What we learned today, Saturday 17 July
That’s where we’re going to leave this blog for today. Here’s a recap of the main stories of the day:
- NSW records 111 new Covid-19 cases, as the government announces a significant tightening of restrictions, including shutting down three local government areas, the construction industry and all non-essential businesses.
- Victoria records 19 new cases on the second day of its fifth lockdown.
- Prime minister Scott Morrison has urged world leaders to ramp up production of mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer, at an Apec meeting to discuss recovery from the pandemic.
- Australian politicians are angry that a British rightwing commentator claims to have travelled to Sydney while tens of thousands of citizens are stranded overseas and unable to return home due to reduced flight caps.
- AFL players from multiple clubs have been forced into isolation in Queensland.
Thanks for reading, we’ll be back to bring you tomorrow’s news. Take care.
British rightwing figure claims to be in Australian hotel quarantine
Australian politicians have expressed their anger after British rightwing commentator Katie Hopkins posted a video claiming she is in hotel quarantine in Sydney while tens of thousands of Australians are stranded overseas and unable to return home due to reduced flight caps.
The limit on the number of international arrivals coming into Australia via commercial flights was halved from 14 July over concerns from some state premiers about the infectiousness of the Delta variant of Covid-19.
Read our story here:
We’re a week away from the Olympics, and it doesn’t seem to be going fantastically:
They are having some nutty weather in South Australia, AAP reports:
Trees and powerlines have been brought down and several homes have suffered minor damage after a night of wild weather across South Australia.
A deep low-pressure system and a series of cold fronts bringing strong winds and heavy rain moved across the state from Thursday, with the worst of the conditions hitting Adelaide and the Mt Lofty Ranges overnight on Friday.
Kylie Egan from the Bureau of Meteorology said such vigorous weather events were only seen in SA once or twice a year.
Wind gusts topped 100km/h in some regional centres and 95km/h at Adelaide airport.
Showers and thunderstorms dumped 82mm of rain at Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills with other areas having more than 50mm.
Rivers rose significantly but remained below flood warning levels.
On Saturday morning more than 15,000 properties were without power because of storm damage, but by early afternoon less than 3,000 still needed services restored.
The State Emergency Service said it took 570 calls for assistance since Thursday, with almost 500 of those received on Friday night.
The SES chief of staff, Derren Halleday, said most calls involved trees brought down on houses, cars, powerlines and roads.
Two calls related to trampolines becoming airborne and damaging other property and Halleday said at least one car had become stranded in a river, south of Adelaide.
The bureau said the conditions had moderated by Saturday afternoon and would continue to ease over the weekend as the weather system moved steadily east.
Three removalists who allegedly tested positive to Covid-19 before travelling from Sydney to regional New South Wales are among the 162 people charged in the past 24 hours with breaching public health orders.
NSW police say officers spoke to four men on Friday, and it was established they had travelled from West Hoxton to Figtree, before travelling to Molong, stopping in regional areas including South Bowenfels and Orange.
“It will be alleged three of the men travelled to Molong after being notified they had tested positive to Covid-19,” police said in a statement.
“Police escorted all the men and their vehicles back to greater Sydney where they have been instructed to isolate for 14 days.”
Police also said they had fined a worker from a south-west Sydney aged care home who allegedly tested positive to Covid-19 – and was directed to stay at home – but was later found to have travelled to buy dumbbells.
The state emergency operations controller, Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys, said earlier today that NSW police would be taking a tougher stance towards enforcing the public health orders in line with the tightening restrictions announced by the government.
Lockdown restrictions in greater Sydney will be drastically tightened after the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, conceded measures introduced three weeks ago were failing to stop an outbreak of more than 1,000 cases.
Berejiklian made the changes after repeatedly denying in the past week that there was any need to harden restrictions, saying people could use their “common sense” to decide whether they were an essential workplace that had to stay open.
But as the state recorded 111 new Covid-19 cases – including 29 who had been in the community while infectious – Berejiklian said there was no choice but to pull the trigger on the toughest restrictions implemented in NSW during the pandemic. She insisted the government had not received health advice at any other time during the outbreak that had justified the measures announced on Saturday.
Read our full story here:
Here is a full story on prime minister Scott Morrison’s comments from earlier today about ramping up mRNA vaccine production:
The closure of the construction industry alone in greater Sydney could cost up to $1bn a week, AAP reports:
The toughening of Covid-19 restrictions in greater Sydney will cause massive financial loss for businesses and individuals in spite of state and federal support, industry groups say.
Their comments come in the wake of a major tightening of the greater Sydney lockdown, as NSW recorded 111 locally-acquired cases on Saturday, 29 of them in the community while infectious.
The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced that as of 11.59pm, non-essential retail would close and all construction would pause until 30 July.
Workers and businesses in Sydney’s south-west are even more heavily restricted, as residents in three local government areas are forbidden from leaving their council boundaries.
The Business NSW chief executive, Daniel Hunter, supports the need for a tougher health response but says the economic fallout will be immense.
“There’s no sugar coating that it will have a huge impact on all businesses right across NSW,” he said.
The shutdown of the construction sector alone will mean a loss of $800m to $1bn a week.
There is good financial support available but it will not cover all losses and some businesses will not survive, Hunter said.
He highlighted the national economic impact of the Sydney shutdown, saying the region accounted for about a third of Australia’s GDP.
NSW and the federal government unveiled financial support for workers and businesses on Tuesday.
The state expanded its business grants and either cut or deferred payroll taxes for most companies.
Workers who have lost eight or more hours a week as a result of the lockdown will be able to apply for federal support through Services Australia for up to $600 a week.
On Saturday, Berejiklian said businesses did not need to stress about cashflow problems.
“Over and above what the federal government has given, we are giving billions and billions extra. Everyone is able to get those payments if you are an individual or you can’t go to work any more,” she said.
“Even if it takes a few weeks for businesses to get that money come through the door, at least when they are dealing with financial institutions and others, those institutions can be rest assured that that money is coming through the door.”
Afternoon all, here is a little bit of a summary from AAP about what is going down Covid-19 wise in Victoria:
All but one of Victoria’s latest locally-acquired Covid-19 cases were active in the community while potentially infectious, as the state identifies some 10,000 “primary close contacts”.
Another 19 diagnoses were confirmed on Saturday, taking to 43 the state’s total number of virus cases for the current outbreak as all of Victoria remains in a five-day lockdown.
