Victoria records 1,838 cases, five deaths; NSW reports 646 cases, 11 deaths; restrictions eased in south-east Qld, Townsville – As it happened
The day that was, Friday 8 October
That’s where we will leave the live blog for Friday night. I’ll be back with you tomorrow morning for all the latest news.
Here’s what happened today, with thanks to AAP:
- Victoria’s third major coronavirus outbreak may be nearing its peak, the state’s chief health officer says, after reporting a record 1838 new Covid-19 cases on Friday and another five deaths.
- Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has been fined $400 for breaching coronavirus restrictions after he failed to wear a mask as he arrived at parliament on two occasions this week.
- Victorian MPs who refuse to disclose their vaccination status may be banned from voting and entering parliament, under a motion to be debated in the upper house.
- A seven-day lockdown was announced for Mildura, while Shepparton and Moorabool will come out of lockdown tonight.
- NSW reported 646 new infections and 11 deaths. NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet accepts the course will be less than perfect after doctors warned changes to the state’s plan may overwhelm hospitals.
- Nurses in NSW are anxious about the inevitable wave of Covid infections when the state reopens, with the union calling for an urgent recruitment of staff.
- South Australia recorded a new case in a truck driver on Friday, despite tough restrictions in the state’s southeast having been lifted.
- Plans allowing federal MPs to travel from Covid hotspots to attend parliament in Canberra could be used as a trial for other workers entering the ACT, which reported 40 new infections on Friday.
- Queensland’s chief health officer is confident the state has averted another outbreak as restrictions on social distancing, hospital and aged care visits and mask-wearing ease.
- Australians with severely weakened immune systems will be offered a third coronavirus jab to maximise protection against the deadly disease, Atagi has recommended.
- The federal education minister has pledged a rapid increase in international students returning next year.
- Victoria will make face masks mandatory for all children in grades three to six in an effort to reduce spread as students start returning to the classroom.
- The commonwealth hotspot declaration for Melbourne and Mitchell Shire has been extended for another week.
- NSW police officers, supermarket employees and takeaway food workers have made hundreds of compensation claims after contracting Covid at work.
- Regional NSW is weeks away from opening up to vaccinated travellers while case numbers continue to rise in some regions.
- The Australian Workers’ Union has flagged a possible legal challenge to BHP’s decision to lock out workers who refuse to be vaccinated for Covid-19.
Until tomorrow, stay safe.
Victoria is ditching the rule that prevented people from removing their masks to consume alcohol. It was brought in after there were a bunch of pub crawls around the inner north of Melbourne.
It made less sense once picnics were allowed, and it’ll no longer be in place from midnight tonight.
Tony Abbott has suggested that Australia should “intensify” air and sea patrols in the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
During a press conference in Taipei this afternoon, the former prime minister was asked what military support Australia could give - or would be willing to give - if Taiwan had to defend itself against China. Abbott - whom the Australian government says is in Taiwan in a private capacity - described it as an “extremely direct question”.
We all hope that it won’t come to that. That’s the whole point, isn’t it, to try to avoid a conflict that no one wants. And the best way to ensure that the conflict none of us want and would be a catastrophe for everyone is to let Beijing know that Taiwan has friends.
Now, what I think we can do right now is continue to consult with our allies, particularly the United States, about what might best be done to bolster a rules-based order in this region, what might best be done to discourage any unilateral, coercive alterations to the status quo, any interference with the freedom of all people in this region, particularly the people of Taiwan, and to intensify what we’re already doing, which is sailing, patrolling Australian naval elements in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Straits of Taiwan.
So that I think is what we should be doing in the short term, discussing with our allies, what might be done to meet any possible contingencies and intensifying our air and sea patrols - particularly in the South China Sea, and the Straits of Taiwan.
Interesting from ACT chief minister Andrew Barr. Vaccination rates in the capital could get as high as 98-99%
Sutton has also announced Moorabool and Shepparton will come out of lockdown at 11.59pm tonight.
This short lockdown has worked to slow the growth in cases and buy more time for locals to get vaccinated – and I really thank everyone in the community for staying safe, staying apart, and doing the right thing.
If you have symptoms in the coming days, make sure you still get a Covid-19 test – and if you haven’t already, then getting vaccinated is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family.
Mildura to go into seven-day lockdown
The Victorian health department has just issued a statement that chief health officer Prof Brett Sutton has declared the Mildura Rural City Council area will go into a seven-day lockdown from 11.59pm tonight and be subject to the same restrictions as metro Melbourne, bar the curfew.
There are nine active cases as of yesterday, with a further three confirmed this afternoon which will appear in tomorrow’s numbers.
More than 86% of the Mildura population have had at least their first dose of the vaccine, with 51% having had both.
If you’re in the Mildura Rural City Council area, please follow the lockdown restrictions, get tested if you have symptoms, and get vaccinated if you haven’t already.
We’ve seen regional communities get through an outbreak so we know it can be done – it’s vital we protect the local community and the rest of regional Victoria from significant outbreaks.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has described Taiwan as a country during a press conference in Taipei.
Abbott is currently addressing reporters, several hours after he gave a speech to a regional forum in which he argued China was becoming increasingly belligerent.
“Are we sufficiently socially distanced to ditch the mask?” Abbott asked the moderator at the outset. The moderator agreed. “It’s a real honour to be here,” Abbott said.
