It looks very likely regional Victoria is going to be plunged into lockdown after cases in Shepparton hit 17 on Friday and it was confirmed some of those unwell people had been to other towns.
In New South Wales, the Delta variant has entered another remote Indigenous community as 39 new cases emerged beyond Sydney’s borders.
Police in both states are also preparing for more anti-lockdown protests later on Saturday.
In brighter news, there are reports that national cabinet is planning to introduce a rule for vaccinated Australians to use their phones as a ‘passport’ for exemptions to lockdown rules when they check in at cafes.
That could happen when 70 per cent of us are vaccinated. Something to look forward to …
In the meantime, stay home. Stay informed.
Here’s what we know so far about health orders, exposure sites and future plans for freedom.
- Click here for some ideas on how to make lockdown more fun
The temperature in Melbourne is tipped to hit 21 degrees and there are concerns the warmer weather could tempt people to mingle outdoors.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has warned the virus “will get away from us” if Melburnians fail to stick to the rules.
There are more than 460 exposure sites stretching across most of Melbourne and into regional parts of the state, including public housing towers in Richmond and Carlton over several days.
The emergency department at Werribee Mercy Hospital, Frankston IGA, Atlantis Hotel in the city and Dallas Brooks Community Primary School were among the new exposure sites announced late on Friday night.
Leaders held late night talks on whether to strengthen lockdown restrictions even more, with the Herald Sun reporting that even a ban on takeaway coffee was being considered. That could cause even more of a stir than this week’s closure of playgrounds.
We can expect to hear more about harsher restrictions by mid-morning and it is almost certain one of the key changes the government will announce is that regional Victorians must join their metropolitan counterparts in lockdown.
New regional exposure sites in Shepparton and nearby Kialla include:
- Derrimut gym;
- Click and Collect Coles;
- Lake Amaroo;
- Farm Fresh Fruit and Vegetable;
- Bakers Delight.
One of the people who has tested positive in Shepparton had travelled to Bendigo, it was confirmed on Friday.
Machinery company Delecca’s confirmed via a Facebook post that its business was an exposure site.
Contact tracers have been working to track the movements of all cases, to work out whether other regional towns could be impacted by the outbreak.
The state government has asked all community sporting leagues in regional Victoria to “immediately cancel their activities” for the weekend.
A spokesperson said more health advice will be provided to the government on Saturday morning “and all options are on the table” in regard to strengthening lockdown.
“The situation in Melbourne and across regional Victoria is extremely concerning,” they said.
The state is facing its biggest coronavirus threat since last year’s second wave after recording 55 new local coronavirus cases on Friday, including 30 which were infectious while in the community.
Five mystery cases were reported in Brunswick, Pakenham, Point Cook, Port Melbourne and Tullamarine.
- Click here to see all Victorian exposure sites
New South Wales
NSW is readying for a raft of new COVID-19 rules to become mandatory on Monday as the premier pleads with Sydney residents to “bunker down” for at least another six weeks.
Remember, masks are now mandatory across the state. The only time you don’t have to wear one in public is if you are exercising.
People in Sydney hotspots must also abide by a curfew from 9pm to 5am.
“It is time for all of us to bunker down and take this as seriously as we can,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Friday.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that young men who are ignoring COVID rules are behind the government’s decision to strengthen rules and the The Daily Telegraph has pinpointed tradies as being the reason for a compliance blitz this weekend.
The state reported 642 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 – the third consecutive day daily infections have exceeded 600 – and four deaths on Friday.
Meanwhile, the alleged organiser of a proposed anti-lockdown protest in central Sydney this weekend has been sentenced to at least three months’ jail for failing to comply with NSW public health orders.
Police will station some 1400 officers around the CBD on Saturday to ensure the protest doesn’t occur.
Officers have also been granted greater powers to lock down apartment blocks.
They have also begun putting out public alerts for people wanted for failing to comply with health orders.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Anthony Karam, 27, who has tested positive for COVID-19 and allegedly “failed to isolate as directed by the Public Health Order”.
Also this weekend, a permit system will be in place to control who travels between Greater Sydney and regional NSW.
Authorities are increasingly concerned about the virus threatening rural communities.
Two cases of 30 cases detected in western NSW on Friday were in a family in the predominantly Indigenous community of Goodooga near the Queensland border.
Cases were also reported on Friday in Dubbo (21), Wilcannia (3), Bourke (2) and Gilgandra (2).
Far West NSW Local Health District said four more cases in Wilcannia and one in Broken Hill will be included in Saturday’s numbers.
Cases were also found in South Kempsey on the Mid-North Coast, Hunter New England, Central Coast and southern NSW, while the virus was detected in sewerage at Bathurst, Parkes, Narromine, Coonamble, Cobar, the Illawarra and elsewhere.
Nearly 400 cases of COVID-19 have been detected outside Sydney in August, including 261 since last Saturday.
- Click here to see all NSW exposure sites
ACT residents aged 16 and older might be eligible for Pfizer vaccines next month, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to get one.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has taken a swipe at his federal counterparts for expanding the rollout without giving states and territories information about additional supply.
The majority of Canberra’s 94 COVID-19 cases are in children or young people, with 12 new infections reported on Friday.
“I’m worried about under-16s, I’m worried about what we’re seeing at the moment,” Mr Barr said.
He wants to know where Pfizer for people aged between 16 and 39 is coming from and when it will arrive.
“This was announced with no advance notice given to states and territories or any information on the vaccine supply that would be necessary for this to happen,” the chief minister said.
The ACT’s vaccine clinics are booked out until mid-October.
A mass vaccination hub will open at the Australian Institute of Sport arena so under-40s can register for Pfizer when it’s available.
AstraZeneca vaccines are more widely available and under-40s can talk to a doctor about getting one.
Pfizer is still restricted to children aged between 12 and 15 who are Indigenous, have underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems.
But that is expected to change soon as the national immunisation panel readies to tick off the jab for everyone in that age group.
Mr Barr questions the federal goal of achieving vaccination coverage of between 70 and 80 per cent and wanted more clarity about what it meant.
“The vaccine is not immediately effective. Once it’s jabbed into your arm. It takes several weeks for it to reach effectiveness,” Mr Barr said.
“When we talk about 70 or 80 per cent, we must talk about when the vaccines become effective.
“Targets are not reached on the day of vaccination, it takes time.”
In the ACT, nearly 35 per cent of the eligible population is fully jabbed.
- Click here to see all ACT exposure sites
New exposure sites across Canberra include:
- Fiction Bar;
- Freedom Furniture;
- JB Hi-Fi;
- TK Maxx;
- Windsor Smith;
- Assembly the People’s Pub.
The Morrison government has piled pressure on premiers over a national agreement that set thresholds of 70 and 80 per cent to significantly reduce the prospect of lockdowns.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned not sticking with the targets would break a deal with Australians.
More than 1.7 million doses were administered in the past week on the back of the first two days exceeding 300,000 jabs nationwide.
Australia has fully vaccinated 28.9 per cent of people aged over 16, while 51 per cent have received a first dose.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that national cabinet wants to see Australians be able to avoid some health restrictions by using their phones as ‘vaccine passports’ so that when they check in via QR codes at venues they can they are vaccinated.
Mr Morrison hinted at the new digital scheme while saying cabinet was investigating rewards for people who signed up for jabs.
“We have made a lot of progress on the digital support that is available to be done through state systems to give effect to that,” he said.