News State Victoria News Victoria’s COVID toll edges towards tragic milestone, infections also tick up

Victoria’s COVID toll edges towards tragic milestone, infections also tick up

victoria virus numbers
Fishing is allowed again in Melbourne – but it must be solo and within five kilometres of home. Photo: Getty
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Victoria’s coronavirus death toll has edged closer to 800 with four more fatalities confirmed on Wednesday.

They take Victoria’s virus toll to 798. Nationally, 886 people have died during the pandemic.

The latest figures come as Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services released a new list of high-risk locations.

They include Woolworths Ashwood, Coles Chadstone, Chadstone Shopping Centre Fresh Food Precinct and The Butcher Club, which is also located in Chadstone Shopping Centre.

Those locations are not a current risk to the public and residents may continue to visit them in line with current restrictions.

However, those who visited the venues on the dates provided by the DHHS are urged to be on alert for symptoms.

Victorian health authorities also confirmed 13 new infections – the highest in four days but not enough to stop Melbourne’s key 14-day average falling to 16.4.

In regional Victoria, which has very few remaining active infections, the average is just 0.3.

Melbourne’s 14-day average  of new COVID infections must drop below five and there must be fewer than five mystery cases for a fortnight before the state government eases restrictions further.

Premier Daniel Andrews will give more details at a briefing later on Wednesday.

Earlier, he clarified a bevy of COVID-19 rules for Melbourne as the city adjusts to its slightly eased measures.

Melbourne moved to “step two” of its roadmap on Monday, with a few of its toughest measures wound back. Among them was the dumping of the 9pm-5am curfew.

The Premier said on Tuesday that L-plate drivers could continue to accrue the 120 hours of supervised driving needed to gain a provisional licence.

But they must be driving for one of the four permitted reasons to leave home and not solely for practice.

Melbourne’s 14-day daily case average is well below 20, but must fall to at least five.

Victorians are also allowed to travel outside Melbourne into regional areas for child care but will be subject to “step two”, rules like local residents.

Other clarifications included allowing Melbourne dog groomers to operate, but only from retail outlets. Painters can do emergency repairs at occupied properties, and public cricket nets can also be used if facilities aren’t required.

Elsewhere, Queensland enjoyed another day of zero new cases while NSW confirmed its fifth consecutive day without locally acquired cases.

Premier backs public servants over hotel quarantine program

Mr Andrews has defended three senior public servants after the state’s hotel quarantine inquiry heard they failed to brief ministers on major problems in the program.

Lawyers assisting the inquiry on Monday said the botched program was to blame for the state’s second wave of coronavirus, which has infected 18,000 people and claimed more than 750 lives.

Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles, Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kym Peake and Department of Jobs secretary Simon Phemister were singled out for failing to bring “significant issues” to their ministers’ attention.

Asked if the trio were now briefing ministers, Mr Andrews said on Tuesday: “Yes, I believe they are.”

“I’m confident that those three public servants – indeed all public servants – are acting appropriately.”

Mr Andrews later confirmed former trade union leader and upper house MP Ingrid Stitt would join his reshuffled ministry following Jenny Mikakos’ resignation.

Ms Mikakos quit Parliament and her role as health minister after the Premier told the inquiry that her department was ultimately responsible for the botched quarantine program.

Also on Tuesday, the Western Australian government wound back some tough quarantine rules for people arriving from Victoria.

From next Monday, Victorian arrivals – who remain subject to tight exemption criteria – will be allowed to self-isolate rather than completing two weeks’ hotel quarantine at their own expense.

-with AAP