The Australian government says Abbott is in Taiwan as a private citizen, not on behalf of the government. Abbott was asked whether he had any message to the current Australian government regarding trade with Taiwan.
I was obviously a close colleague of the senior members of the government, but I’m no longer part of the government and I can’t speak for the government, but obviously I speak to the government. I’ll be going back to my colleagues and saying this is a wonderful country which is – sorry, a wonderful place! It’s very easy to fall into these little traps, isn’t it? Taiwan is a wonderful place.
Insurance companies have largely won a series of test cases in a federal court battle over whether they have to pay out claims estimated to exceed $1bn over interruptions to business as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Federal court judge Justice Jayne Jagot ruled the insurance companies should not have to pay claims made under clauses that relate to the government closing business premises due to outbreak of disease nearby, damage for an outbreak at the premises itself and damage due to restriction of access to the premises.
Jagot said that other than in one of the test cases – a travel agency in Melbourne, where there was an outbreak of Covid-19 – “I have concluded that these insuring clauses do not apply in the circumstances of each case”.
She said that in the other nine cases before the court the actions of health authorities in closing down businesses weren’t closely enough linked to the specific situation at their premises.
She said applying prevention of access clauses that would have resulted in claims being valid “would involve profound incongruence and incoherence in the operation of the policy which should be avoided”.
Here’s a bit more on the SA case from AAP.
Another truckie has tested positive for Covid-19 in South Australia, with officials identifying five potential exposure sites.
SA Health says the man in his 60s, who lives in Adelaide, tested positive at a checkpoint at Yamba, SA, on Thursday night as he crossed into SA from NSW.
It’s believed he’s in the early infectious period as he tested negative in NSW earlier the same day.
The man has been transferred to hotel quarantine in Adelaide while a handful of close contacts, who live in the same share house, have also gone into isolation and will be tested.
Officials have identified four tier-three exposure sites including two country petrol stations as well as a laundromat and a supermarket in Adelaide’s north.
Anyone who attended at those locations during specific times on Thursday and Friday has been asked to get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result. They must then get tested again on days five and 14.
A petrol station at suburban Elizabeth has also been identified as a tier-four site, with people who went there at two different times on Friday asked to monitor for symptoms.
Close to a dozen virus infections in South Australia in recent weeks have involved truck drivers.
But chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said the movement of freight in and out of the state remained an important service.
With that, I will pass you on to Josh Taylor, who will guide you through this evening’s news. Have a lovely weekend.
Infrastructure Victoria’s inaugural chief executive officer Michel Masson has resigned.
Masson was appointed in 2016, and has overseen major infrastructure projects including the Suburban Rail Loop. He will continue as CEO until 4 November this year.
It has been an honour and privilege to lead Infrastructure Victoria in contributing to robust policy decisions and a better future for all Victorians. I am immensely proud of the talented and passionate team at Infrastructure Victoria who have continuously demonstrated the value of independent, transparent, evidence based advice.
Dr Danielle McMullen is addressing NSW AMA’s concerns with the reopening plan in NSW.
She says the AMA’s greatest concern was the “scope and breadth” of changes before the existing roadmap was implemented.
Some of the announcements were a bit premature to change. We really were quite confident in the original roadmap that it was a steady and stable way out of lockdown. We certainly don’t want to see a situation where NSW is two steps forward, one step back. And we need a bit of steadiness along the way to be able to pause and reflect with each reopening and see what happens with Covid cases, what happens with our strain on the hospital systems, so the changes yesterday were certainly broader and sooner than we would have liked to see.
NSW AMA president Dr Danielle McMullen has been on ABC Afternoon Briefing, speaking about the federal government vaccine advisory body’s recommendation that severely immunocompromised people should get their third vaccination dose.
She says it shows Atagi has prioritised the vulnerable in society.
The third dose will give them that added protection they need like the rest of us have with our usual immune systems to get out and about in the community and be protected by the vaccination.
Booster shots for the rest of the population is a trickier question. So far the international data overall is still quite reassuring that even six or eight months out the reduced risk of hospitalisation following vaccinations is still very strong. The vaccinations are still good at keeping us out of hospital, keeping us out of intensive care and that’s really what we are aiming for with these vaccines. It’s likely that there will be some booster doses but we don’t have a timeframe on that yet.
SA records positive Covid-19 case
Another truck driver has tested positive in SA, health authorities have confirmed.
The man earlier tested negative in NSW.
South Australia is currently under Level 1 Covid-19 restrictions.
The Victorian LGA of greater Shepparton is still waiting for clarity on whether it will come out of lockdown from midnight tonight.
There were 13 cases reported in greater Shepparton today, including seven cases still under investigation.
At the press conference today, chief health officer Brett Sutton said vaccination rates would become increasingly important to determining whether targeted lockdowns in regional areas were necessary.
Almost 70% of eligible Queenslanders have received their first vaccination dose.
A Covid-19 update from SA is coming in the next half an hour or so.
NSW police officers, supermarket employees and takeaway food workers have made hundreds of compensation claims after contracting Covid-19 at work, the insurance regulator has revealed.
The State Insurance Regulatory Authority says there have been 1,593 Covid-19 claims since the first coronavirus outbreak in Australia in early 2020 and 1 October, AAP reports.
