The Victorian cabinet has spent much of Tuesday morning in a crisis meeting after the state recorded 191 new infections in its escalating COVID wave.
A return to a statewide lockdown for four weeks is reportedly being considered as Victoria’s coronavirus crisis spirals further out of control.
Tuesday’s dire figures are the highest yet for Victoria since the start of the pandemic. It comes after 127 cases on Monday and hundreds more in nearly three weeks of double-digit daily leaps in case numbers.
Victoria also reported the deaths of two men, one each in their 60s and 90s, on Monday – Australia’s first virus-related deaths in several weeks.
Victoria has 772 active COVID cases. They include seven healthcare workers at the Northern Hospital and more from the Royal Melbourne and Alfred hospitals.
There are other cases in abattoir workers and at schools, including Al-Taqwa College in Truganina, in Melbourne’s west. By Tuesday afternoon, that cluster had 90 confirmed infections.
Two suspected cases – one a visitor from Melbourne – were being investigated in the border city of Albury, while there were other suspected cases at Port Fairy in southern Victoria.
Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to hold a media conference later on Tuesday.
Melbourne locks down
Tuesday’s developments come on the third day of a hard lockdown of nine public housing estates in Flemington, Kensington and North Melbourne, all in inner-Melbourne.
A further 350,000 people in dozens of suburbs across the city are also under renewed stage-three restrictions until at least July 29.
There have been concerns the government hasn’t provided enough food and supplies to residents prevented from leaving the housing estates.
Residents have taken to social media to complain that much of government-provided food is out-of-date, insufficient or culturally inappropriate, such as pork being provided to Muslim families.
Donations of food and supplies were also confiscated by the State Emergency Service on Monday night.
“This was after more than 48 hours of needing these essential items and having to rely on grassroots, community lead efforts,” Voices from the Blocks, a coalition of residents and community members, said.
An SES spokesman said the donations had since been returned.
“There was some confusion with donations and deliveries at the Flemington housing estate last night,” he said.
“We understand this caused inconvenience and frustration and thank the residents for their co-operation and patience.”
Groceries have also been left in the foyers of some towers for residents to collect.
On Tuesday, there were 69 confirmed COVID infections among residents of the housing estates.
Border closure plans revealed
NSW is also co-ordinating the closure of the Victorian border along the Murray River from midnight on Tuesday – the first time in a century the border has shut.
NSW Police Minister David Elliott said on Tuesday 650 police were on their way to the region to manage the closure. Up to 350 Australian Defence Force personnel will be brought in to assist.
NSW Police will also manage exemption permits that will allow residents of border towns to cross when necessary. But Mr Elliott said it would be complicated, particularly in the early stages.
“The next 72 hours from midnight, there will be challenges. We’ll ask [that] if you don’t have to cross the border, please don’t,” he said.
“It will be the most challenging phase of the operation, particularly whilst we are working through the exemptions, while we’re working through setting up the infrastructure, while we’re trying to get it right.”
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has sought to reassure people in border towns such as Albury-Wodonga that they will be able to travel between states to carry out daily activities and receive health care.
-more to come