The health minister, Martin Foley, said the 18 people who were in the community before testing positive were moving about for an average of 1.7 days each and that was reassuring.
“That figure is a vindication of the going-hard-and-going-early strategy that the public health team has put to the government,” he said.
The latest patients include at least two school students, and there are 14 cases linked to an “index case” – a man aged in his 60s – who attended last weekend’s Geelong-Carlton AFL game at the MCG.
The number of exposure sites has reached 168, and includes pubs, clubs, restaurants, sporting venues, shopping centres, schools and gyms in metropolitan Melbourne, suburbs and multiple locations at Phillip Island, a two-hour drive south of Melbourne.
The AFL confirmed on Saturday that players from several clubs had visited exposure sites in recent days and had since travelled to Queensland.
Foley said the potential threat to regional Victoria was ongoing.
“What we’ve seen over the last 24 to 48 hours is a list of exposure sites that now include significant parts of regional Victoria – Phillip Island, the Barwon region, Bacchus Marsh – and the primary and secondary contacts that have spread further than that.”
Exposure sites and the latest information on restrictions can be found at the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Victoria website while authorities declined to comment on the potential for the lockdown to last past Tuesday.
“There is enormous frustration for all of us about the uncertainty around this virus,” the chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said.
“But you might as well read a horoscope to be able to predict how things might look three days from now. We’re on a really good trajectory in terms of having every case linked, but we don’t know what’s around the corner.
“Those super-spreading events are becoming more common with the Delta variant. The transmission within any indoor setting is much higher than we’ve seen previously.
“We just need to brace ourselves for any possibility.”
Victoria’s Covid test numbers for Friday totalled 47,606 and 19,237 got vaccinated, authorities said.
“I don’t think it’s a state secret that we are a long way behind where we should be in the vaccination program,” Foley said.
“That is one of the factors that has helped shape the public health team’s decision to go hard and go early (with a lockdown), because you cannot protect Victorians with what is, I think, 12% of Victorians vaccinated.”
He welcomed stricter measures announced by NSW on Saturday to do what it can to “keep the rest of Australia safe”.
Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania have imposed barriers on travel from Victoria.
No overseas-acquired infections were recorded on Saturday.
Thanks for joining our live coverage so far today. I hope all of those in lockdown are getting lots of support from loved ones during this time.
The details of the tightened NSW restrictions can be found here:
NSW reported 111 new cases overnight, while Victoria reported 19.
I’m going to hand the blog over to my colleague in Melbourne Nino Bucci to take you through the evening.
PM urges global mRNA vaccine production
Prime minister Scott Morrison has urged world leaders to ramp up production of mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer’s at a historic Apec meeting to discuss recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, AAP reports.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday night hosted the online Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ retreat, which also involved US president Joe Biden, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping.
It is the first time in the regional forum’s history that a special meeting has been held at leaders’ level and comes at a time when 12 million Australians are in lockdown due to spiralling outbreaks of the Delta virus variant.
Apec’s 21 members have suffered their biggest contraction since WWII, with 81m jobs lost and a contraction of 1.9% of GDP.
Morrison boasted of Australia’s fiscal recovery during the virtual summit, saying the economy has bounced back to levels higher than before the pandemic.
As this pandemic started and we had these meetings, we spoke about saving lives and saving livelihoods. In many ways that’s been achieved.
There are more people employed now in Australia than before the pandemic hit.
That has been assisted greatly by the fiscal support packages we’ve put in place and the successful suppression strategies we’ve put in place.
Morrison pointed to a successful global vaccination effort as a path out of the pandemic.
Key to that is the production of more mRNA vaccines like those made by Pfizer and Moderna.
Scaling up the production of vaccines really is the challenge for all of us.
We produce the AstraZeneca vaccine in Australia, but particularly the mRNA vaccine production capability is something we really have to lift globally, so we can get that to more and more of the population.
Morrison noted Australia itself faced “quite a challenge” in crossing critical vaccination “thresholds”.
About 13% of Australia’s population has been fully vaccinated.
In the meantime, the country would remain in a suppression phase he said, in a nod to the lockdowns in NSW and Victoria.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the Apec leaders vowed to redouble efforts to expand vaccine manufacture and supply and said they would continue to support economies for as long as necessary.
They also said voluntary transfer of vaccine production technology on mutually agreed terms would be encouraged.
The leaders’ statement said they must pave the way for safe resumption of cross-border travel, but “without undermining efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19”.
The full Apec leaders’ summit is due to be held online in November.
This statement has just come through from the AFL:
The AFL confirms that multiple players and club staff members have visited Victorian exposure sites over the last few days including attending the Wallabies vs France rugby match at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Tuesday 13 July.
Several players and staff members across the clubs – Collingwood, Essendon, GWS Giants, Hawthorn, North Melbourne, St Kilda, Sydney Swans and Western Bulldogs either attended the rugby match on Tuesday night or visited other listed exposure sites in Victoria – some of these players and staff are currently in Queensland.
The AFL has notified the Queensland government and acting in accordance with their directions.
Each person who has attended an exposure site has since been tested and all have received a negative test result.
Victoria exposure sites are classified as either Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3 and all players and staff affected are following the advice provided by the Victorian department of health, dependent of what ‘level of tier’ they have been exposed too.
The AFL confirms there are a number of players and staff that are currently classified as Tier 1.
Tier 1 enforces a mandatory 14-day quarantine period regardless of a negative test result – those affected are currently undertaking this directive.
The majority of the attendees from the clubs who attended the Rugby are classified as Tier 3 – advised to monitor for symptoms and get tested if they become unwell.
The Victorian department of health continue to contact those directly affected with further updates.
Round 18 of the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season continues today and all matches will proceed as scheduled.
Three removalists who allegedly had knowledge they were Covid positive before travelling from metropolitan Sydney to regional NSW are among the latest people to breach the public health order in the past 24 hours, NSW police have said in a statement.
Just after 2.30pm Friday 16 July officers from Central West police district attended Speedy Street, Molong, and spoke with four men – aged 21, 49 and two aged 27 – after receiving information they had travelled there from West Hoxton.
A NSW police statement says:
Police established the men, who were working as removalists, had travelled from West Hoxton to Figtree, before travelling to Molong, stopping in regional areas including South Bowenfels and Orange along the way.
It will be alleged three of the men travelled to Molong after being notified they had tested positive to Covid-19.
Police escorted all the men and their vehicles back to greater Sydney where they have been instructed to isolate for 14 days.