There were only 395 claims before 15 June but by the time the Delta variant had spread through the country there were 1,198 extra claims.
Of these claims, 1,165 included a confirmed diagnosis. One in eight of the claims were psychological.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews receives $400 in fines for not wearing a mask
Victoria police has released a statement regarding Andrews’ infringement notices:
Victoria police can confirm it has issued two infringement notices to premier Daniel Andrews for breaching chief health officer directions.
Premier Andrews received two fines today (8 October) for not wearing a mask, each to the value of $200.
These incidents occurred on Wednesday 6 October and Thursday 7 October outside Parliament House.
Former Victorian police commissioner Graham Ashton has been appointed to lead the independent review of the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, tasked with reviewing the state’s emergency call system following several deaths.
Ashton will review Esta’s current functions and make recommendations to the government on how to improve its capabilities by early next year.
Esta provides Victoria’s 24-hour emergency call taking and dispatch services for ambulance, fire, police and the Victoria State Emergency Service. In 2020/21 it answered one call every 11 seconds.
Esta chief executive Marty Smyth said “unprecedented” numbers of ambulance calls had been made in recent weeks, at levels previously only seen on busy weekends.
The average wait time is currently one or two minutes, well above the authority’s target of five seconds for ambulance calls.
Our hardworking emergency call takers have done their absolute best throughout unprecedented demand from the pandemic – but we want to see where things can be improved. Mr Ashton has expert knowledge of how our emergency services should operate, and I look forward to seeing his recommendations on how we can continue to support our emergency services agencies to keep Victorians safe.
Opposition spokesman for emergency services Brad Battin said the government had failed to prepare for the increase in Covid-19 cases in Victoria:
A failure to plan is a plan to fail, and due to the Andrews Labor government’s failure to prepare triple zero, people are dying. We don’t need an investigation at this time, Victorians need a guarantee their calls will be answered when they need emergency assistance.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott made quite a speech at the Yushan Forum today, calling Australia to stand with Taiwan against the threat of China.
Down in SA, a stranded dolphin has drawn a crowd of onlookers in Adelaide.
The dolphin got stuck in the River Torrens this morning, and has been putting on quite a show.
Exhausted healthcare staff in NSW are urging the community to remain cautious and responsible to help limit the inevitable rise in Covid-19 infections once lockdown lifts, AAP reports.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association says its members are anxious that a spike in Covid-19 hospitalisations could overwhelm the health system and its already stretched nursing workforce.
On Monday a swathe of restrictions will lift for fully vaccinated people across the state.
Nurses union secretary Brett Holmes:
As the community looks forward to reintroducing some normality into their lives from next week, nurses and midwives don’t get to share in that luxury. They’ve had very little reprieve since the pandemic hit our shores some 22 months ago and it’s far from over.
Even before the pandemic began, many public hospitals relied on nurses and midwives’ goodwill to accept regular overtime requests to keep services open amid staffing shortfalls.
The union is particularly concerned about hospitals in the state’s north, where workforce shortages are acute and vaccine rates lag.
Holmes said the situation was evidence of the need for nurse-to-patient ratios and the recruitment of more staff.
Almost 97% of eligible Canberrans have had at least one dose of a vaccine
Tributes are flowing in for the newly crowned Bird of the Year, the superb fairywren.
Safe to say superb fairywren supporters (including myself) will be celebrating well into the night.
The Victorian courts and VCAT have released a statement on the changed directions to the Public Health and Wellbeing Act made last night:
Directions made last night under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 in relation to vaccination of authorised workers do not extend to judicial officers and court and tribunal staff. Nevertheless, internal inquiries have already shown that they have extremely high levels of vaccination.
Court Services Victoria (CSV), as the employer of court staff, is considering measures that will require staff who attend onsite to be vaccinated on the same basis as other authorised workers in Victoria. These will be subject to a process of consultation with staff.
For all practical purposes, the courts and VCAT will be in a similar position to other essential service providers in Victoria.
Malcolm Turnbull has called on the Morrison government to invest in more long-term storage capacity to ensure the reliability of renewable energy, AAP reports.
Speaking on ABC radio, the former prime minister pointed to Snowy Hydro 2.0, one of his pet projects, as an example of what was needed for a zero-emissions economy:
We’ve just got to get on and build it because you can build a wind farm in a year or two, you can build a solar farm in months, literally. But to put in place the long-term storage takes forward planning and takes some vision. That’s what we did with Snowy Hydro 2.0. But we need a lot more of it, both here and right around the world.
Resources minister Keith Pitt has proposed the government become a $250bn financier of last resort for mining projects that don’t get private funding.
Prime minister Scott Morrison stressed regional areas would be part of the transition to new forms of energy, delivering new types of jobs.
Negotiations are ongoing within the coalition to extract agreement from the Nationals for a stronger emissions reduction target weeks out from COP26 climate talks in Glasgow.
According to the Victorian government’s Covid-19 mandatory vaccination directions, “worker” doesn’t include a commonwealth employee or a person who works in connection with court proceedings.
Many thanks to Mostafa Rachwani, who is probably very hungry after a big day on the blog. I will be with you for the next few hours.
And with that, my time on today’s blog comes to an end, and I leave you in the capable hands of Caitlin Cassidy. Thanks for reading.
