Victorians have heard various rumours all week, and now they will finally have confirmation: playgrounds are reopening.
The lifting of the controversial ban on kids playing on public spaces is among the rule changes expected to be announced at Wednesday’s press conference.
Two more Melbourne women died – in their homes – from the coronavirus. Despite that, the slight easing of restrictions will go ahead.
In New South Wales, it’s been revealed that almost one in five clinical healthcare workers – including nurses, doctors, midwives and allied health workers – has not received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Meanwhile, Canberrans have been told their lockdown must go for at least another two weeks.
And the Prime Minister has issued a warning to West Australians amid low vaccination rates there and as a decision to postpone some surgeries at overcrowded hospitals from Wednesday casts doubt on the state’s capacity to handle a major virus outbreak.
The latest coronavirus news is below.
If you’re after a distraction from the lockdown news, click here instead to check out TND‘s list of new shows you can stream in lockdown.
Or put your runners, grab a mask, text a lockdown buddy and head outdoors. Temperatures are in the 20s in all locked-down cities and the sun’s out for the first day of spring.
Hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come.
Late on Tuesday the health department revealed two women, aged in their 40s and 60s, died at home after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
They are the first COVID-related deaths recorded in Victoria since November 30 last year, and will take the state’s overall toll to 822 when officially tallied on Wednesday.
As the state struggles to drive down the now-deadly Delta variant outbreak, Premier Daniel Andrews will on Wednesday unveil a roadmap out of the state’s sixth lockdown.
It will detail “modest” changes and the number of COVID-19 cases the state can “live with” until 80 per cent of eligible Victorians are vaccinated.
“If we can’t achieve zero, despite our best efforts, how many cases can we tolerate? It will need to be a low number,” Mr Andrews said on Tuesday, as the state reported 76 new coronavirus cases.
Mr Andrews said he would not be reopening schools immediately, though he flagged an announcement would be made to prioritise year 12 students for vaccinations ahead of exams in October.
He also indicated it was too early to allow greater freedoms to the 34.65 per cent of Victorians 16 and over that are fully vaccinated.
Cabinet ministers met on Tuesday night to discuss the roadmap and case number thresholds put forward by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton and his team.
It is the state’s second COVID-19 roadmap after a four-step plan to return to normality was unveiled on September 6 last year.
Mr Andrews said the national plan would replace the roadmap once Victoria reaches the 80 per cent vaccine target set by national cabinet.
Leaders have been considering introducing household bubbles and lifting strict lockdown rules for regional Victorians except in areas impacted by outbreaks, such as Shepparton.
The Herald Sun reports the playground ban will lift from Friday. The timing of the easing of other restrictions is yet to be confirmed.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian is urging businesses and families to use this month to get ready as the state creeps closer to the 70 per cent vaccination rate needed to begin reopening.
“My message strongly during September will be to get ready,” Ms Berejiklian said on Monday.
“If you’re a business, make sure your employees are vaccinated.
“If you’re a citizen make sure yourself, your families, loved ones and friends are vaccinated.
“That’s our ticket to freedom.”
The state recorded 1164 new local COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Monday, as well as three deaths.
They were a woman in her 50s, a man in his 80s and a man in his 90s, all from Sydney.
It takes the death toll for the current NSW outbreak to 96.
It comes as NSW surpasses two-thirds first-dose vaccination coverage for eligible residents.
But it’s been revealed that almost one in five clinical staff in the state’s public health system has not even had their first dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports NSW Health data shows 82 per cent of clinical staff – including nurses, doctors, midwives and allied health workers – have received the first dose of a vaccine, and 76 per cent are fully vaccinated.
A spate of infections in nurses has plunged hundreds of hospital staff into isolation in recent weeks, adding to the pressure on Sydney’s health system, SMH reports.
Doctors and nurses are busy treating 870 people hospitalised with COVID-19 across the state, with 143 in intensive care and almost 60 of those people ventilated.
But the toll of the outbreak on the state’s health care system is not due to peak until October.
“At the moment we have thousands of staff looking after our international arrivals, returning Aussies, even though there’s only four cases overnight in hotel quarantine,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“That obviously needs readjustment … we’d rather have our staff working in our ICUs or giving people vaccines.”