The younger three men were issued court attendance notices.”
Minister for police and emergency services David Elliott said:
This thoughtless act has now placed our regional communities in NSW at the greatest risk so far with this pandemic.
We know that the Delta variant is highly transmissible, and it is unfathomable to think that, with all the public information and health warnings, people could so blatantly ignore the health orders.”
AFL players in isolation in Queensland
Here is the latest on the AFL cases from AAP:
A North Melbourne and an Essendon player have been forced into isolation in Queensland after attending an exposure site in Victoria. The players are understood to have been at last Tuesday’s Wallabies match against France at AAMI Park.
The rugby union Test has been upgraded to a tier one exposure site since the teams arrived in Queensland on Thursday.
North and the Bombers are due to clash on Sunday at Metricon Stadium after the match was moved from Marvel Stadium because of Victoria’s latest Covid-19 outbreak. The two teams joined Sydney and Greater Western Sydney in relocating from Melbourne as Victoria went into lockdown on Thursday.
It is also being reported that a number of Essendon and Sydney Swans staff members – plus one Giants employee – are in isolation after visiting exposure sites. The AFL is expected to release a statement about the situation later on Saturday.
Read the full story here:
Tokyo Olympics athletes’ village gets a Covid case
A person has tested positive for Covid-19 at the Tokyo Olympics athletes’ village, organisers say, adding to concerns about infections at the Games which begin next week.
The Tokyo 2020 chief, Toshiro Muto, confirmed on Saturday that a visitor from abroad who is involved in organising the Games had tested positive. He would not reveal the person’s nationality, citing privacy concerns.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics, postponed for a year due to the global pandemic, is being held mostly without spectators and under tight quarantine rules.
It has been plagued by a series of setbacks, including massive budget overruns.
Three days ago, Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said a “safe and secure” Tokyo Olympics will be a show of global solidarity during the pandemic – on the same day as infections in the host city reached their highest level for almost six months.
Bach is due to visit Fukushima – the scene of a triple nuclear meltdown – next week when the region hosts softball matches before the opening ceremony on 23 July.
Read our story here:
The federal minister for emergency management, Bridget McKenzie, has been speaking in Townsville, Queensland.
Asked about claims the government has been inconsistent in its offers of financial support to states affected by lockdowns, she says:
Well, I can tell Australians no matter which state and territory you live in, if you are subjected to a lockdown that goes beyond seven days, you are able to receive an individual payment, as I said, of up to $600, depending on how much work you’ve lost as a result of the lockdown and that is consistently going to be paid through Services Australia.
That’s the delivery model tomorrow. The claims there’s a lack of consistency in payment are absolutely not true.
She has also been asked if NSW was too slow to lockdown, responding:
As we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, different state and territory governments have reacted differently to cases within their communities. That’s a matter for premiers and chief ministers and the decisions that they make need to be based on science.
I think what we’re concerned about at a federal government level is making sure that individuals and businesses have the support they need to get through the pandemic, get through the lockdown.
In sport news, James Roberts has become the latest NRL player to miss a match for Covid reasons after the Wests Tigers centre discovered he’d visited an exposure site.
It was revealed on Saturday that Roberts did not fly to Brisbane with the rest of the Tigers team on Wednesday and will miss their clash with Brisbane, AAP reports.
It’s understood the 28-year-old came into contact with a known case while shopping last week and did not breach the NRL’s bubble.
He has since returned a negative test, but still has to wait another four days to be released from his Covid hold to rejoin the squad.
But he is now at the mercy of the Queensland government, who are yet to allow families and other players into the state on the second load of flights.
South Sydney star Benji Marshall was forced to miss Sunday’s game against Canterbury after he was unable to enter the state on Saturday as planned.
Welfare groups have criticised the federal government’s eligibility criteria for the Covid-19 disaster payment that rule out anyone who receives a social security part payment, Soofia Tariq writes:
Under the criteria those already receiving income support payments from the commonwealth, including jobseeker, Abstudy and youth allowance, are ineligible for the additional payments for losing work during the lockdown.
Casual workers are entitled to $500 per week if they have lost more than 20 hours or $325 per week if they have lost fewer than 20 hours.
However, the large number of people who also use government income support to supplement casual wages are unable to receive additional payments for loss of work.
Chloe Holm, a casual sales assistant in Bondi who occasionally receives youth allowance and rent assistance, is unable to access the disaster payment despite fitting all other criteria.
“As the New South Wales lockdown inevitably continues to extend over and over again it’s becoming extremely difficult to purely rely on this minuscule income alone,” she said.
“I receive a maximum of $550 fortnightly if the hours and pay I report are zero … My portion of rent is $250 each week, not taking into account any bills or debt repayments or groceries/utilities – that has been leaving me with $50 to survive every two weeks.
“I could be and should be receiving more through the disaster payment but am obviously not able to as I don’t fit one single eligible rule.”
Here’s where things stand at 1.30pm Saturday 17 August:
- The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has announced tighter restrictions for greater Sydney including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour until 11.59pm on Friday 30 July, as the state reported 111 new cases.
- NSW health authorities are worried about the number of new cases where people were infectious while still out in the community, and say if that number doesn’t come down they will not be able to get on top of the virus.
- The full list of new restrictions can be found here.
- NSW has also announced a tougher $10,000 penalty for bosses who force their staff into offices if they are not essential.
- Meanwhile Victoria has announced 19 new cases.
- More than 10,000 close contacts are isolating across Victoria, which is in its second day of lockdown.
- The MCG in particular is an exposure site of concern, with 14 cases now linked to the venue.
And here’s what you need to know about the new Sydney lockdown rules and restrictions:
Victoria’s Covid press conferences are marathons and the update that began shortly after 11.30am is still going.
The chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, has been asked about a Richmond apartment complex that has been ordered into isolation.
Sutton says: “So it is a site with a case ... but it’s effectively the response that we’ve had for other housing settings where there are multiple individuals nearby, but they’re being supported to be tested, and they’ll need to quarantine for that period of time as well.”
Players and staff from three AFL teams have reportedly been forced into isolation in Queensland after they unwittingly visited Covid exposure sites before leaving Victoria ahead of this week’s round of matches.
The Age is reporting that Essendon and North Melbourne have one player each in lockdown after exposure sites were re-graded by the Victorian government. The players are believed to have attended the Wallabies rugby union Test match against France on Tuesday at AAMI Park, which has reportedly been re-graded as a Tier 1 site.
