Regional Victorians were racing the clock – and racing around to Bunnings or even to get down the wedding aisle – after being told they had two hours until lockdown.
Parents were looking for child-sized masks while heeding the advice that children need more protection in the current outbreak.
Crowds of unmasked protesters were screaming at police and letting off flares in Melbourne CBD before being dragged into custody and given hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fines. Dozens were also being arrested doing the same thing in Sydney.
Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded the highest number of new daily infections of the pandemic in any Australian jurisdiction.
That state’s Health Minister fired up at people “who don’t seem to give a damn” after hearing about the number of infections linked to an illegal house party and an illegal funeral.
Saturday was a big one. Here’s a wrap of the latest outbreak news.
More than 200 anti-lockdown protesters have been arrested and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fines issued after violent protests on Saturday.
Police said six of their officers were injured during clashes with some of the 4000 mostly unmasked protesters.
Video from the day shows people letting off flares, yelling slogans and blasting music while shouting at police about lockdown being a breach of their freedoms and COVID-19 risks being exaggerated.
Victorian police arrested 218 people and issued 236 fines, each worth $5452, for health order breaches.
Six police officers were hospitalised and three people remain in custody for allegedly assaulting police.
With few protesters wearing masks and no social-distancing while crowds yelled out selected health statistics to back their claims that COVID is no worse than the flu, authorities fear the virus could have spread at the event.
Video sent to me, showing pandemonium outside Parliament House earlier this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/AEAXUwZjZm
— Paul Dowsley (@paul_dowsley) August 21, 2021
Meanwhile, regional Victorians were racing the clock to finish important but non-essential activities after being told they were going into lockdown at lunchtime. Some even managed to bring forward wedding plans so they could tie the knot before 1pm.
Premier Daniel Andrews warned there was “every reason to believe” that the Delta outbreak has reached further into regional areas.
So far, 21 cases have been reported from three families who have children at three local schools in Shepparton.
A high school campus located in a town northeast of that city has was linked to the outbreak on Saturday night.
The exposure sites added at 11.30pm were:
- Greater Shepparton Secondary College campus in Invergordon;
- Altona Gate Shopping Centre in Altona North;
- Saccas Fine Foods in Altona North;
- The Coffee Club in Altona North;
- An ALDI in Altona North;
- A Coles in Altona North;
- Beau Vorno Milkbar in Keysborough;
- 7-Eleven in Keysborough;
- North Dandy Bottle-O in Dandenong North;
- Dandy Fresh Market Blooms in Moorabbin;
- Elephant Cafe in Newport.
Those exposure sites are all listed as ‘Tier 2’, meaning anyone who was exposed must get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.
- Click here to check the locations and times of exposure
Victoria officially recorded 61 new locally acquired cases on Saturday, including 39 that were infectious in the community.
An additional 16 cases will be included in Sunday’s official count – all of them in Shepparton and detected through rapid testing after the city’s first positive case was reported on Friday.
There are 18 COVID-19 cases in hospital in Victoria. Eight of those patients are in intensive care and two are on ventilators.
The premier told Victorians he had no choice but to impose some of the harshest restrictions the state has seen to ward off a crisis on the scale NSW is facing.
Access to childcare centres has been shut down for all but vulnerable children and the children of authorised workers.
Authorised workers will need to obtain permits to go to their jobs from 11.59pm on Monday.
There will be more workforce limits and mandatory testing for high-risk industries in Melbourne, such as abattoirs, meat processing centres, and supermarket distribution centres.
One other major change is that masks are now being recommended for primary school students when they are indoors, to address a significant over-representation of young children among the state’s 402 active cases.
Mr Andrews also wants students aged 12 and over to have had at least one dose of vaccine by the end of the school year.
He said he fears what could happen if such a large, unprotected group begins moving around the state and country over the Christmas holidays.
New South Wales
More children have been caught up in the NSW outbreak, with Leichhardt Public School closing after a staff member tested positive and Lane Cove West Public School shut after a student caught the virus.
Staff and students at both schools have been asked to self-isolate until further notice, a NSW Education spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday night.
There are also dozens of new exposure alerts including for supermarkets, bottle shops, a Bunnings and a pharmacy. Some of the locations are:
- Woolworths in Broken Hill;
- Woolworths in Dubbo;
- Aldi in Hamilton;
- Big W in East Maitland;
- BWS in Cardiff;
- Narromine Pharmacy.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged residents to remain calm, while Health Minister Brad Hazzard warned it’s no time to be selfish.
Their messages follow the highest number of daily COVID-19 infections recorded not just by the state but by any Australian jurisdiction during the pandemic.
Some 825 people tested positive for the virus in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday, a jump of 183 from the previous day.
In a bid to shift public focus from the rising tide of cases to “more important” vaccination figures and the national goal of 70 and 80 per cent coverage, Ms Berejiklian said on Saturday she’d noticed a “change in attitude” from her interstate counterparts.