Once the state reaches 70 per cent double-dose vaccination – roughly in mid-October – she hopes to rapidly scale up international arrivals and consider home quarantine options.
The number of infections in the state’s west also continues to grow, with a record 54 new cases reported on Tuesday, and another four detected in Wilcannia in the far west.
“I’ve got to say, it’s another shocking day for western NSW,” Western Local Health District chief executive Scott McLachlan said on Tuesday.
A lack of compliance with public health orders and low testing numbers are frustrating authorities in the region.
Canberra’s lockdown has been extended until mid-September as the ACT’s coronavirus outbreak continues to grow.
The second two-week lockdown extension follows concern about mystery cases, people infectious in the community and the situation in NSW.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has repeatedly warned restrictions cannot ease significantly until at least 80 per cent of the eligible population is vaccinated.
To soften the blow of another two weeks of lockdown until September 17, the government is relaxing some restrictions including allowing small weddings, funerals and outdoor gatherings.
“We are bending the curve down and are getting on top of the outbreak,” Mr Barr told reporters.
“However, it is a slow process and it will take more time.”
Of Tuesday’s 13 new cases, seven were linked and four had been in quarantine throughout their infectious period.
Health officials are concerned they can’t pin down a source of infection for 29 of the ACT’s cases since the outbreak began.
Canberra remains vulnerable to continued COVID-19 incursions from NSW, which has recorded more than 1000 new daily cases for the past four days.
The ACT expects to achieve 80 and 90 per cent vaccination coverage when the rest of Australia hits 70 and 80 per cent thresholds, respectively.
Of Canberra residents aged 16 and older, 42 per cent are fully vaccinated and 66 per cent have received one dose.
Western Australia’s low coronavirus vaccination rate and lack of restrictions means the Delta variant will eventually spread “rapidly” through the population, Scott Morrison has warned.
The prime minister has taken aim at Mark McGowan over the WA premier’s refusal to commit to national targets for reopening the country.
Mr McGowan has declared WA won’t remove state border closures once 70 per cent of the population has been vaccinated.
“When it’s above 80 per cent, we’ll make a judgment,” he said on Tuesday.
“We’ll probably set a date at some point in time when we’re confident that … people have the opportunity to get themselves vaccinated.
“But I’ve learnt during the period of COVID, pre-empting things, setting out hard and fast dates doesn’t work – because things change.”
Less than a third of eligible West Australians are fully vaccinated, while a decision to postpone hundreds of elective surgeries at overcrowded hospitals has cast doubt on the state’s capacity to handle a major virus outbreak.
The prime minister said WA needed to ready its health system and implement “common sense” restrictions to eventually live with the virus.
“If Delta were to come to Western Australia – which it eventually will, and I think the premier understands that – then it would move quite rapidly through the population,” he told Perth radio 6PR.
“So the task is to prepare.”
Mr Morrison urged West Australians to get vaccinated so they could travel internationally and reunite with loved ones.
“When you get to more than double where you are now, the level of protection is like living in another world,” he said.
Mr McGowan said confirmation that the AFL grand final will be played in Perth vindicated his government’s management of the virus.
“We had a Delta outbreak in June and we locked down and we eliminated it. And we’ve now put up borders to keep it out,” he said.
“At some point in time, the virus might get in. I can’t predict that but I’ll do everything I can to stop it coming in and stop it infecting our citizens.”
West Australians have overwhelmingly supported border closures which have allowed them to live without local restrictions.
A lack of major outbreaks and extended lockdowns is thought to be the main factor behind WA’s lagging vaccination rate.
The month-long freeze on elective surgeries, beginning on Wednesday, will apply to non-urgent, multi-day category two and three procedures.
It comes despite the state having a negligible virus caseload.
Mr McGowan has partly blamed the hospital crisis on the Commonwealth, saying there were hundreds of patients occupying beds who should be managed by the NDIS or in aged care.
But the prime minister said since coming to office, his administration had increased hospital funding at four times the rate of the WA government.
“Hospitals are a state responsibility and they’re getting significant funding from the federal government,” he said.