Five weeks ago, a handful of eastern Sydney suburbs were on alert after a limo driver tested positive to the Delta variant. Now half of Australia is considered at risk.
NSW has locked down Orange City Council, Blayney Shire Council, and Cabonne Shire Council overnight.
South Australians are also in their first day of lockdown.
Queensland has tightened its border rules amid fears a new coronavirus cluster might have been seeded by a woman who returned from Melbourne.
More than 13 million Australians are living under heavy restrictions. The below updates wrap up the latest exposure sites and new rules, as they stand at 6.30am Wednesday (AEST).
There’s also some information about financial assistance on the way for people impacted by ongoing shutdowns.
Snap lockdown for parts of NSW
The central-west NSW town of Orange and its surrounds have woken to a snap seven-day lockdown after a COVID-positive delivery driver visited the area and infected another person.
The delivery driver left the lockdown in Sydney to visit the Nestle Purina factory in Blayney, near Orange.
It’s been confirmed he infected a worker there.
The lockdown in the Orange, Blayney and Cabonne local government areas comes after NSW Health identified exposure sites in Orange including a petrol station, Officeworks, Woolworths, pizzeria and tobacco shop.
Residents of the three affected council areas can leave home for essentials such as medical or compassionate care and shopping. They can go out to exercise in groups of no more than two, and must work or study from home if possible.
Schools in the affected areas will remain open with restrictions, including mandatory face masks for all teachers.
Funerals in the areas will be limited to 10 people from Friday.
Masks must also be worn in all indoor settings and outdoors where social distancing cannot be maintained.
Meanwhile, NSW authorities remain particularly concerned about the Canterbury-Bankstown areas amid the greater Sydney outbreak, with NSW notching 78 new local cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday.
At least 29 were in the community during their infectious period.
NSW Health issued a late-night alert for more exposure sites.
Anyone who has visited the following venues at the following times is now considered a close contact:
- The Hoey Moey (whole venue, not just the bottle shop), Coffs Harbour, 3.55-4.20pm, July 15;
- Taste Baguette Glenrose, Belrose, 8.10-8.20am, July 13, and 10.30-11am, July 14;
- Woolworths Glenrose Shopping Village, Belrose, 10.30-11am, July 14;
- Lawrence Dry Cleaners, Belrose, 10.30-11am, July 14;
- Woolworths, Chester Hill, 4.45-5.05pm, July 15;
- Royal Carwash, Greenacre, various times, Jul 10-16;
- MW Toolbox, St Peters, 2.15-3.30pm, July 14;
- Agha Juice, Merrylands, 8-9pm, July 15.
The three-day average for new cases has dropped to 85, leading Premier Gladys Berejiklian to declare: “We’ve stabilised the virus.”
Surveillance testing in the Canterbury-Bankstown area had picked up multiple asymptomatic cases, showing the need for people in southwestern Sydney to remain vigilant, Ms Berejiklian said.
NSW Health is treating 95 cases in hospital, including 27 in intensive care. Eleven are on ventilators.
- Click here to see the full list of NSW exposure sites
Victorian lockdown extends, residents locked out
Victoria had 13 local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning, bringing the total number of infections in its outbreak to 85.
The only unlinked case involves a woman in her 20s from Roxburgh Park.
However, authorities believe it is connected to a City of Hume family who tested positive after returning from NSW earlier in July.
Chief health officer Brett Sutton said about a third of the state’s more than 18,000 close contacts were in regional Victoria, making it likely the lockdown will remain statewide.
There are more than 340 exposure sites, spanning from Phillip Island in the south of the state to Mildura in the north-west.
Five new tier one sites were identified on Tuesday night:
- Aldi Beaconsfield, 1.30-3pm, July 17;
- Shell Coles Express, Berwick, 10.30-10.55am, July 18;
- Budget Car and Truck Rental, Dandenong, 2-2.35pm, July 18;
- Confidence Speech Pathology, Berwick, 8.50-10.30am, July 18;
- BR International Logistics, Derrimut, various times, July 13-19.
Status Quo Pop up in Richmond and Sloan Burger in Cremorne were listed as tier two sites.
- Click here to see the full list of Victorian exposure sites
Victoria has slammed the border shut for its own residents who have been staying in places considered ‘red zones’, on day one of an extra week of lockdown.