There are other reports that a Sydney Swans employee is also in lockdown. The AFL and clubs are yet to confirm the details.
The Bombers’ game with the Kangaroos, which was scheduled to be played at Marvel Stadium, was moved to the Gold Coast earlier this week as Melbourne went into its fifth lockdown due to the pandemic and the AFL scrambled to ensure round 18 of the 2021 season went ahead.
In total, four matches will be played at the Gold Coast’s Metricon Stadium this weekend. The Sydney derby featuring the Swans and GWS Giants had already been moved from Ballarat and will be played on Sunday, along with a game between the home side the Suns and the Western Bulldogs.
Richmond played Brisbane there on Friday night and were planning to fly back to Victoria on Saturday following their win over the Lions.
Unions NSW boss calls for jobkeeper to be revived
The Unions NSW secretary, Mark Morey, says:
Today’s shutdown of construction and non-essential retail mean jobkeeper must be revived to give workers and employers across Sydney certainty and security rather than ambiguity and confusion.
The combined effect of closing retail, construction, hospitality, events and other industries is a mammoth hit to household incomes. While lockdown is now the only option, the onus is on the state and federal governments to provide economic security.
Jobkeeper is the answer. It provides all affected workers with a liveable income of $1,500 per fortnight while maintaining the connection to their employer.
The ever-changing criteria and levels of support payment from the commonwealth and NSW governments are confusing and bewildering. Jobkeeper is clear, well understood and allows workers and businesses to spring back into action on the other side of the crisis.
All the knowledge and experience is in place. We just require Gladys Berejiklian and Scott Morrison to dust off the old copybook and get moving.
We also need proper pandemic and vaccine leave for people who have to isolate or get vaccinated. The current system is a hodge-podge, with far too many Sydney workers falling through the cracks.
Why is the MCG involved in so many – 14 – cases? How has it spread there? Victoria’s Covid-19 commander, Jeroen Weimar, says:
We’ve now got the index case for the MCG outbreak, the man that is [in his] 60s from the Ariele apartments, he went with his friend, they spent some time in Young and Jackson’s together and then went to the level 2 MCC reserve. We now have four other people ... so five other cases ... have been identified, who have caught coronavirus at that particular event. We know the individual of concern, the index case, made a number of movements from his seat both by his own report but also by following CCTV and following his QR code movements, he was a particularly diligent QR code user.
So we know what his movements were, we’ve used CCTV to then try to identify where those other five cases came into contact with that individual, we’ve certainly seen some fleeting contact I believe in the bar areas and other areas of those indoor circulation spaces. We’re still concluding some of that work. And as a result we’ve also expanded our tier one definition across more zones within the level 2 reserve.
The index case was there at the game with a friend from Barwon Heads who has also generated his own chain of transmission to a number of places. There are four other individuals who have all tested positive [at the MCG]. Those four individuals did not know the two men who went to the game. So that’s why we have these different chains running.”
The Independent Education Union Victoria general secretary, Debra James, has issued a statement that says “teachers have been enormously over-represented amongst those who have contracted Covid in the current Victorian outbreak”. She adds:
This only serves to underline what the IEU and others have been saying since last year – schools are very high-risk transmission sites and for the safety of the broader community, school workers must be prioritised in the vaccine rollout.
If the many calls by education unions and independent experts over the last eight months to prioritise vaccines for education workers had been followed, it seems likely that today we would be facing a smaller and more manageable outbreak here in Victoria.
Parents, students and staff want our schools to remain open. More importantly though, the simple fact is that an unvaccinated workforce in a such a high-contact environment poses an unacceptable risk to the broader community.
The Morrison government can no longer ignore this urgent issue.
More on vaccinations from Prof Brett Sutton:
Even with 12% fully vaccinated in Australia, we can still turn this around.
Look, we would all love all eligible Australians, Australians 16 years and older, to be vaccinated by now.
That’s not the case, it’s not going to be the case immediately. We’ve got a supply constraint, that’s the reality.
Vaccination is our primary means of protecting ourselves and protecting everyone, but it’s not the only means. All those other tools of physical distancing, of wearing a mask, checking your exposure sites, and isolating and quarantining as appropriate that we put in place prior to vaccines even being available ... that has defeated the virus and all the outbreaks that have been associated with it.
So, yes, it’s frustrating not to have everyone vaccinated who are age eligible, but we’ve got to use all the tools available and we can still turn this around.
Prof Brett Sutton has a final message for Victorians:
We want to get ahead of [the virus]. It’s not just about keeping up. We want to drive this completely into the ground, and our public health planners are working day and night to keep us safe.
My final advice, as we stand today with an escalating situation, is really follow those lockdown restrictions. Only going out for those five essential reasons and, please, check exposure sites. Please get tested if you have any symptoms whatsoever. Get vaccinated if you’re eligible.
Victoria’s exposure sites can be found here.
Victoria's chief health officer says virus active 'in a number of places'
Prof Brett Sutton says “we are seeing a third wave globally with the Delta variant”. He continues:
So we are seeing the virus live in a number of places, as has been mentioned, Bacchus Marsh, Phillip Island and in suburbs across Melbourne in some of our biggest sporting stadia in Australia. We have multiple sites of transmission, and more than 160 exposure sites across Victoria. That includes restaurants and pubs, sporting stadiums, the service naval base, and then multiple schools.
The infection patterns here and overseas tell us that younger adults, teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s absolutely become infected, especially with this Delta variant. There are young adults in hospital right now around the world, including in New South Wales, with Covid-19, some with very severe illness.
He’s urged Victorians to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
We need to protect all age groups by getting vaccinated as soon as you’re eligible, understanding that not everyone’s eligible right now but as soon as you’re eligible to get vaccinated.
I’ve booked into my second AstraZeneca job for later this week. So I do encourage everyone who’ve had their first vaccine, whether you’ve had Pfizer or AstraZeneca, to finish the job. Get that fullest protection you can by getting a second dose.
There were 19,237 Victorians who came forward yesterday to get vaccinated, that’s a fantastic number. There are still spots available for Pfizer vaccinations, so over the next three weeks there are 35,000 spots still available for dose one of Pfizer, and there are 69,000 spots still available for those dose-two jobs. In addition to this we prioritise 10,000 Pfizer appointments for our most at-risk workers and residents, regardless of age, and there’s still plenty of capacity for AstraZeneca as well.
