The COVID crisis gripping south-eastern Australia shows little sign of easing, with Victoria posting 374 more cases on Tuesday and scores of venues and shops in two states closing because of exposure to the deadly virus.
Along with its second worst daily tally yet from the pandemic, Victoria also reported three more virus-related deaths on Tuesday.
Premier Daniel Andrews said three women – one each in their 80s, 90s and 100s – had died. Victoria’s COVID toll is 42.
Meanwhile, NSW reported 13 new COVID cases on Tuesday, all but one related to the outbreak that began at the Crossroads Hotel in south-western Sydney.
The virus is also spreading in regional areas. In eastern Victoria and southern NSW, anger is growing after a host of shops, pubs and other venues were forced to close on Tuesday after confirmed cases of coronavirus.
“The Middle of Mogo, Courtyard Cafe, Mogo Fudge and Lots of Lollies Mogo will remain closed until further notice,” the Middle of Mogo shop on the NSW South Coast said on Facebook.
The Mogo Lolly Shop confirmed the closure on its own Facebook page.
“Could this year possibly get any worse? … We alongside many other businesses have decided that it is in the best interests of ourselves and staff and our customers to self isolate,” the post said.
“In Mogo Village over the past three weeks, we have seen many thousands of visitors, and some stores blew off the social distancing guidelines provided by the government for mandatory social distancing. It is with these people in mind that we find ourselves in another state of insecurity.”
The shop’s owner said they would confirm if any staff contracted COVID-19, and asked anyone who had visited the shop to also do so.
Further south, venues in the Victorian towns of Orbost, Marlo and Lakes Entrance were also closed after a person from Melbourne reportedly visited the region at the weekend and then subsequently tested positive.
Other local businesses affected reportedly included: DG Clothing & Donchi Group, HOF Design, Marlo Hotel, Club Hotel Orbost, Orbost Club Inc, Beachside Takeaway in Marlo, Hair on Argyle, Your Wellness Co in Marlo, Snowy River Taxis and Snowy River Cafe Marlo.
“Ever wondered how much impact the actions of a single person could have?” the Orbost Club Hotel wrote on Facebook.
“This is just a dramatic example of the interconnected lives we live and how we are all dependent on each other.”
The coronavirus outbreak that began at the Crossroads Hotel in Casula has continued to spread. Of Tuesday’s cases in NSW, 10 were linked to the Thai Rock restaurant in Wetherill Park and two are contacts of people who visited the pub.
Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Harris Park is also among the venues of concern, with anyone who visited from July 15-17 told to self-isolate for 14 days and come forward for testing. There are two positive tests linked to the church.
NSW Health had also earlier confirmed eight cases linked to the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club on the South Coast. Hundreds of people who visited the club between July 13-17, including many from Victoria and the ACT, have been told to self-isolate and have virus tests.
From Wednesday, NSW will enforce tougher border restrictions for people wanting to enter the state from Victoria. A border zone will be set up along the Murray River from midnight with all outstanding travel permits to be cancelled.
But Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday said she wouldn’t yet follow Victoria’s lead by mandating mask use in public but urged people to wear masks when social distancing was impossible.
She said social distancing remained more important.
“What NSW Health and myself are worried about most at this moment in time is what people are doing when they’re entering hospitality venues … you can’t wear a mask when you’re having a meal,” Ms Berejiklian told 2GB radio.
In Melbourne, masks become mandatory from 11.59pm on Wednesday. Mr Andrews praised residents for already adopting them in large numbers.
“Coming in this morning, I think eight or nine out of the 10 people I saw were wearing a mask. That’s a fantastic effort,” he said.
“It’s a small thing but, again a bit like coming forward and getting tested, it makes a significant contribution given the amount of virus we have out in the Victorian community and our absolute determination as part of this six-week strategy to bring stability to those numbers and to drive them down.”
He said it was concerning to see some commentary against the mandatory mask order.
“Nurses and doctors who might well end up treating you, they wear masks. So let’s thank them for them for wearing a mask as we go out and about for the four lawful reasons,” he said.