So, in case you’ve missed it, the Superb Fairywren has been crowned the Bird of 2021. I truly did not know they existed until this poll, which kind of explains why it’s so essential.
You can read more from the liveblog below:
Seven days ago we were talking about the mandatory vaccination rules whether it was legally allowed and he said yes it was. So the legal advice has changed in the last seven days?
I don’t like to talk too much about legal advice but, yes, it has become increasingly apparent that there are some limitations on what can be done. We are confident, by the way that there is a high if not universal take up of vaccination among most members of parliament but we do want to be absolutely sure that members of parliament comply with the same obligations.
It appears the Victorian government has been forced to water down its vaccination mandate for Commonwealth employees and people who work in connection with court proceedings, though Brett Sutton denies this. He says MPs, including state MPs, cannot be within the mandates, meaning they are no longer part of the public health order.
That is specific legal advice supported by the solicitor general that there are constitutional and other legal protections for some of those groups that mean that a mandate was really not a recommendation for those groups.
Tim Pallas clarifies:
There is a separation of powers issue that goes to the courts and parliament but nonetheless we are working on mechanisms to make sure that every member of parliament complies with the same requirements that the public is expected to comply with through the mandate. That will be managed through decisions of the parliament itself and discussions are going on but that is the government’s express intention.
Daniel Andrews apologises for not wearing a mask
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has released a statement, apologising for not wearing a mask in the parliament’s car park:
I am aware that as I approached two press conferences at the back of Parliament House this week, I removed my mask after leaving the car, before I walked to the back doors.
I expect Victoria police to assess this and if they choose to issue a fine, of course I will pay it.
If they do not issue a fine I will donate the same value to a charity working to supporting people in this pandemic because whilst this was an oversight, oversights matter – everyone needs to follow the rules and I am sorry it occurred.
The former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has also said China has “taken a wrong turn”, and has alluded to the possibility of the US and Australia defending Taiwan in a future military conflict.
It’s Beijing that’s created the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – linking the United States, Japan, India and Australia – because it’s been so unreasonable; and the more aggressive it becomes, the more opponents it will find.
On the risk of a future military conflict, Abbott said he did not believe the US “could stand by” and watch Taiwan “swallowed up”.
I don’t think Australia should be indifferent to the fate of a fellow democracy of almost 25 million people.
The US Secretary of State put it well, earlier, when he said of China: that America would be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be. Provided it’s real, collaboration is still possible and trust could yet be rebuilt. But Taiwan will be the test.
For the democratic world, that means a readiness to support this fellow democracy, including by welcoming Taiwan into the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And for China too, which can hardly succeed while it mistreats its own people and threatens its neighbours, that means scaling back the aggression, as it could never be admitted to the TPP while engaged in a trade war with Australia, and in predatory trade all-round.
Nothing is more pressing right now, than solidarity with Taiwan, if we want a better world, hence my enthusiastic presence here today, to stand with this island that’s brave and free.
I won’t end urging you to stay safe rather something nobler and higher: stay free.
Brett Sutton assures reporters kids will “have a bit of fun” with the expansion of mandatory mask wearing in classrooms to children aged over Year 3:
There are pictures and faces that kids have on masks and they will make it part and parcel of their daily learning, I expect.
We do not want want any more disruption in schools than is absolutely necessary. We want them to continue with their learning. So, there will be cases in schools. There is no question about that but it will not be a case of the entire school population being in quarantine for a 14 day period.
The former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has raised fears that “Beijing could lash out disastrously very soon” amid growing tensions over the future of Taiwan.
Abbott is speaking at the Yushan Forum in Taiwan. The Australian government has said he is there as a private citizen, not as a representative of the government, but he has delivered some strong messages, and defended home affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo’s recent comments about the drumbeat to war:
Much has changed in just six years, but it’s not Australia’s goodwill towards the people of China, about a million of whom are now Australians and making a fine contribution to our country.
Australia has no issue with China. We welcome trade, investment and visits, just not further hectoring about being the chewing gum on China’s boot.
A fortnight back, Professor Victor Gao, a senior Beijing analyst and former translator for former leader Deng Xiaoping, directly threatened Australians: ‘do you want to be a target for a possible nuclear war?’ he said, in response to our decision to acquire nuclear powered (but not armed) submarines.
So if the “drums of war” can be heard in our region, as an official of ours has noted, it’s not Australia that’s beating them.
The only drums we beat are for justice and freedom – freedom for all people, in China and in Taiwan, to make their own decisions about their lives and their futures.
But that’s not how China sees it, as its growing belligerence to Taiwan shows.
Sensing that its relative power might have peaked, with its population ageing, its economy slowing, and its finances creaking, it’s quite possible that Beijing could lash out disastrously very soon.
Our challenge is to try to ensure that the unthinkable remains unlikely; and that the possible doesn’t become the probable.
Sutton: higher numbers expected
Brett Sutton says Victoria should expect higher case numbers to come, which means more deaths. But the state is still on track to continue with its current roadmap for reopening.
The seven-day average, I think, is in the 1,400s for the last week, so we’re not going up at the same rate as we were in previous weeks and I think that is a good sign. I think we are heading to the peak, if today isn’t the peak, and I don’t think it is, but I think we’re close.