From 11.59pm on Tuesday, Victorian residents in NSW and the ACT were no longer allowed to come home amid a two-week pause on issuing red zone permits.
SA will become a red zone from 11.59pm on Wednesday as it joined Victoria, as well as Sydney and surrounds, in lockdown.
Only authorised workers and those who apply for and receive an exemption can travel between the states, along with border residents.
“For four weeks we’ve been saying to people come home because the rules may change. Well, the rules are changing today,” Premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday.
That announcement came as the government confirmed stay-at-home orders would be extended until at least 11.59pm on July 27 as it moved to avoid what Mr Andrews called a “NSW-style, long, lengthy, very challenging lockdown”.
Using language Victorians would be more familiar with during a bushfire emergency, Mr Andrews said the state needed more time to “extinguish” the outbreak.
“We’re dealing with an outbreak that we think we are running alongside and we just need to get in front of it in order to pull it up,” he said.
He added easing restrictions while case numbers were in the single digits wasn’t an option, due to the speed and ease of Delta variant’s spread.
The federal government has confirmed Victorians affected by the extended lockdown will be able to claim disaster payments of up to $600 a week from Friday.
A beefed-up support package for lockdown-hit businesses will also be announced by the Victorian government on Wednesday.
Help for South Australia as more sites linked to outbreak
The Morrison government, after copping criticism for supporting NSW more than other states, has been quick to announce cash support for SA.
Metropolitan Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills and for Gawler, north of the city have been declared coronavirus hotspots at a national level.
That will trigger payments of up to $600 a week for people who lose more than 20 hours of work.
“South Australians should go into this week knowing that the state is acting early and decisively to get on top of this outbreak,” Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said.
“This is a really tough time for so many South Australians, but none more so than those are who are losing casual shifts, losing part-time jobs and are going to feel some financial stress.”
Wednesday marks the first full day of lockdown for the state as the list of potential COVID-19 exposure sites linked to a cluster of cases continues to grow.
More than 35 sites have been listed across metropolitan Adelaide with more likely in coming days.
They include major shopping centres and at least two schools along with banks, hardware stores, cafes and chemists.
- Click here to see the full list of SA exposure sites
By Wednesday morning, the outbreak had grown to six infections, all linked to an 81-year-old man who travelled from Argentina to SA via NSW.
During the seven-day lockdown South Australians will be allowed only out for five reasons – to provide essential care, to seek medical assistance, to buy essential food and other goods, for essential work, or to exercise for up to 2.5 hours.
They must also wear masks when outside their homes.
Schools have closed along with most shops. Construction work has ceased.
Premier Steven Marshall said it was vital for SA to “go hard and go early” to have any chance of containing the outbreak, which involves the Delta variant.
“We have one chance to get this right,” he said.
“We are moving as quickly as we can to slow and stop the spread of this cluster.”
Calls for more support
The Morrison government is resisting pressure to reinstate JobKeeper wage subsidies.
Instead, people who lose work in designated hot spots can access weekly payments of $375-$600 when lockdowns extend beyond seven days.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said national wage subsidies, which initially paid out $1500 a fortnight before being scaled back, were proven to work.
“JobKeeper had its problems but it also had very important features which the government has stupidly junked,” he told Sky News.
“As time goes on and we have these lockdowns, it really does look like an incredibly stupid decision to end JobKeeper and replace it with something inferior.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said disaster payments were higher than the $1000-a-fortnight rate JobKeeper ended at.
“The money is actually flowing out the door faster than it would have under JobKeeper,” Mr Hunt said.
In NSW, 388,000 claims worth $186 million have been approved during its outbreak, which has infected 1418 people in the past month.
Victorians will become eligible on Friday when its lockdown enters its second week.
The Australian Council of Social Service estimates 800,000 welfare recipients who support 400,000 children have been excluded from disaster payments.
ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie is urging state and federal leaders to fill the gap ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Friday.
Ms Goldie described the system as a “mess” that had created two tiers between people on Centrelink payments and other workers.
“People on social security are people on the lowest incomes, the most financially vulnerable and they’ve been completely left out of these disaster payment arrangements,” she told ABC radio.
“We need to make sure that everybody has enough income support if they’re hit by the loss of jobs, to keep their head above water.”