the testing facility at Shepparton Showgrounds on Thursday.Credit:Simon Schluter
Mr Sharp said there were 243 close contacts in Shepparton and about 150 secondary contacts to those three cases.
“We should expect those numbers will vary a little bit in the coming days just because the contact tracing process is proceeding,” he said.
He urged businesses to keep detailed records of customers in case there was another outbreak.
“When we have an outbreak like this our contact tracing team needs information and they need it quickly.”
The Victorian Health Department said 2489 tests were taken yesterday in Shepparton, as well as 580 tests in Benalla, Kyabram, Cobram, Nathalia and Numurkah.
"In total we have tested 4931 people so far," a spokesperson said.
Your lockdown locks: what Victorians look like after months with no hairdressers
Victoria, we asked and you have delivered. Here's some of the wonderful isolation hairstyle photos you've sent us. We've been flooded with responses which we'll use for a story, but for now here's a sample.
Shanna says, “I am unsure at what point my fiancé turned into Tom Hanks in castaway.”
Lisa is missing her regular haircut.Credit:Lisa
Nicole Rose’s five-year-old son got this haircut from this 11 year-old-brother.Credit:Nicole Rose
Suel’s luscious locks. He says he’s growing a ponytail.Credit:Suel.
“First I had a home buzz cut from my husband, when it got a bit longer I went blonde for a bit and last week I went blue to reflect my mood. I’m usually a bottle brunette,” says Alicia.Credit:Alicia.
Where will Melburnians travel if the 5km rule is increased to 20km?
Today we've been speculating on whether Melbourne's five-kilometre radius rule will be lifted altogether or be expanded on Sunday.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said yesterday that modelling had already been started on a number of different scenarios for travel rules.
We asked blog readers earlier today that if the radius balloons out to 20km, what would be first on your agenda.
Here's a few of your responses:
- "Visit my Collingwood Studio. Picnic and draw in the sculpture park at MOMA Heide. Walk our dogs at Brighton off lead beach. Picnic and walk our dogs at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Grab a coffee and gelato and Walk along Lygon Street Carlton, Gertrude Street Fitzroy and around South Melbourne Market" – Margaret
- "To swim at the beach – it’s hard to get into a pool at present" – Billie
- "Helping my mum and do some gardening for her" – Eddie
- "I would meet up in a park with my son, daughter-in-law and the two of my grandchildren that I have not seen forever. A park 20kms away would be about halfway between our homes." – Judy
- "Nowhere because our family live 45kms away. Still in lockdown if this happens." – anon
- "I would try to meet somewhere in the middle and see my Mum. Still wont be able to see my dad, brother and sister and her family, we just live too far apart. It's been five months. I never thought I would have to go without them for so long, it's been really tough and I feel homesick, even though I am home. I agree with the measures and want to keep everyone healthy, but this is hard. Hopefully we can be together for Christmas." – Sylvia
- "I'll be riding again along Beach Road!" – Kylie
- "Camping in Warrandyte with friends. We have an annual booking in November each year and [will] wait to hear if we will be able to take up the booking or whether Parks Vic will have to refund us. I'm keen to go even 10km instead of the 5, 10km would get me to the Botanical Gardens." – Kylie
But some of you are desperately hoping there is no limit at all:
- "Crazy. Take away all travel limits within Melbourne. It's just another reason to keep policing us and fining us. We can't do "damage" to the rest of Vic because we have a ring of steel around us." – Judy
- "20km limit is useless. Just remove the km restrictions and open outdoor dining and non-essential retail to give people their jobs back. Open up travel within Victoria for all Victorians." – Petra
Where are Victoria's 17 'mystery' cases?
As reported earlier, there's been a jump in the number of active 'mystery' cases with no known source in Victoria by two today, bringing the total to 17 recorded between September 30 and October 13.
The two new mystery cases today are in postcode 3047 (Broadmeadows, Dallas, Jacana) and 3977 (Botanic Ridge, Cannons Creek, Cranbourne, Cranbourne East, Cranbourne North, Cranbourne South, Cranbourne West, Devon Meadows, Junction Village, Sandhurst, Skye).
The mystery cases tally has increased by two today and so has the daily cases tally.
The two new cases confirmed today were residents of postcodes 3152 (Knox City Centre, Studfield, Wantirna, Wantirna South) and 3175 (Bangholme, Dandenong, Dandenong East, Dandenong North, Dandenong South, Dunearn).