We not at the peak in terms of the numbers of people who will die because that lag of three, four weeks from the peak in case numbers and at the peak hospitalised. We are working to minimise all of the impacts and, tragically, that includes people dying but there will be a proportion of people who are unvaccinated to remain vulnerable to dying.
Brett Sutton is asked whether Victoria’s health system is ready to cope with opening up.
He says Victoria has had time to learn global lessons on what public health measures work – like mask wearing and ventilation:
We can aim for the highest vaccination coverage possible ... I want us to get above 90% vaccination coverage and that makes a difference in terms of the stresses on the hospital system. I think we are sensible and evidence based around those other minimally imposed public health measures, the behaviour changes that people have to go through ... those things can make a big difference on the stresses in the hospital system and I think we can do pretty well in that regard.
Today is a record number, but it is important to reflect on the fact that our ICU admissions for the number of active cases – it is two-thirds of 1%. That is a reflection of our very high first dose vaccination coverage which protects you from severe illness ... we will drive transmission down and get over that peak very soon with a second dose coverage coming above 50% as well.
A 5% deposit obviously sounds attractive but do you not foresee issues with repayments down the track, especially if interest rates were to rise?
This comes back to the loan criteria approach. What banks do when they provide a loan, and we will and you have quite a number of substantial banking partners, they assess your capacity to make repayments. They assess your credit history. They assess your income, and therefore your capacity to make the repayments. All of those things will continue to apply.
What will change, however, is, of course, the level of repayment you will be required to make because you do not have to pay an amount as if you are servicing a loan should be state.
Why is the Victorian government choosing now to be the optimal time to drop down $500m in home loans when the pandemic is causing a huge financial strain on the state’s budget?
People will need assistance through the pandemic and as the economy grows. More importantly, we cannot simply use the pandemic as an excuse for being a one trick pony. There is a real issue that is impacting upon people’s livelihood and wellbeing, and the pandemic perhaps demonstrates more at this time than any other time, and that is having a home.
We have been, over the last five or six years now, producing policy about giving people access to homeownership should that be a part of their plans. Certainly we are not becoming a banker and I want to stress that point.
Tim Pallas is pointed to the upcoming deployment of the ADF as a possible indication there is an enormous strain on Victoria’s health and hospital services.
He says the news “doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone”:
We have been preparing for this for some time and when you are in an event of this nature the community needs to band together and governments needs to resource a response to facilitate our frontline workers so that they have resourcing necessary. The fact that the commonwealth are applying some 10 drivers to assist with ambulance response, that is a gratifying thing and something we are thankful for.
But frankly, if we have a defence force with capacity to drive an ambulance it is probably the best use of their time and effort when the community needs it. I would simply say that that is a resource that has been made available for which the state is greatly appreciative but it should not come as a surprise that we are banding together and effectively using resources available to us. It is simply a logistic act of common sense.
Tim Pallas is asked about the investigation that has been launched into the premier, seen not wearing a mask yesterday:
They have launched an investigation, that is what I make of it. The premier has been pretty diligent in terms of his behaviour and I think, I had a brief look at the footage and it looks like he is approaching a camera for purpose of doing a piece to camera. You are allowed to not wear a mask for that and we will leave it to that.
He says whether Andrews cops the $2,000 fine will “entirely depend” upon police investigations.
Earlier, chief medical officer Paul Kelly had announced new rules for healthcare workers exposed to Covid.
He said all states and territories have signed on to a new plan, and outlined that it will consider workers’ vaccination status, PPE they were wearing at the time and the nature of their exposure to determine whether they have to isolate and for how long.
It would depend on all of the things we have got used to: wearing of masks, the nature of the interaction between someone who’s positive and the healthcare worker, their vaccination status.
All of these things are taken into account and there’s a matrix there.
Royal Children’s hospital paediatrician Jane Munro is up now, speaking about what the return to school will look like during a pandemic. She says ventilation, mask wearing, physical distancing, hygiene measures and vaccinations will be vital.
The next month, more than one million Victorian children will return to 2,276 schools, across some 30,000 classrooms.
We all need to work together as a community to make that happen. I feel really strongly about that. We need to get our kids back at school and keep them at school. Last week, my colleagues ... recommended going back to school with the three Vs – vaccinate and vital Covid-safe steps. We have developed resources to help kids understand what is going on with Covid, how to wear masks and returning to school and if you keep checking the children’s hospital website, you will see these evolve and roll out over the coming two weeks.
Some good news for picnic-goers.
From midnight, the directions will be changed to allow people to remove masks outdoors in order to consume alcohol.
This had been causing a lot of confusion, particularly over the infamous Grand Final weekend.
That is a reflection of a push to more outdoor recreation activities including picnics and a welcome change for many, I am sure.
In other news, regional Victorian students from Year 3 and above will be required to wear masks to respond to ongoing cases outside of Melbourne. It won’t be mandatory for Year 1s and 2s, but will be strongly encouraged.
The chief health officer Brett Sutton is up now, breaking down today’s spread of Covid-19 cases. The northern suburbs continue to carry the bulk of Victoria’s case numbers.
There were 631 cases in the northern suburbs, some 35% of the total caseload. There were 533 new cases in the west, 424 in the south-east and 107 new cases in Melbourne’s east.
