Parts of regional Victoria have been hit by fresh COVID scares on their first day out of lockdown while Queensland’s capital Brisbane is racing to prevent an outbreak.
Australia reported its highest case numbers of the pandemic on Friday, with 1900 cases, most of which were in NSW (1542) followed by Victoria (334) and Canberra (24).
Some NSW regional towns will emerge from a month of lockdown on Saturday, but as Victoria’s experience shows, celebrations could be short lived because of Delta.
On the same day it came out of lockdown, the small town of Daylesford, about 100km northwest of Melbourne, is dealing with a coronavirus scare while exposure sites have been listed in Geelong and Lorne.
In Daylesford, a cafe and medical clinic were forced to close their doors after people infected with COVID-19 visited their venues.
Cliffy’s Emporium on Raglan Street said a staff member, who worked on September 7, had tested positive for the virus on Friday.
“We are working closely with DHS. However, as a precaution will be closed from tomorrow to allow our team to get tested,” the cafe said on Facebook.
Springs Medical Clinic on Hospital Street closed for deep cleaning on Friday after a COVID-positive case visited on September 8, between 3:15pm and 4:30pm, with contact tracing underway.
Most of regional Victoria except Greater Shepparton emerged from lockdown on Friday, with retail and hospitality allowed to reopen under strict rules.
In Queensland, authorities are tracing contacts of a truckie, a schoolgirl and a university worker who were infectious in the Brisbane community.
Griffith University Vice Chancellor Professor Carolyn Evans has emailed staff telling them a staff member, who is a family relative of the 13-year-old Sunnybank girl who tested positive on Friday, has also tested positive.
She says the person visited two buildings and attended one meeting at Nathan Campus on Wednesday and both venues have been closed for deep cleaning.
“The university was advised that a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19,” Prof Evans wrote in an email to staff on Friday.
“They are a close family contact of a confirmed case identified this morning.
“We have offered support to our colleague and their family during this difficult time.”
Queensland Health is yet to confirm the case as they do not announce new cases until morning press conferences.
Scores of families have been forced into 14-day home quarantine as authorities race to determine how the schoolgirl became infected with COVID-19.
The student, from St Thomas More College at Sunnybank, is one of three locally acquired cases reported in Queensland in two days.
Authorities don’t yet know if there’s a link between the girl, her family member and a NSW truck driver who was also infectious in the community at nearby Mount Gravatt and Archerfield on Sunday and Monday.
Meanwhile in NSW, residents in a handful of COVID-free regional areas have woken to their first day of freedom in four weeks.
Stay-at-home restrictions have lifted for much of the state’s northeast and southwest, including in the regional centres of Coffs Harbour, Wagga Wagga and Albury.
Masks will be mandatory at indoor public venues, but hospitality venues, shops, sporting facilities and beauty services have all been cleared to reopen with restrictions.
Up to to five people will be allowed in a home and up to 20 can gather outdoors.
Entertainment venues like cinemas and theatres can also open with conditions, and outdoor and stadium events can also resume, with limits on attendees.
Weddings and funerals will be limited to 50 people, with churches and places of worship to open subject to the four square metre rule and no singing.
But for the bulk of NSW residents, those freedoms remain weeks away, with lockdown to continue in Sydney, for the southern parts of the state, the southeast, the Illawarra, the Shoalhaven, Hunter, Central Coast, central west and parts of the far west.
Running out of beer
In one regional town of Oberon, in the NSW Central Tablelands, local businesses have been madly rushing to prepare for customers and could run our of beer.
But those who want to celebrate will have to get in early, the Royal Hotel’s Amber Obernier says.
Within hours, revellers will drink the place dry.
One of three pubs and clubs in the town, the Royal Hotel is running desperately low on the liquid gold after four weeks under stay-at-home orders.
The other two venues are in the same boat, she said, unable to secure stock in the two days’ notice given by the government when they announced restrictions would ease on Thursday.
The announcement brought relief, but also panic.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Ms Obernier.
“It actually made me feel a bit sick in the stomach because I was like ‘Oh my gosh, we’re just not prepared for this’.
“You know that excited, but so-nervous-you’re-sick feeling.”
They’re already booked out for Saturday night, and it’s been a “mad rush” to get as ready as possible before doors open.
With other parts of the Central Tablelands like Orange and Bathurst weathering outbreaks and remaining in lockdown, Ms Obernier is also worried about rule breakers.
Patrons at the hotel will only be able to enter through one door, and will each have their address checked to confirm they live in the local government area.
But that’s a shadow of the worry locals feel for what happens once the state reaches 70 per cent vaccination coverage and regional travel is allowed again.
“I was talking to a few local shop owners this morning and it does make us nervous,” Ms Obernier said.
Staff will have to check everyone is fully vaccinated, a conversation that can spark abuse, and any outbreak in the town could overwhelm it, she says.
“I mean, we want to get back to normal but we don’t want the virus here in the town,” she said.
“We wouldn’t be able to cope.”
But after the “terrible” reality of lockdown — during which the venue offered take-out options, operating at a loss to keep staff employed — any change is welcome.
“Beggars can’t be choosers,” Ms Obernier said.
“We’re just happy to unlock the doors.
“It’s going to be so good to see people again.”