Prisons and a major retailer are the latest to feel the impact of a second coronavirus surge, while outside of Victoria state leaders are weighing up stricter rules to stop the virus spreading into their regions.
By Wednesday morning, thousands of inmates at six prisons were facing tougher restrictions including the prospect of up to 23 hours a day in their cells after a guard from Ravenhall Correctional Facility tested positive to COVID-19.
Hopkins Correctional Centre, Langi Kal Kal, Barwon Prison, Fulham and Loddon have also been locked down as a precaution.
The news of the prison lockdowns comes after a David Jones shop in at Chadstone shopping mall was forced to close on Tuesday after a staff member tested positive for the virus.
Retail workers at the busy mall have for weeks been raising concerns shoppers were not adhering to social distancing rules with reports that people had even gone shopping straight after a virus test near the mall.
A deep clean will be performed in the prisons and the department store, and contact tracing is under way for both cases.
Meanwhile, cases in aged care homes continue to grow and outbreaks outside of the locked-down zones are increasingly worrying regional residents.
Of the total cases, 5,763 cases are from metropolitan Melbourne and 382 are from regional Victoria.
Colac Otway Shire’s mayor has been calling for a two-week lockdown after 27 people in the region tested positive to the virus. Thirteen of those cases are linked to Australian Lamb Company.
Leaders in regional Victoria and in other states are watching the situation in Melbourne closely to see whether lockdowns, and the introduction of mandatory masks, make a difference.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there were promising signs lockdowns were working.
“We are seeing a rollercoaster of numbers and I think to a degree our anxieties do rise and fall as the numbers do, but there has been some levelling in the last four or five days,” Dr Sutton said on Tuesday.
New South Wales residents are being urged to wear face masks in situations where social distancing is not possible to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Sydney councillor and medical doctor Professor Kerryn Phelps tweeted that Sydneysiders could avert a “train wreck” by taking “individual responsibility for preventing transmission”.
We can avert a #covid19 “train wreck” in #Sydney by taking individual responsibility for preventing transmission. #MaskUp, wash your hands, keep your distance, avoid crowds and public transport, work from home where possible. We can do this for each other.#GoForElimination https://t.co/U9BBmltxVY
— Prof Kerryn Phelps AM (@drkerrynphelps) July 21, 2020
But Premier Gladys Berejiklian has stopped short of making face coverings mandatory like they will be in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire from midnight Wednesday.
“This can get away from us very quickly, which is why I’d rather everyone do the right thing now while we can still be in a position to control the spread,” Ms Berejiklian said.
The state will also toughen its border restrictions on people wanting to enter from Victoria from Wednesday.
To the north, Queensland is considering expanding its blacklist of NSW virus hotspots.
The move comes after two women were caught trying to smuggle a man with no entry permit across the Queensland border.
Police officers found the man while searching a Mitsubishi hatchback on Border Street, Wallangarra at about 6.45pm on Sunday night.
The 41-year-old was fined $4003 for trying to enter the Sunshine State without a border declaration pass – a breach of the Queensland’s coronavirus border control rules.
The man is among 16 other people who have been fined for ignoring the state’s COVID-19 border restrictions since July 10.
Two women, aged 28 and 29, were also in the vehicle at the time.
Three deaths recorded on Tuesday
As of 5pm on Tuesday, Victoria’s coronavirus death toll stood at 42 following the deaths of three elderly women – one aged over 100.
Victoria has 3078 active cases, with 36 people in intensive care.
Nationwide, 126 lives have now been lost to COVID-19.
In New South Wales, 13 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday, including 10 linked to the Thai Rock restaurant outbreak in Wetherill Park.
The Crossroads Hotel cluster has grown to 50.
In Tasmania, officials reported a woman in hotel quarantine after visiting Victoria had tested positive.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said everyone had hoped there would be a drop in new Victorian cases over the first few weeks of the renewed lockdown, as with the earlier restrictions in March and April.
“We have got to wait and watch just for another few days to see what happens and see if we do actually turn down the curve with those numbers,” Dr Kidd said.
Fast facts about mandatory face masks:
From midnight Wednesday, anyone living in Melbourne or Mitchell Shire must wear a mask in public.
- Exemptions apply to children under 12, and people with medical conditions.
- You can take your mask off while doing vigorous exercise.
- Keep your mask on when driving unless you are alone or with members of your household.
- The Stage 3 lockdown is due to end on midnight August 19.