News Nothing off the table: PM weighs in as Victoria faces possible return to lockdown

Nothing off the table: PM weighs in as Victoria faces possible return to lockdown

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison will discuss locking down suburban hotspots across Melbourne after the state’s massive coronavirus spike on Monday, with 75 new cases.

Mr Morrison said he would speak to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews later on Monday about what further resources the state might need.

“The Premier and I are very adamant that we do what is necessary to contain this outbreak,” he said.

“Victoria will lead that approach and they will be the final arbiter of what steps they take, but we can leave no stone unturned and no resource left unapplied to this task.

“I certainly will be considering all options and supporting the Premier and any such strong options that are necessary,” he said.

Health authorities concede Victoria’s coronavirus outbreak is likely to get worse before it gets better, after the state’s five-fold jump in cases on a week ago – when 16 cases were recorded.

Victoria had 75 fresh COVID-19 cases overnight, bringing its confirmed total to 2099. That comes on top of 90 new cases at the weekend (41 on Saturday and 49 on Sunday), amid a massive testing blitz.

The state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said nothing was “off the table” when it came to getting the outbreak under control and that it would “get worse before it gets better”.

“It is very hard to make reductions in this space. What I would say is that we know what works already. We just need people to do it,” he said.

He said the new cases identified on Monday would have been infected almost a week ago, before an intense communications and testing campaign began.

Among the new outbreaks:

  • Four cases linked to the North Melbourne and Brimbank families;
  • Three more security contractors from the Stamford Hotel already in quarantine (now 23);
  • One case from Wollert (now 10);
  • Three family members from Patterson Lakes and Lysterfield (now four);
  • Three more cases in Truganina (now five);
  • Cases in students at the Queen of Peace Parish Primary in Altona Meadows, Aitken Hill Primary in Craigieburn, Maribyrnong College, Footscray High School (Kinnear campus), Port Phillip Specialist School, and Al-Taqwa College in Truginina;
  • Two healthcare workers: One from Richmond Clinic, another from a Red Cross processing facility.

The exact breakdown is one person in hotel quarantine, 14 linked to outbreaks, 37 detected through routine testing and 23 are still under investigation.

“Clearly big numbers today, absolutely concerning and a lot of these are in all of the settings we have seen in the recent days so outbreaks occurring across multiple households, across work and other settings,” Professor Sutton said.

“But we know what will turn this around and that is people stepping forward for testing and also isolating when they have symptoms.

“Whether or not it needs a legal direction is a conversation to be had over the next few days, we are not there yet. But we do know that the solution is there already, which is, people not having unnecessary contacts across multiple households and multiple settings.

That will control transmission,” he said.

The 10 hotspot suburbs targeted during the testing blitz are Keilor Downs, Broadmeadows, Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West
Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir, Hallam and Pakenham.

Other states monitor border controls

In South Australia, plans to lift border restrictions with Victoria are under a cloud” amid the continuing surge in the coronavirus.

Premier Steven Marshall said the state would not lift quarantine requirements for anyone arriving from Victoria unless it was safe to do so.

Under current arrangements, SA is to lift those measures on July 20.

“We’ve still got three weeks, but that is now under a cloud,” Mr Marshall said on Monday.

“We are very concerned about the numbers coming out of Victoria at the moment, there’s no doubt about that.”

In WA, chief health officer Andy Robertson said he wouldn’t advise the state government reopen its borders until Victoria’s numbers improved significantly.

“If we look at Queensland, they haven’t had any cases now for three or four weeks. NSW has had some, but they’ve got low levels,” Dr Robertson told ABC radio.

“If either they’ve got no community spread or we’re fairly confident that what little community spread [exists] is well under control and being effectively managed, that would be the time we would provide that advice [to reopen].”

WA had five active COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, all in hotel quarantine. Only the steady return of travellers from overseas is keeping WA’s numbers above zero.

NSW had seven new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, all in returned travellers in hotel quarantine. They came from more than 11,800 tests done in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday.

There have been 3184 COVID-19 cases to date in NSW.

New saliva test

Meanwhile, a new saliva test developed by the Doherty Institute is being trialled in Victoria, but experts say at this stage it misses positive results in about 13 per cent of cases.

Deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said health authorities were considering whether to recommend people in Melbourne wear masks when out in public.

The nation’s expert health committee considers its position on masks every week.

“In the bulk of Australia at the moment, they will be of no use at all,” he told the ABC.

“But certainly, if there is a place where we are looking to see whether masks should be recommended, it’s down in Victoria.”