The Victorian government had hoped to be under five mystery cases before October 19 for easing.
One of two new cases in Victoria today linked to Royal Children's Hospital
Plenty of news out of Victoria this afternoon for a Friday afternoon.
The Chief Health Officer's daily data release, which was running a few hours late today, has just arrived and reveals that one of today's two new cases "relates to a patient at the Royal Children’s Hospital", but no other details about the case were revealed.
The other case today was a household contact of an existing case.
Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital.Credit:Getty Images
The two new cases reside in Greater Dandenong and Knox.
The last time there was a daily increase of two cases was on June 8. There were zero new cases on June 6 and June 9.
"The fact that we as a community … city and country … have been as stubborn as this virus in our resolve to defeat it, we are well placed to take significant steps on Sunday," Mr Andrews said. "Today is a very positive day."
Friday's two new infections take the statewide 14-day rolling case average to 9.3 new cases per day.
That exceeds the 14-day five-case average the state government had hoped to achieve by the end of this week, but Mr Andrews has said an average of 10, or thereabouts, could be "as good as it gets" for Victoria in the near future.
Positive case at Sydney's Oran Park High School
The NSW Education department has confirmed that a student at Oran Park High School in Sydney’s west has tested positive for COVID-19.
All staff and students have been asked to self-isolate.
“Contact tracing has commenced and the school will be thoroughly cleaned over the weekend,” a spokesperson confirmed.
“Weekend activities at the school, including basketball and Physical Culture have been paused at this time.”
This will not impact the school’s HSC contingent, as only year seven and eight students are currently on school grounds.
“Further advice will be provided to the parent community over the weekend advising when the school will resume on-site learning,” the spokesperson said.
“NSW Education will continue to work closely with NSW Health to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff is maintained.”
NSW Health has also adjusted earlier advice regarding the Great Beginnings Child Care Centre, roughly 750m away.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said earlier today that a child and an educator had tested positive before the centre closed on October 13. The centre has not reopened since then.
Originally, only those in a specific part of the centre were considered close contacts but that advice is now expanding to cover all staff or children who attended Great Beginnings at any time between between October 2 and 13.
Breaking: Hotel inquiry to hold extra 'extraordinary' sitting next Tuesday
News just in, the Victorian Board of Inquiry running the probe into the state's hotel quarantine program is reconvening next week.
"The Board of Inquiry proposes to hold an extraordinary sitting at 2pm on Tuesday 20 October," a spokesperson for the Board said in statement a few minutes ago.
The announcement contained no further details so it's not clear who they want to hear from.
But it comes after The Age broke the story today that Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton had been sent emails from the very beginning of the hotel quarantine system in March 27 alerting him and others that private security guards would be used.
These emails were never tendered to the inquiry, even though it asked for all relevant documentation.
In his evidence to the inquiry – both verbal and written – Professor Sutton said he was ignorant of the use of private security until June when he became aware of the outbreak. He also said when he found out, he did not think it was a good idea.
Cormann joins chorus of condemnation over WA Premier's hard border excuses
In case you missed this earlier, Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has excoriated WA Premier Mark McGowan for persisting with a total border lockdown despite the state's Chief Health Officer telling a parliamentary committee it could open to most jurisdictions around the country.
The WA government has insisted its 'hard border' policy was backed by health advice, but contradictory messages this week have undermined this claim and prompted accusations Mr McGowan is exploiting the policy as a political ploy to win support in the March state election.
Senator Cormann addressed the media alongside WA Opposition Leader Liza Harvey on Friday morning to demand the Premier explain the public health justification for preventing West Australians travelling to jurisdictions with no cases and zero community transmission of COVID-19.
He said the federal government had always supported "clear and strong measures to protect people's health".
"But as soon as there is no public health justification to infringe on people's freedoms, then those restrictions ought to be lifted," he said.
"In relation to South Australia, the Northern Territory, the ACT and Tasmania, there is no reason why Western Australians should be prevented from travelling to and from those jurisdictions freely, none whatsoever.
"I have never believed that was because of the health advice, I've never believed that.
"If zero active cases and zero locally-acquired community transmission is not good enough, what is? Just tell us. Tell us why you are preventing people in Western Australia from visiting their family or having loved ones from those jurisdictions come to visit them here?"
Senator Cormann rubbished comments made by Mr McGowan in WA Parliament this week that there would be COVID-19 deaths similar to those seen in Victoria if "the Liberal party has its way".
Read the full story here.
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