Victoria will pass the gloomy milestone of 10,000 virus infections on Friday amid a crisis that risks ‘spiralling out of control’.
Six months after the state’s first COVID case was detected on January 25, Victoria experienced its worst day, recording 723 new cases along with the deaths of 13 people on Thursday.
The death of man in his 50s from the regional town of Portland in the state’s west on Thursday evening will be counted towards Friday’s death toll.
The worsening situation has led to further lockdown measures – and the possibility of even more – as outbreaks also emerged in regional Victoria where there are now 255 active cases, with 159 in six areas around Geelong.
From Friday, residents of Greater Geelong, Colac Otway, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains and the Borough of Queenscliffe are banned from having visitors in their homes to help contain the spread.
Pubs, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to stay open in those areas, as will the rest of regional Victoria.
From Monday, masks or face coverings will also be mandatory across the state.
Professor Raina MacIntyre, the head of the biosecurity program at the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute, said it was time to consider a “fuller lockdown” for Victoria.
“If cases continue to grow, the human resources capacity for case finding and contact tracing may be exceeded,” she said.
“If we cannot identify every case and quarantine every contact, the epidemic may spiral out of control.”
Police probe crime links to Brisbane virus cases
Young women at the centre of Queensland’s latest virus cases may have links to an organised crime syndicate to cover their tracks at the border, the ABC reports.
- Story: Qld police investigate crime links to infected Brisbane women as family declares: ‘She’s not an animal’
Diana Lasu, 21, Olivia Muranga, 19, and a 21-year-old Algester woman have been charged with fraud and lying to health officials to evade quarantine after a trip to Melbourne — a declared COVID-19 hotspot.
The ABC reports that police are examining whether the trio acted on the instructions of crime syndicate handlers in a bid to evade quarantine, including by destroying phones.
The crime syndicate is allegedly involved in the theft and transport of luxury items between capital cities.
The ABC has been told police are investigating the women’s alleged involvement in stealing luxury handbags over two days in Sydney and another two days in Melbourne.
Late on Thursday afternoon, three young women were charged by police after breaching coronavirus travel restrictions by flying from Melbourne to Brisbane.
News Corporation newspapers report the girls had hosted an Airbnb party when Melbourne was in lockdown which was broken up by police.
Police broke up the gathering of 30 on July 19 and issued some $30,000 in fines.
Queensland is now bracing for an outbreak of community transmission.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that young people holidaying and partying are partly driving a spike in new cases in some countries.
Night clubs were also an “amplifier of transmission”, the WHO said.
“We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: young people are not invincible,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing in Geneva.
‘Flu’ confusion on Ruby Princess
Australian Border Force has denied a report that one of its officers allowed cruise ship passengers to disembark in Sydney in the mistaken belief they had tested negative to COVID-19.
The ABC’s 7.30 program on Thursday claimed a senior ABF officer allowed 2700 people off the Ruby Princess, thinking they were clear of the coronavirus when they had only tested negative to the common flu.
In a statement, the ABF said its responsibility does not include preventing the disembarkation of passengers or crew for health reasons.
“Any misinterpretation by ABF officers of test results did not make a difference as to whether passengers were cleared to disembark the Ruby Princess,” the statement said.
“Human health is not the responsibility of the ABF.”
The Ruby Princess, which docked at Sydney’s Circular Quay on March 19, has been linked to hundreds of cases and more than 20 coronavirus-related deaths across Australia.
Public hearings of an inquiry into the incident have concluded, with Commissioner Bret Walker SC to report back to the NSW government by mid-August.
Since the coronavirus began spreading on our shores, a huge proportion of cases have been linked to aged-care homes.
And as Victoria marks its 10,000th infection, those numbers are set to get worse.
About 100 of Thursday’s cases and 10 of the deaths have been traced to aged-care homes, with state and federal authorities still working frantically to stabilise the crisis.
Overall, more than 450 of Victoria’s almost 5000 active cases are aged-care residents, sparking fears of more deaths in coming days.
Face masks in flights, supermarkets and bottle shops
Virgin Australia has started distributing face masks and sanitiser wipes to passengers departing New South Wales.
The airline plans to introduce the measure across the entire network by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, customers at any Woolworths Group store will be “strongly encouraged” to wear face masks or coverings from Monday.
The measure affects all Woolworths stores, Dan Murphy’s, Big W, BWS and ALH Hotels in NSW and the ACT.
Stores in Queensland hot spots will also be following the guidance, while stores in Victoria are already following existing health orders by mandating masks.
No further restrictions anticipated outside of Victoria
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday he didn’t expect other states and territories would introduce further restrictions outside of Victoria any time soon.
“I spoke to NSW Premier [Gladys] Berejiklian this morning. She is, rightly, constantly anxious but that’s exactly where, I think, we should all be when it comes to those who are responsible for managing these situations,” he said.
“But the outbreaks are very well chronicled and the sources of those in NSW all defined.”