Back to NSW quickly. When questioned about the restrictions on movement in the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool LGAs, premier Gladys Berejiklian says:
I don’t think we are talking about a ring of steel, I will leave that matter for police. What we are wanting to do is make sure that communities are actually really well supported. They have been doing the hard yards and it is through no fault of their own that they have been impacted by Covid.
Meanwhile the chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, has been questioned about reports a new mother has been separated from her newborn after testing positive at Nepean hospital.
Those decisions are not made lightly and they are made with the family unit. Some families choose to, if the person is positive, the mother is positive, there is decisions around how they want to isolate and manage the situation.
These are clinical issues that are best dealt with and kept private but suffice it to say I can’t imagine how difficult the circumstances of giving birth knowing that you are Covid-positive. I don’t want to comment on that specific case but I can reassure the community that the health service put in a vast array of measures to support that family at the most difficult of times.
MCG an 'important' site in Covid outbreak
Victoria’s Covid-19 testing commander, Jeroen Weimar, says there are more than 10,000 primary close contacts who have been identified and 165 exposure sites. He says:
The City of Hume outbreak now stands at six cases. The Ariele apartments complex is now at seven positive cases. Right now nine positive cases associated with Bacchus Marsh Grammar and primary.
In total there are 14 cases related to the MCG, through a number of different strands. We have an additional case today.
We’ve also got two social contacts who visited Phillip Island. We have two further cases at Trinity Grammar ... We’ve got three new positive cases at Frankie’s restaurant ... And we have one student at St Patrick’s.
In terms of overall activity levels at the moment, obviously the MCG is a very important part of our investigation, we now have 2,387 primary close contacts, about half of those returned negative test results.
Martin Foley says the new cases justify the hard lockdown. He says:
Our public health team is responding quicker than they ever have before because this virus is moving quicker than it ever has before.
They identify not only those infected, but those who may have come in contact, and the next possible multiple layers of contacts. On average each case has spent less than two infectious days in the community.
It shows the value of going hard, and going early to make sure that we get our arms around this as quickly as we possibly can.
The Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, is going through the 19 new cases there. On average each new case spent less than two infectious days in the community, which Foley says “shows the value of going hard and early”.
Firstly we have an additional case at the MCG, in level two of the MCC members reserve, two of his friends have now had the virus, and they have recently travelled to Phillip Island.
That’s three. A social contact of the Trinity Grammar teacher now has the virus, and we’ve learned about two further staff members also testing positive. So that’s six.
There’s been a visit to Miss Frankie’s from a positive case, and that has seen three cases of transmission with a staff member, and a patron, sitting on nearby tables, so that’s nine.
There’s also been another student at St Patrick’s primary school. And that brings us to 10.
We also have two staff members from Bacchus Marsh Grammar, and one student. And one student. That brings us to 13.
And we have four household contacts of the Young and Jackson’s case, being the gentleman’s wife and his three daughters, and the partner of one of the daughters. That brings us to 18.
And one household contact of the original gentleman who visited Coles.
So all of that brings us to the 19 new cases today.
I’m going to leave the NSW press conference there to tune in to Victoria’s press conference, due to start any second.
Gladys Berejiklian expands on why health authorities are so worried. She says:
As the case numbers emerge and we find people who have been infectious in the community, there is a lag of up to a week, between five and seven days, when we don’t have the data.
The data we are presenting and showing to you today is really what occurred five to seven days ago. That is why what we need to take is precautionary action. Had we seen data which showed those numbers going down more significantly, we wouldn’t have had to put those measures in place.
I have seen NSW bounce back from the most horrific circumstances. No matter what catastrophe has faced us over the last two years – and there has been a lot of them – we have bounced back. This is our chance to bounce back as quickly as possible.
I have so much faith in our people, we have done so remarkably well. This latest challenge we will get through as well. I have absolute faith and hope this will happen.
List of new restrictions for NSW from midnight
On the basis of updated health advice, the following changes come into effect across greater Sydney, including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour, until 11.59pm on Friday 30 July:
From 11.59pm on Saturday 17 July:
- Retail premises will be required to close (‘click and collect’, takeaway and home delivery can still operate), except the following can remain open:
- Supermarkets and grocery stores (including butchers, bakeries, fruit and vegetable stores, liquor stores and fishmongers);
- Stores that predominantly sell health, medical, maternity and infant supplies;
- Pharmacies and chemists;
- Petrol stations;
- Car hire;
- Banks and financial institutions;
- oardware, nurseries and building supplies;
- Agricultural and rural supplies;
- Pet supplies;
- Post offices and newsagents; and
- Office supplies.
- In addition to the stay-at-home rules, residents of Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool LGAs cannot leave their LGA for work except for emergency services and healthcare workers (including aged and disability workers). Where those workers do need to leave their LGA for work, they are required to be tested every three days, even if they do not have symptoms;
- Anyone who leaves the home must have a mask with them at all times. They must be worn when you are working outdoors, in outdoor markets, outdoor shopping strips, and in outdoor queues waiting for products such as coffee and food; and
- All carpooling to be stopped unless among members of the same household.
From 12.01am on Monday 19 July:
- All construction to be paused; and
- Non-urgent maintenance, including cleaning services and repair work on residential premises to be paused.
From 12.01am on Wednesday 21 July:
- Employers must allow employees to work from home if the employee is able to do so, failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $10,000.
A statement from the premier’s office says:
We are constantly reviewing the health advice and will continue to update the community if any changes are required.
All other restrictions currently in place across greater Sydney including the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour will remain in place.
These decisions have not been made lightly and we understand this is a difficult time for the community and appreciate their ongoing patience.
It is vital people continue to come forward for testing to help us find any Covid-19 cases in the community.
Restrictions in regional NSW remain unchanged.
Dr Kerry Chant outlines Sydney areas of concern
Dr Kerry Chant has urged those in Campbelltown, Camden, Lakemba, Fairfield, Liverpool, Bankstown, Cumberland, Mt Druitt, Bayside, the Sutherland shire, Rooty Hill and other south-western Sydney suburbs to urgently come forward for testing with even the mildest of symptoms.
I am also concerned about Minto. We have had a sewerage detection in Minto, so it is important that community absolutely responds.
Across Sydney generally, she says she wants to see more mask wearing.
In relation to mask wearing, we do want masks to be worn in all outdoor workplaces. The reason for that is that people don’t necessarily maintain the social distance, they are not conscious of their social distancing at all times.