“We accept that Delta is here,” she said.
“We accept heading to zero across the nation, especially once you open up and live freely, will be an impossible task.”
The premier implored people to “be real about it” and know that vaccinations were keeping them and their loved ones out of hospital.
Nearly 80 per cent of Saturday’s cases were in Sydney’s west and southwest where tough new restrictions including a night-time curfew are in force.
It was also revealed that three more people in Sydney had died of COVID-19: two men in their 80s and 90s in aged care at Normanhurst and a woman in her 90s in Liverpool Hospital.
Deputy Chief Health Officer Marianne Gale said six residents of the Normanhurst facility’s dementia ward had been diagnosed with the virus after an unvaccinated staff member worked while infectious. Four of them had declined the jab.
An illegal party in the beachside suburb of Maroubra held last weekend has led 16 revellers to test positive, plus some of their contacts. Up to 60 people attended the event.
Mr Hazzard said he’d been told a funeral in western NSW may have drawn up to 500 mourners.
“Many of those people are now returned to the far flung parts of our state and I’m already hearing from our health system that there are cases that are positive in various communities and those will probably grow in the next few days,” he said.
“There is no time now to be selfish.”
The spread of the virus in the state’s far northwest is of “very, very grave concern”, Ms Berejiklian warned.
There were 14 cases in the health district – which only serves 30,000 people – 12 of them in Wilcannia.
The western district had 38 cases including 32 in Dubbo.
The entire state is now locked down and a police blitz underway to enforce harsher regulations and increased fines.
A concerted police operation to smother a planned anti-lockdown protest in Sydney appeared to be effective with numbers a fraction of a demonstration earlier this month.
Some 1500 police were involved in patrolling approaches to the CBD, while train services, taxis and ride-share services were excluded.
NSW Police arrested 47 people and fined more than 260 in relation to protests across the state.
Officers also issued 137 tickets after stopping around 38,000 cars approaching the city.
A 32-year-old man who allegedly assaulted an officer was arrested and charges are expected to be laid.
The constable was taken to hospital for head and neck injuries.
- Click here to see all the NSW exposure sites
The ACT has recorded eight fresh locally acquired cases of COVID-19, all of them linked to the territory’s current outbreak and none infectious while in the community.
However Chief Minister Andrew Barr said it would not be possible to stage Canberra’s popular Floriade and Nightfest events this year, due to the ongoing risk of spreading the virus.
“We will take a very cautious approach here,” Mr Barr said on Saturday.
“The chief health officer will provide the government and cabinet with advice, as she is every day of this outbreak but to come out of lockdown early, we would require day after day of zero cases and people not infectious in the community.
“The clear point here is that coming out early, while there is still risk of virus transmission, could see the whole thing start again.”
Mr Barr said 4683 virus tests were conducted in the ACT in the 24 hours to Friday evening, with waiting times remaining relatively short.
- Click here to see the ACT exposure sites
A third of eligible Australians are vaccinated
Australian state and territory leaders are racing to hit COVID-19 inoculation targets as federal Labor calls for an eventual “reasonable debate” on vaccine passes.
National cabinet has agreed to set second dose thresholds of 70 and 80 per cent to significantly reduce the prospect of lockdowns.
More than 1.7 million doses were administered in the past week with a record 310,524 jabs delivered nationwide on Friday.
Australia has fully vaccinated 29.6 per cent of people over 16, while 51.8 per cent have received a first dose.
At the press conference announcing the record daily cases, Ms Berejiklian shifted the focus on to the brighter news about vaccination numbers.
NSW has now administered a first dose to 57.56 per cent of eligible people and a second dose to 30.81 per cent.
“While case numbers are going up, the more important figure going up is the vaccination rate,” the premier said.
“The vaccination rate is where we can look forward to living life freely.”
Almost 50.43 per cent of eligible Victorians have now had one dose and 29.37 per cent have had two doses of vaccine.
“Our long-term strategy to be open, to be growing, to be employing, to be in a very different world, is for 80 per cent of people to be through that vaccination program,” Mr Andrews said.
“You can act on that right now, right now.”
Federal Employment Minister Stuart Robert praised the pace of the vaccine rollout.
“In the last three days over 900,000 vaccinations have occurred … 900,000,” he said.
“It is equivalent to 215 per minute, It is an extraordinary rate of achievement being built.”
Mr Robert said the Commonwealth was sharing individual’s vaccination data with states and territories but he didn’t indicate there was any federal plan for a vaccine pass system.
“Whether that vaccination certification data is used will depend of course on state and territory public health orders and that’s a matter for those states and territories,” he added.
Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler said when the 70 per cent target is hit there should be a “reasonable debate” about vaccine passes.
He said Qantas and some arts festivals have already flagged that proof of vaccination will be required for staff and patrons, respectively.