There have been 113 new cases in regional Victoria, some 6% of the state’s total caseload, remaining “steady”. There were 18 new cases in Greater Geelong.
From midnight tonight, a number of LGAs will be reintroduced into the border bubble operating between Victoria and NSW including Benalla, Greater Bendigo, Loddon, Hay, Edward River, Lockhart, Murrumbidgee and Wagga Wagga.
There were 11 new cases in a Baw Baw, 10 new cases in Ballarat, seven new cases in Mildura and 13 in Greater Shepparton.
Tim Pallas has turned from Covid-19 for a moment to announce a new home buyers fund, in a bid to assist some 3,000 first-time buyers while interest rates are low. The $500m fund is an expanded version of a pilot program. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders will be offered lowered deposits and larger government contributions.
As interest rates are and remain low, asset prices accumulate and increase. What this means is that for those people who have been denied the opportunity to get into homeownership then that goal becomes less and less obtainable.
They will be able to buy homes with the support of the Victorian government who will be an equity partner. They will only need a 5% deposit under the arrangements of the scheme with the Victorian government of course kicking in up to 25% of the asset value. Banks will assess the capacity for buyers to meet the payments.
Federal chief medical officer Prof Paul Kelly has just spoken about Atagi’s new recommendation for a third dose for the “severely immunocompromised.”
Kelly welcomed the new recommendation, saying he’d write to medical practitioners about the updated recommendation:
The evidence is now clear that people in those categories of immune compromised should receive a third dose, that should happen at a period after the second dose, between two and six months after that time of the second dose.
So there is now a statement up on the website listing the people that are now eligible for that third dose, I will be writing today to all medical practitioners as I have done on several occasions through the vaccine rollout, just to clarify that position and to give that guidance. And so that can commence now.
Kelly went on to address who would be covered by the new rule:
Just to give you a sense of who is covered, it is people who were already seen in phase one of the vaccine rollout to be priority groups, so people with active blood malignancy, blood cancer, people with other types of malignancy as well, people who have had organ transplants, people who have had stem cell transplants, people on immunosuppressive therapy.
So there are people who have had transplants who have medications to dampen their immune system, but there are others on certain types of arthritis medication and steroids for example. Those that are born with immunodeficiency, there is a group of those as well as people that are living with HIV who are not controlled under therapy.
So their CD4 count is low. So for people and those settings I encourage them to have a discussion with the medical practitioner as soon as possible and to book for a third dose.
The Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas is up now, confirming a record 1,838 new local cases in the state overnight, bringing active cases to 16,823.
There have been five further deaths – a man in his 80s from Brimbank, a woman in her 80s from Whittlesea, a woman in her 70s from Greater Shepparton, a woman in her 70s from Knox and a man in his 70s from Moreland.
There are now 620 people requiring hospitalisation in the state, including 114 in intensive care and 76 requiring ventilation.
Of those hospitalised yesterday, 66% were unvaccinated, 26% were partially vaccinated and 8% were fully vaccinated.
Pallas says vaccine supply has become “less of an issue”:
Eighty-five percent of the over 16 population has now received a first dose Covid-19 vaccination. An outstanding effort and you can see that our vaccination efforts are now starting to gain considerable momentum. Of course, there is 56% of the population, of the relevant population who have received a second dose.
In the next seven days in our clinics we have more than 26,00 first dose Pfizer appointments available, more than 5,500 AstraZeneca first dose is available and more than 21,000 first dose Moderna appointments are available. There is plenty of vaccine out there for you, please come forward.
ACT records 40 new cases
The Australian Capital Territory has recorded 40 new locally acquired cases, 10 of which spent time in the community, and 19 of which have an unknown source.
The Bird of the Year results are being announced right by by Lisa Cox in a dedicated live blog (linked below).
So far, the Peregrine falcon has come in 10th, Australian magpie is 9th, the Laughing kookaburra came 8th and the Gouldian finch came in 7th. More results on the way from the biggest poll of the year:
Australia passes 30m vaccination mark
Federal health minister Greg Hunt is giving a health update, and has announced that the country has crossed the 30m vaccination doses delivered mark.
He has also announced that the country has reached 81.5% in first doses and 60.2% in second doses.
What that means in the international context is that in terms of whole of population first dose coverage, we’ve not only passed the USA but we’ve also passed Israel and the EU, and that is a measure of what Australians are doing by coming forward.
But there is more work to be done and I would emphasise what I’ve said earlier, to continue to urge people to come forward.
Restrictions eased in south-east Queensland and Townsville
Queensland has recorded no new locally acquired cases, once again with premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announcing that south-east Queensland and Townsville will be returning to stage three restrictions from 4.00pm today.
So, in the Brisbane, Gold Coast, Moreton Bay, Logan, Townsville and Palm Island LGAs, rules will return to be in line with the rest of the state, with cafes and restaurants returning to one person per two square metres indoors and outdoors. Stadiums and events can have full capacity.
Up to 100 people can gather in homes, with no limit for people gathering in public spaces.
Visitors are permitted at aged care, correctional centres, hospitals and disability service centres.
Up to 200 people can attend funerals and weddings, and all wedding guests can dance.
Victoria police has confirmed to Guardian Australia that it is assessing the video circulating on social media of the premier, Daniel Andrews, walking across a carpark in Melbourne without a mask on.