I think I have described the fact that whenever you can’t social distance, we are making it clear that when you are in the queue for your coffee or takeaway or click-and-collect, even if you are in an outdoor environment, you need to wear a mask because somebody may come in closer proximity at that time.
We are also asking – and this is a recommendation that won’t be in my orders – but my strong recommendation is when you are walking and exercising, similarly, wear a mask outdoors.
Sydney man in his 80s with Covid dies
The chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, is speaking now and she has sad news. A man in his 80s in south-western Sydney with Covid died yesterday.
“I extend my sincere sympathies to his family,” Chant says. “We currently have 75 cases admitted to hospital with 18 people in intensive care, six of whom require ventilation.” She continues:
As the premier had said, stubbornly, we are seeing 29 cases infectious in the community and some for part of their infectious period. We are seeing some cases still diagnosed late, but we need to see that number get down, it is far too high and that is the basis for why we have recommended much more extensive actions to reduce those interactions.
Of the 111 locally acquired cases to 8pm last night, 83 are from south-western Sydney local health district, with 60 from the Fairfield local government area.
We are concerned about the spread into the Liverpool and the Canterbury-Bankstown adjacent area.”
Berejiklian says authorities will take a “compassionate approach” during tougher restrictions and support vulnerable people in need.
I know that people will try and pick out holes and say what about this and what about that? Please know we are doing our best to provide as much black and white [detail] as we can, but it is not perfect, but it is the best chance we have to get out of this as soon as we can.
I know the overwhelming majority of our citizens want to get out of lockdown as soon as we can and that is why we have taken these difficult decisions. And I just want to thank everybody who has supported the government in this time and, more than anything, I just want to really thank every individual, people living on their own, every single family, every single household, every single business who has taken one for the team, who is working hard so that all of us can be safe, and I can’t thank you all enough for that. All of us have a part to play, all of us have to come together, and I thank you in advance for your understanding and patience.
Gladys Berejiklian says she knows people will be “angry and upset” because of these restrictions. She says:
I can’t remember a time when our state has been challenged to such an extent. I can’t remember a time when government has had to make these difficult decisions. And from a personal perspective, can I say that not a single one of these decisions was taken lightly. I’ve always said to our community that we’ll always take the decisions to keep our community safe and to allow businesses to bounce back as soon as possible.
None of this is easy and none of us would have made these decisions, unless it was based on the health advice and unless it gives us the best chance of quashing the virus in the shortest amount of time. We are already on lockdown and we are asking our community to go that step further until July 30.
All the settings in regional NSW remain the same. There will be no additional restrictions added.
“But please keep up the good work,” the premier says to regional NSW.
Harsher penalties for employers who force NSW employees into office
The NSW premier says:
It is also really important for us to acknowledge that in addition to the measures we’ve put in place, there will be harsher penalties for any employer who forces their employee to come into the office. We’ve said that for employees, anyone who works in an office environment should be working from home, but if your boss forces you to come into work in an office environment, your boss could be given and on-the-spot fine of $10,000.
We don’t want employees being forced into the office.
NSW announces pause on all construction and tougher retail restrictions
Gladys Berejiklian announces there will finally be a defined list of what types of retail is critical and essential.
From midnight tonight, we will also make sure that only critical retail remains open. We have a list of what is critical retail. Obviously things like supermarkets, pharmacists, they will retain face-to-face retail. But anything which is regarded as non-critical retail will not be able to have face-to-face. We will be able to have click and collect, delivery or takeaway, but please know we have considered carefully what is on the critical list and that will be made available very shortly.
Please note, we want no carpooling. We know that when people outside of their household are coming into contact they could unintentionally spread the virus and spread it on to others. Please, no matter where you are in greater Sydney, I know it is really hard, no carpooling for anybody.
The next decision was a difficult one. A very difficult one. But until July 30, until midnight on July 30, there will be a pause on all construction.
Three Sydney local government areas told not to leave their area
More than 80% of new cases are in three government areas, the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, says:
If you live in either the Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown or Liverpool local government areas, you cannot leave those local government areas for work unless you work in health or emergency services, and that takes effect from midnight tonight.
The New South Wales government is taking further action from today, the premier says. She’s yet to say what that action will be – she is still talking about how stubborn the numbers are.
Too many infectious in community, NSW 'treading water'
The number of people infectious in the community is too high, premier Gladys Berejiklian says:
So, as we see, that is the number which we need to get close to zero to be able to get out of the lockdown and, as we see, unfortunately, this number is stubborn and it won’t go down. What we’ve seen during the last three weeks of the lockdown is that we have managed not to have the thousands of cases that would have resulted had we not gone into lockdown, so we have prevented the wide spread of the virus.
But what we haven’t managed to do is really budge that stubborn number every day for the last few days where we need to quash this virus. It is not good enough for us to tread water, which is what we’re doing now. We’ve to some extent stabilised it but we are not managing to get that curve to come down.
NSW reports 111 new cases
Unfortunately, at least 29 of those were infectious in the community, the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, says.
Victoria’s press conference will be at 11.30am, straight after the NSW one. We’ll be hearing from the chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, health minister, Martin Foley, and Covid-19 testing commander, Jeroen Weimar, then.
Gladys Berejiklian to give Covid update at 11am
Just a reminder that the NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and the chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant are due to give an update at 11am, in about 10 minutes time. I’ll bring you all the detail from that here as it happens.
We will find out whether tougher restrictions will be implemented following pressure from health experts, including the AMA.
Coronavirus fragments have been detected in wastewater samples in Darwin but authorities say there’s no risk to the wider community.
A continued surveillance program detected the fragments at the Ludmilla Treatment Plant which is the catchment for wastewater from more than 10 Darwin suburbs.
The Centre for Disease Control has confirmed there are people who have recently been at the Howard Springs quarantine facility who live in this area and are likely shedding the virus fragments following their recovery.
“These people are not infectious and there is no risk to the community,” NT Health said.
Further testing of wastewater across Darwin and in the Ludmilla catchment will be conducted to monitor the situation.
The Northern Territory is currently dealing with four active local COVID-19 infections and another four cases in returned travellers.
It has border restrictions and quarantine requirements in place for NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.
South Australian premier says; "I think we've dodged a bullet".
Premier of South Australia Steven Marshall has just held a press conference, saying no new cases have been found there. The same removalists that travelled through Victoria while infectious also travelled through South Australia. Marshall said;
The good news for South Australia is we have an increasing number of people who are being directed into quarantine but the good news is that all of the results back so far are all negative. As I said yesterday a negative result is a positive result for us here in South Australia, with no new cases to report.
