News Mask rules return for Victoria as exposure sites grow across states
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Mask rules return for Victoria as exposure sites grow across states

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Victorians face a return to tougher COVID restrictions as leaders reassure the state they are “on the heels” of cases stemming from people who breached travel conditions from NSW.

In a late-night announcement on Wednesday, the Victorian government declared masks would again be mandatory in all indoor settings again, including high schools and workplaces.

It also looks there will be restrictions on crowds and home visitors announced before the weekend.

“As we’ve always done in Victoria, we will take fast and aggressive action as we think it’s appropriate,” Jeroen Weimer, Victoria’s COVID-19 response commander, said.

The state’s run of zero-case ‘doughnut days’ was well and truly over by Wednesday night as 11 Victorians tested positive to coronavirus and exposure sites blew out to more than 70.

The ABC reported just before 7am that it believed at least another 10 cases would be added to the tally on Thursday.

NSW has also identified 19 more virus exposure sites, including a petrol station and public transport routes.

South Australia registered another possible one, also linked to COVID-infected removalists who travelled from NSW to SA via Victoria, and warned that more rules could be introduced.

Things are changing quickly. Here’s what we know so far about rule changes and cases, as of early Thursday morning:

Exposure sites across Victoria

There are 11 new cases in Victoria – but that number is expected to grow, as it has been confirmed that infected people visited busy locations, including Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station.

A teacher from Bacchus Marsh Primary School, west of Melbourne, is among the cases. He lives at Barwon Heads, on the Bellarine Peninsula near Geelong.

Bacchus Marsh Grammar has confirmed the infected teacher attended a staff day on Monday but had no contact with students on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Staff have been told to self-isolate and get tested. The school’s Woodlea and Maddingley campuses will be closed for the rest of the week.

Barwon Heads Primary School has also been closed until further notice and Barwon Heads Football and Netball Club is listed as as a tier one exposure site.

Other sites of concern in the Geelong area include the Officeworks in Waurn Ponds and the APCO service station in Highton, both tier two sites.

It’s believed the teacher contracted the virus after attending an AFL match between Carlton and Geelong at the MCG on Saturday with an infected friend. The friend lives at the locked-down Ariele Apartments in Maribyrnong, in Melbourne’s inner-north-west.

The friend, a man aged in his 60s, was one of four residents of the apartment to test positive to the virus on Wednesday.

He also infected his parents, aged 89 and 90, who live in Craigieburn, in Melbourne’s north.

Jeroen Weimar (left) said the removalists did not wear masks while at the Ariele Apartments. Photo: AAP

The outbreak at the apartments is linked to a NSW removalist crew who did a pick-up at the complex last Thursday while infectious.

The three removalists, two of whom have tested positive, weren’t wearing masks while at the apartments – in breach of their border permits.

Another new case is a man in his 30s who attended Coles Craigieburn at the same time as a member of a family who recently returned from Sydney infected with COVID-19.

The family of four from Melbourne’s north-west were required to self-isolate at home as red-zone permit arrivals, but one visited the Coles and a Metro petrol station in Broadmeadows.

All have since tested positive, with the fourth infection confirmed on Wednesday.

Mr Weimar said the next two days would be critical in stamping out the virus’s spread.

“We are right on the heels of this particular outbreak,” he said on Wednesday.

As well as in regional areas, there are exposure sites across Melbourne and also over the NSW-Victorian border at Albury where the infected removalists stopped for fuel.

Tier one sites in Melbourne include shops in the Bundoora DFO, routes 70 and 82 trams, and a sports club and takeaway shops in Craigieburn.

Anyone who visited a tier one site during the relevant exposure period must quarantine for 14 days.

  • Read the full list of exposure sites here

Longer lockdown in Sydney

The lockdown of greater Sydney and surrounds has been extended by at least two weeks as NSW posted 97 more local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Tuesday.

At least 31 had been circulating in the community while infectious.

Recent exposure sites in NSW include:

  • D&M Excavations in Greenacre, July 1-13;
  • Hanson Concrete Australia in Greenacre, July 1-13;
  • Shell Coles Express, South Gundagai, on Thursday, July 8, 1-1.30am;
  • Shell Jindera, Saturday, July 10, 11.15-11.45am;
  • 309 bus route at various times on July 6 and 7.

Sydney’s stay-at-home provisions were scheduled to end on Friday but will now remain until at least July 30.

It means more than five million people will endure at least five weeks of lockdown. Restriction settings across regional NSW remain unchanged.

There are 20 COVID-19 patients in NSW in intensive care, with four ventilated.

Two people have died – a man in his 70s and a woman in her 90s –taking the NSW toll to 58 and the national death toll to 912 since the pandemic began in 2020.

  • Click here for the full list of NSW exposure sites

QR complacency could lead to tighter restrictions in SA

A petrol station in regional South Australia linked to the virus-infected removalists is a potential third COVID-19 exposure site.

SA deputy chief public health officer Emily Kirkpatrick said the site was still being pinpointed, but it was thought the removalists stopped for rest and fuel after crossing from Victoria early on Friday, July 9.

Dr Kirkpatrick said there had been no confirmed local coronavirus cases linked to the two sites of concern already identified. They are a service station and a cafe at Tailem Bend, about 100 kilometres east of Adelaide, where the removalists stopped on their return journey.

About 118 people are in isolation as close or casual contacts from the two locations.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said there were only 25 QR code check-ins at the site during the time of concern, compared to 76 credit card transactions.

He said SA Health and police would meet on Thursday to discuss possibly tightening local virus restriction. The use, or lack thereof, of QR codes would factor into their decision.

“I’m giving people due warning that we are actively considering restrictions for South Australia,” Mr Stevens said.

WA tightens border to NSW and Victoria

Western Australia will lock out people from NSW for at least another two months as Sydney deals its worsening outbreak, while Victorians must now quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

“We have to assume that this is the more contagious Delta variant, which requires our immediate action,” WA Police chief Chris Dawson said.

“The list of exposures sites in Victoria is growing and so is our concern and the risk to Western Australians.”

WA is shut to arrivals from NSW for at least two months. Photo: AAP

Mr Dawson acknowledged some passengers aboard flights from Melbourne would be caught unaware by the sudden change.

Thursday night’s AFL game between Geelong and Fremantle at Optus Stadium will go ahead with no crowd restrictions. The Cats were placed under strict isolation protocols upon landing in Perth on Wednesday.

WA this week further tightened exemptions for travellers from NSW, including those granted on compassionate grounds.

Chief health officer Andy Robertson said they would remain for “at least two months and possibly more”.

-with AAP