The footage was filmed yesterday and shows Andrews leave his car without a mask and pass cameras and reporters.
Victoria police says as the incident is under review by investigators, it won’t be providing further comment at this stage.
New Zealand records 44 new cases
New Zealand has announced 44 new cases of Covid-19 today, spread across the Auckland and Waikato regions.
The latest cases bring the total in the outbreak to 1,492, more than 1,000 of whom have already recovered.
The country has experienced a lift in cases since level 4 lockdown restrictions were lifted last month, with prime minister Jacinda Ardern saying the country was entering a period of “transition” – as opposed to the strict elimination strategy it followed for the past 18 months.
Forty-one of the cases are in Auckland and three in Waikato. Health officials are also conducting contract tracing for an Auckland-based positive case that travelled to Northland.
New Zealand is continuing to see “mystery” cases – where people without known links to the outbreak are turning up at hospitals, for example, and subsequently testing positive. Health authorities said 60 people had been identified as potential contacts of such a case at Middlemore hospital earlier this week.
The country has crossed the halfway threshold on vaccinating its eligible population: 51% of those aged 12+ were fully vaccinated, and 78% have had at least one dose.
Atagi recommends third Covid dose for 'severely immunocompromised'
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has released a statement on the use of a third primary dose (not booster shot) for people who are “severely immunocompromised.”
They recommend the third dose “as part of the primary course in individuals who are severely immunocompromised.”
This is to address the risk of suboptimal or non-response to the standard 2 dose schedule.
The 3rd dose is intended to maximise the level of immune response to as close as possible to the general population.
This recommendation applies to all individuals aged ≥12 years with certain conditions or on therapies leading to severe immunocompromise.
Victoria police investigating premier for walking in carpark without a mask
So a story that is sure to grip Twitter is emerging, where Victoria police are reportedly investigating Victorian premier Daniel Andrews for not wearing a mask as he approached yesterday’s press conference.
Paul Dowsley, a 7News journalist, posted a video to his Instagram stories, of Andrews walking through the back of parliament, in the car park, without a mask, which you can see here:
Police have reportedly confirmed they are looking at the video, and investigating if Andrews was in breach of a CHO by doing so.
And here is the seven-day rolling average in NSW:
Otherwise, Dr Chant did not address any of the issues that have circulated in the media since yesterday’s press conference. And as today’s update wasn’t a press conference, there was no opportunity to ask her questions.
Chant: evidence of a new strain
So NSW CHO Dr Kerry Chant has been giving her live health update, and gave an interesting tidbit right now.
Chant says that genomic sequencing has shown that some people are being infected with a strain of Delta which is “different genome sequencing to the current strain circulating in Sydney”.
She caveated that by saying that there is “no indication” that the strain presents any difference to transmission, vaccine effectiveness or severity.
There are currently eight cases identified with this new strain, seven in one household and one additional case, and authorities are investigating.
NSW has recorded 646 cases, 11 deaths
NSW has released their numbers, and there has been a slight jump, recording 646 new locally acquired cases.
Sadly, there were 11 deaths.
The Police Association of Victoria has confirmed one police officer is currently being treated in hospital with Covid-19. A second police officer has tested positive, but is not currently requiring hospitalisation.
It’s unknown at this stage where the virus was acquired, however one of the two officers who have tested positive did work at a recent Melbourne CBD protest, the TPAV says.
In a statement, Victoria Police said it was not “immune” to the risks of Covid-19 while executing daily duties:
We’ve had a number of employees from many and varied locations furnish positive Covid-19 results which are believed directly linked to their role. Our utmost priority and focus is to ensure our members safety and welfare and as such all impacted officers are supported, offered assistance and guided through any and all health, safety and quarantine measures.
NSW education minister Sarah Mitchell has said the date of return to school has been brought forward because of the high rates of vaccination in the community.
Mitchell was on Today Extra this morning that the change, with all school kids to return to school by 25 October, was made because it is “irresponsible” to keep children out of schools:
We’ve just brought that final group forward a week.
We’ve done that because vaccination rates in the community are high, we’re going to start to see more freedoms and I just think it would be irresponsible not to have our students back at school as soon as we can.
The Victorian government has announced that it plans to ban elected representatives from parliament who refuse to declare their medical status.
Late last night, the Andrews government circulated a motion to upper house members that states “in order to protect the health and safety of members and parliamentary staff”, MPs would also have to have their first dose by 22 October.
They will need to have their second dose by 26 November.
If the motion passes, it means some elected officials would be banned from parliament, with David Limbrick and Tim Quilty of the Liberal Democrats already indicating they won’t comply and won’t be declaring their medical status.
Expect this to grow over time.
In an interesting development on that front, NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant will be giving the Covid update at 11am.
This, of course, comes after her absence at the press conference yesterday, and, most importantly, after reports emerged that she did not agree with the changes made to the state’s reopening plane. Should be interesting.
The ABC is reporting that NSW will release their Covid numbers at 11am, which is interesting because the premier yesterday indicated numbers would soon be released earlier, and that the government was “moving away from 11am press conferences”.
Unfortunately for those who love long press conferences, there will be no national cabinet today.
And we have Covid presser lift off:
So, today is the final Friday under (this) lockdown in NSW, with the state due to emerge from stay-at-home orders on Monday.