I think we’re fortunate in South Australia. The same removalists in Victoria have led to a 5-day lockdown. Here in South Australia, they spent five hours with a family and there’s no transmission at all.
We’re asking those people to stay in directed home isolation for 14 days because we know there is an incubation period... so we’re not out of the woods yet. But the early results are extremely good for South Australia. I think we’ve dodged a bullet.”
No new cases for Queensland
New Covid case in NT
One new Covid-19 case has been recorded in the Northern Territory in the past 24 hours.
A 70-year-old male has tested positive. He arrived in the NT on 13 July from Indonesia on his own yacht.
He has mild symptoms and is under the care of NT Health at the NT Centre for National Resilience.
The total number of cases diagnosed in the NT is 192. There are currently eight active cases there.
Under siege from the Delta variant, Fortress Australia is collapsing, our chief political correspondent, Sarah Martin, writes:
Whichever way you dice it, the country is staring down the barrel of catastrophe. If the lockdowns work, the country still has months of uncertainty and lockdowns ahead of it while the vaccine stroll-out continues. If they don’t, the picture is even more terrifying. One only needs to look at the number of cases in intensive care in Sydney today for a taste of what could yet unfold.
And while the zero-Covid strategy worked well at preventing deaths in Australia in 2020 while the world was scrambling to develop a vaccine, the path back to normal this year has been hamstrung by a collection of policy failures and political decisions that could bring down the Morrison government.
Against such a grave backdrop, the past week has shown that when the country was looking desperately for some leadership, Scott Morrison shrank to the occasion.
Read the full piece here:
Queensland Health has announced new contact tracing locations in Redcliffe, Rothwell, Caboolture, Chermside, Aspley, Kippa-Ring and the Brisbane Airport. Full details can be found at http://health.qld.gov.au/tracing
On Friday the state reported one new virus case.
Ahead of the NSW press conference at 11am I recommend reading this piece on the state’s chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, written by my colleague Anne Davies.
Immersed in facts, Chant has ignored politics, criticism – and even broken glasses – to guide Berejiklian’s pandemic response, Davies writes:
The former health minister Jillian Skinner confesses that she used to call Chant her “secret weapon” who could be called upon in estimates to cool the temperature of the proceedings with a blizzard of facts.
At one press conference during this recent lockdown, Chant attempted to prop a pair of broken and grubby reading glasses on her face. “Don’t be distracted by my broken glasses,” she instructed the media pack as she rattled off a long list of new infection sites.
It was classic Chant: immersed in the facts; oblivious to the optics. For a politician, broken glasses would have been a disaster, a potentially horrible visual metaphor to be avoided at all costs.
But Chant didn’t seem to care.
More than a year into the pandemic, Chant remains strangely unflappable.
“Utterly without ego,” the former health minister Frank Sartor says. “I think she’s honest,” Sartor adds. “She’s not agenda driven. She’s realistic.”
“Almost shy. She doesn’t have tickets on herself,” said another serving bureaucrat.
Richard Matthews, a former colleague at the department, says Chant is “a really hard worker”.
“At one stage she drove a load of PPE [personal protective equipment] to an aged care home herself because they needed it.”
Read the full story here:
In very sad news, the reknowned Yolngu artist Dr B Marika, passed away on Monday.
Northern Territory chief minister Michael Gunner has paid tribute on Facebook, saying;
It is with great sadness that I observe the passing of Dr B Marika, an inspirational Yolngu leader and deeply respected senior member of the Rirratjingu clan of North-East Arnhem Land.
Dr Marika AO was raised in a family of powerful lawmakers, artists and intellectuals. She became a striking embodiment of all that knowledge and she held it at the highest levels of scholarship. Dr Marika was a daughter of Malawan Marika, who was a signatory to the 1963 Yirrkala Bark Petition and a sponsor of Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd, the first real land rights case in Australia. Malawan entrusted B Marika and her sisters as custodians of the clan’s sacred designs and stories.
She became internationally recognised for her exquisitely detailed work, executed on bark, linocut and screenprint. “The importance of the art is it contains laws, it contains protocols, it contains something you can pass on to your children and grandchildren,” she once said.
Dr Marika always impressed on her children and grandchildren that their country was home to an active spirit world. Of these spirit inhabitants, she said: “They have feelings, too. You have to respect them because they have to survive in this harsh country as well. It’s not just you as a human being.”
Dr Marika was the first Aboriginal person elected to the board of the National Gallery of Australia. She took on – and beat – a company that blatantly stole her artwork designs (and that of others) and had them printed on carpets that were imported into Australia. Dr Marika was named Senior Territorian of the Year in 2020 for the leadership she gave as an artist and environmental carer.
I knew her and admired her. We have lost a person who spoke with such knowledge and such love for her land and her people. I extend my condolences to Dr Marika’s family and to the Rirratjingu people.
It’s the usual 11am press conference time for NSW today – I’ll bring you that as it happens.
Present at that will be premier Gladys Berejiklian, NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant and NSW police deputy commissioner Gary Worboys.
New South Wales health authorities say of the 97 new cases reported yesterday, more than 50 may have been in the community while infectious. They have confirmed that 29 of those cases were in the community during their entire infectious period, and 17 for part of their infectious period.
New exposure sites in the state were listed overnight and anyone who attended the following sites during the period of concern is considered a close contact and must get tested and isolate for 14 days from their last day at the site, regardless of the test result:
- Al Sultan Butchery in Lakemba, with the exposure periods of concern being Sunday 11 July 1.30pm to 8pm, and Saturday 10 July 2021 9am to 8pm.
- Woolworths Lennox Shopping Centre Emu Plains on Saturday 10 July between 4pm and 4.45pm.
- Service NSW Liverpool Monday 12 July between 10am and 10.30am.
- Coles Hurstville Westfield on Saturday 10 July between 11.40am and 12.30pm or Monday 12 July between 9.15am and 6.15pm.
- Marsden Park IKEA on Monday 12 July between noon and 7.30pm or Tuesday 13 July between noon and 4pm.
Victoria authorities announced this morning a total of 19 cases were reported yesterday – two of those are teachers from Bacchus Marsh Grammar, which were disclosed on Friday afternoon. The 19 new locally acquired cases are all linked to the current outbreaks.
Tier 1 exposure sites added overnight include Collins Square Docklands, the Glen Waverley metro train line, Phillip Island Chocolate Factory and Phillip Island Bakery. You can find the time periods of concern here.
