News Coronavirus Interstate alarm grows as Victoria’s virus cases mount

Interstate alarm grows as Victoria’s virus cases mount

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Drivers queued for hours at Melbourne's Highpoint Shopping Centre for COVID tests on Tuesday. Photo: Getty
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The NSW Premier has urged people “not to interact with citizens from Melbourne”, while South Australia will send extra police to bolster its border with Victoria as fears grow of a second wave of COVID infections.

In Melbourne, where 17 more coronavirus infections were reported on Tuesday, there are reports of a return to panic buying of toilet paper in suburbs in the six identified virus hotspots.

Victoria’s new cases included:

  • One student each from Brunswick East Primary and Keilor View Primary Schools. The Keilor student is linked to a family cluster of 13 across eight households;
  • Linked to the same family is a person who worked at a Coles distribution centre in Laverton while infectious last week. The centre will continue to operate with strict physical distancing;
  • Five members of one household in the City of Maribyrnong (in Melbourne’s west). Investigations into the source of their infections are ongoing.

Tuesday was Victoria’s seventh day of double-digit COVID increases. In total, the state has added nearly 140 cases since June 14.

The rise, and urging from health authorities, sparked chaos and lengthy queues at drive-in testing centres across Melbourne on Tuesday as worried Victorians lined up to have even mild symptoms checked.

Ms Berejiklian’s hard-line stance came ahead of the end of term two in Victoria on Friday and an expected interstate influx.

She backed accommodation owners and operators who moved to bar Melbourne visitors, saying they were “at liberty to accept or reject any traveller”.

“I call on all organisations not to interact with citizens from Melbourne at this stage,” she said.

“I would definitely encourage organisations to consider who to allow on their premises and where they’re coming from.”

Meanwhile, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall said anyone wanting to travel into his state from Victoria would have to go through a pre-approval process.

“Police will be putting additional resources down onto that border,” he said.

“As of next week, we will move to a pre-approval arrangement with all people coming across that border.”

The more than one million residents of the six Melbourne municipalities identified as virus hotspots – Hume, Casey, Brimbank, Moreland, Cardinia and Darebin – have already been told not to leave their areas.

On Tuesday, Premier Daniel Andrews said 50 per cent of Victoria’s virus cases could be tracked back to families getting together in the weeks since the state’s hard lockdown ended and restrictions eased. Among them were people who had refused to comply with quarantine requests – and he expected “significant community transmission” to continue.

“This is still with us. This is not over. And I know and understand that so many Victorians, perhaps all Victorians, want this to be over,” he said.

“But we simply can’t pretend that the virus is gone, that the virus is somehow not in our state. It is here. It travels so fast. It is so infectious.”

Victoria tested nearly 18,000 people for coronavirus on Monday, after testing more than 8100 on Sunday – “a very big number”, Mr Andrews said.

“I know there’s been some delays and that’s just a function of many, many people doing the right thing, and I thank them profoundly for what is a really big and powerful contribution to our fight against this virus,” he said.

Victoria has opened new drive-in testing sites and extended hours at others this week. But demand has been so high, some centres have reportedly had to close temporarily for traffic management.

“We already have cars that are outside the car park so we can’t actually line up cars at the moment because they’re on the street,” a staff member at the Highpoint centre in Melbourne’s north-west – close to one of the hotspots – told radio 3AW early on Tuesday.

“At that point we have to close temporarily to clear traffic for safety reasons.”

There were also signs people in the hotspots were returning to panic buying toilet paper. The Australian reported that customers at a Brimbank Coles were buying jumbo packs of toilet paper.

Mr Andrews said an “army” of officials would begin doorknocking homes in Brimbank, Cardinia, Casey, Darebin, Hume and Moreland council areas to ensure compliance with government guidelines.

Information about the virus will also be provided in languages other than English, following concerns COVID-19 messaging hasn’t been the reaching multicultural communities in those areas.

“There has been very deep engagement with localised communities, multicultural communities, multi-faith communities,” Mr Andrews said.

“We’re really working hard to make sure that every Victorian, regardless of their circumstance, knows and understands the rules.”

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the possibility of tighter lockdowns and even stay-at-home orders for certain suburbs was still active.

“If we are able to maintain low levels and low numbers … then I’m hopeful that we can avoid those lockdowns,” he told ABC radio.

“But we have to be absolutely clear: the rings of containment, the local actions are on the table.”