But you’d be forgiven for losing track of what you can and can’t do once lockdown is lifted, considering the changes made and many, many annoucements.
But fear not, Elias Visontay has broken down everything you can expect to change once the state hits 70% and 80% vaccination milestones:
Here are the Victorian case numbers as a seven-day rolling average. Some concerning trends:
NSW deputy premier Paul Toole is making the media rounds this morning, appearing on Sunrise earlier, this time discussing whether or not health officials approved the state’s new reopening plan.
Toole said it was “not the case” that NSW CHO Dr Kerry Chant, who was notably absent from yesterday’s press conference, did not endorse the changes announced:
I had a crisis cabinet the day before and Kerry Chant was in the meeting. We don’t make decisions without the support of NSW Health or Dr Kerry Chant.
I think it’s important we get the balance right between keeping peopling safe but also opening up the economy.
[The new plan] was endorsed by Kerry Chant and NSW Health and it’s a delicate balance, but ... I know the people are looking forward to Monday.
Victoria records 1,838 new cases, five deaths
Another record out of Victoria today, with 1,838 new locally acquired cases recorded.
Sadly, there were five deaths.
There is confusion in NSW this morning about whether or not day trips to regional areas from metropolitan Sydney will be allowed on Monday.
It began yesterday, after a spokesperson for deputy premier Paul Toole told the ABC that recreational day trips between Greater Sydney and regional areas would be allowed from Monday.
The measure was supposedly one of the changes made to the NSW Recovery Roadmap made by premier Dominic Perrottet, and meant that people would be able to organise day trips, but would not be able stay overnight.
But Toole was on RN Breakfast today and said that, actually, people won’t be allowed to do the day trips, saying it was “a little grey” at the moment, but that it will be “cleared up today”:
It’s a little bit grey at the moment where people think they can do day trips. It will be cleared up today in black and white, that you can’t go into Greater Sydney, into the regions.
People in Greater Sydney will be able to travel across the Greater Sydney region but they are not to have day trips or come into regional NSW.
The same with regional communities: you can go from regional area to another but not into Greater Sydney.
The health orders were a little bit not clear enough, they’re a little bit grey ... but it’ll made very clear this morning.
French ambassador: France reviewing 'every commitment' taken regarding Australia
The French ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thébault, was on the ABC’s RN Breakfast, and was asked by the host if the two countries could ever be “friends” again:
This remains to be seen. That is exactly the reason for which I have been instructed to come back [to Australia].
Our relationship was not only about a contract and that is exactly the problem. That has created a breach of trust and the crisis between our countries is that this was only the tip of a much deeper cooperation.
Thebault later said France was reviewing “every commitment” it has ever taken regarding Australia:
If we were lied to on one very important aspect ... confidence is not something you throw away when it’s convenient. Trust is something you build.
There is also a wish expressed of putting things back on track. France is absolutely ready. For us, Australians remain our friends but we need the government to rebuild the trust.
Nancy Baxter, Canadian epidemiologist and head of Melbourne University’s School of Population and Global Health, was on Sunrise this morning, raising concerns at the changes made to the NSW roadmap.
Baxter specifically pointed to the doubling of home visitors as creating the potential for superspreader events:
We have got to open up, but we have to open up safely.
And safely might mean being a little slower for a couple of weeks. We will save lives depending on how quickly or slowly we go for the next few weeks, and I don’t know if this rhetoric of economy versus lives makes sense when these are lives that could be saved.
We could open up and have increased freedoms, just maybe not as many as they are talking about.
For the first time in their history, Ambulance Victoria will not be deploying two paramedics in each ambulance, with drivers now joined by ADF personnel in a bid to improve response times.
The Ambulance Victoria executive director of clinical operations, Mick Stephenson, told the Age that they expected 10 defence personnel to begin work next week, and is requesting more.
It’s something we would have liked not to have done, but that is the state of the nation, we’re in such dire circumstances we have to do it.
Stephenson said demand for ambulances had hit “record levels”, with the service reporting four of its five busiest days in history in the past fortnight.
Good morning, Mostafa Rachwani with you today, to take you through the day’s news.
We begin in NSW, where the road to freedom has become a little bumpy, after reports emerged overnight that the state’s chief health officer did not endorse the changes to the roadmap made by new premier Dominic Perrottet.
The changes have raised concerns for case numbers once the state reopens, with the NSW president of the Australian Medical Association saying the changes may lead to “skyrocketing” case numbers.
Although the premier insisted the changes, which included doubling home visitors, opening schools a week earlier and doubling the number of attendees at weddings and funerals, were supported by health officials.
It comes as two police officers who were present at the recent construction industry protests in Melbourne tested positive, with one of them taken to hospital. Victoria police would not say how many of its staff were isolating, but said it was supporting the officers.
The state yesterday recorded 1,638 new cases yesterday and two deaths, a slight drop the high recorded earlier in the week, but hovering close.
In federal politics, we’ll be watching the fallout from yesterdays dual call for action against social media platforms from the prime minister and his deputy. Both called for the platforms to be held legally responsible for the content posted there, with the PM calling Twitter a “coward’s palace.”
We’ll bring you the inevitable roll of Covid updates as they come this morning, and everything in between. Stay tuned.