19 new locally acquired cases in Victoria on Friday
It will be interesting to see what comes out of the meeting of NSW government ministers and health officials this morning as pressure builds on the premier Gladys Berejiklian to close retail.
As my colleague Elias Visontay reports:
The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has continued to shoot down calls to further tighten Sydney’s lockdown by defining essential retail settings, as she lamented that 29 of 97 new cases announced on Friday were infectious in the community.
South-western Sydney continues to be the focus of health authorities’ attention, with the local health district accounting for 67 of the new cases.
Doctors have called on the state government to take further steps to bring the Delta outbreak under control “including the closure of all non-essential retail outlets, non-essential services and reviewing limits on how far people can travel from their home”.
People using NSW’s public transport network for essential reasons are being encouraged to register their credit and debit card details in the Opal Travel app or transportnsw.info website to help contact-tracing efforts.
Transport and roads minister Andrew Constance said people who register their contactless cards will also be able to review their own trips on public transport.
“We are using technology to do all we can to ensure our customers, frontline workers and community are protected, with the ability to register your contactless card on top of the physical distancing and passenger occupancy notifications we introduced last year,” he said.
Transport for NSW uses Opal data to provide NSW Health with only the names and contact details of customers who are classed as close contacts on public transport services, and does not pass on credit or debit card details.
The Opposition’s defence spokesperson, Brendan O’Connor, called on the federal government to outline what steps it has taken to vaccinate defence personnel and ensure their safety, after a member at HMAS Cerberus tested positive for the delta variant.
The case at the navy base led to all personnel being confined to their live-in accommodation and all activities at the base suspended.
My colleague in Canberra Daniel Hurst asked the government how many Australian Defence Force staff are vaccinated, including at the base in question.
He received this reply from the department of defence:
At HMAS Cerberus, over 80 per cent of permanent serving ADF members are fully vaccinated.
Across Defence, over 65 per cent of permanent serving ADF members have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, with over 40 per cent fully vaccinated.
Defence is prioritising vaccination for those personnel with a higher risk of exposure, including those working in frontline healthcare roles, deployed on Operation COVID-19 ASSIST and members who are about to be deployed overseas.
The ADF member based at HMAS Cerberus in Victoria that returned a positive COVID-19 test result on Thursday 15 July was fully vaccinated.
This is an interesting breakdown of NSW exposure sites, collated before the latest exposure sites were added overnight. Keep in mind these are not necessarily transmission sites.
Here is some more from that press conference held by Australian Medical Association president Dr Omar Khorshid I mentioned in the previous post. He’s called for a tougher NSW lockdown, and that would mean closing retail that is non-essential. Khorshid said:
That should not be up to common sense, not up to people doing the right thing, but an edict from government to close non-essential retail. It means closing non-essential businesses, as was done during the lockdown in Victoria. For those businesses that are essential, they must have a CovidSafe plan, which may involve completely changing the way they do things to in order to minimise the chance of transmission at work.
These measures are needed. They are not going to have a negative economic impact on Sydney, because if they’re not done, the economic impact on Sydney will be extraordinary. So it is time to take this seriously. It is time to not be hesitant, to not be worried about how this might be perceived by the community, to not be worried about the economic impact, but to take decisive action to address this crisis in Sydney and to give Sydney the best chance of getting out of this within weeks rather than months, or waiting, in fact, to the end of the year.
Khorshid said, with the way things stood, the NSW lockdown would continue indefinitely, with cases continuing to bubble along. He also took a stab at upmarket retailers who have decided they are essential, and remain open.
It is absolutely ridiculous that we still have upmarket stores being open. In fact, any stores where they’re not selling essential goods.
The message has to be crystal clear to the New South Wales community, and in particular to the Sydney community, and of course Western Sydney, that you’ve got to stay home. Simple as that; stay home. That doesn’t mean go to the shops, even if you’re not browsing, even if you want to go and just get that $10,000 handbag. It’s not urgent. You can do it online. It’s not something that has to be done now. Those shops must be closed immediately.
Khorshid also said he was concerned that hospitals in NSW would not cope – and are already not coping – with Covid cases.
Our hospitals are actually full all the time. And what we can’t do at the moment is be confident that our hospitals are ready to look after the health of Australians into next year when we might be living with Covid, when we might be getting the flu back into our community.
Our hospitals being full all the time with ambulances ramped outside just don’t have any extra capacity.
New exposure sites in NSW
Welcome to Guardian Australia’s liveblog where we will bring you all the Covid and other news for the day, with NSW now considering whether it needs tighter restrictions as cases continue to rise, exceeding 1,000 cases. Ministers and health authorities will meet today to urgently discuss whether more is needed to curb the spread.
Numerous exposure sites have been added to the “venues of concern” list overnight, and you can see those here:
Late on Friday afternoon the Australian Medical Association [AMA] held a press conference and called for tighter restrictions on Greater Sydney, as well as tougher definitions of essential work, and better support and preparation in public hospitals.
AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid said: “We’ve now had a whole week for the current lockdown restrictions to have done their job, and unfortunately, we’re still seeing a hundred cases a day, with around 30 people out and about in the community, which means that the settings are not working enough.”
Right now, if we keep going the way we are, New South Wales is looking at a locked down Sydney for weeks, if not months. And yet we know that the critical thing to do is to eradicate the virus from the community. What the AMA is calling for, is a lockdown more Victorian style, with very clear restrictions on what people can do to limit contact between people, between families, and in particular to limit contact at work.
Speaking of Victoria, there are now more than 165 exposure sites, though authorities are hoping their tight lockdown called quickly will see the situation brought under control.
On Friday the state recorded six new cases linked to the Sydney removalist cluster on what was also the first day of a five-day lockdown. Victoria has now placed a two-week ban on removalists entering the state from New South Wales.
The six cases brought the official total reported on Friday to 10.
In federal Covid news, my colleague Paul Karp reports that the prime minister Scott Morrison has been accused of misrepresenting advice from the government’s immunisation advisers, Atagi, who he has sought to blame for the slow rollout of Australia’s vaccination program.
What a mess.
You’re with medical editor Melissa Davey this morning, and my trusty editorial assistant Jess the senior rescue cattle-dog who is joining me here in Melbourne lockdown. If I miss anything, you can Tweet me @MelissaLDavey or email email@example.com
Hope you’re staying safe and warm wherever you’re joining me from.