COVID latest: Melbourne synagogue stand-off ends with fines

By The New Daily

A tense stand-off outside a Melbourne synagogue has ended with police warning all adults who illegally gathered to recognise the Jewish New Year will be found and fined.

Also in Victoria, a football club has been linked to a COVID-19 case – as has a major emergency department.

In New South Wales, the premier has been dangling a carrot in the form of pubs reopening in October, to encourage more people to get vaccinated.

But the more immediate and ongoing concern is the ever-increasing pressure on hospitals and the growing number of Indigenous people falling ill.

While Aboriginal people make up 13 per cent of the population of the Western NSW Local Health District, they represent 60 per cent of the area’s positive cases.

Here’s the latest lockdown news.

Victoria

Worshippers who gathered near a synagogue in Melbourne’s southeast in apparent breach of COVID-19 lockdown rules have had their details taken and will be fined by police.

People were spotted entering a building, believed to be a prayer room, near a Ripponlea synagogue early on Tuesday morning to mark the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

On Thursday afternoon, officers surrounded both front and back entrances of the building, where an Orthodox Jewish group was suspected to be congregating upstairs.

The stand-off ended just after 8pm, with several people filing outside as a group of traditionally dressed worshippers who were loitering outside became aggressive.

A cameraman was pushed and the group briefly chanted and clapped in the alleyway, with police taking details before moving them on.

“All adults who attended will be issued with a $5452 fine. A number of children who were present will not be fined,” a Victoria Police spokesman said in a statement.

“Investigators believe a number of other people were present and are yet to be spoken to by police. Investigators are working to identify them.”

It comes after police handed out more than $300,000 in fines to the hosts and guests of an illegal engagement party at Caulfield North in early August. It was hosted by a prominent Jewish family.

Premier Daniel Andrews said he recognised Rosh Hashanah, the two-day Jewish New Year festival, as a significant time for the community.

“But we all have to be safe in everything we do, regardless of what might motivate us,” he said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Collingwood football and netball players have been told to isolate after their club was linked to a case.

Seven News reported that officials closed the Holden Centre after they were notified that a possible COVID case had visited their headquarters where players have continued training during the state’s lockdown.

The headquarters is yet to be listed on the government’s list of exposure sites.

New venues of concern include major city hospital The Alfred after a case was inside the emergency department on Monday night.

  • Click here for the full list of Victorian exposure sites

NSW

NSW residents could be knocking back schooners at the pub and dining at restaurants as soon as next month – but only if they’re fully vaccinated.

“My strong message to the hospitality sector is dust off your COVID-safety plans, things will be reopening in October,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Tuesday.

“Let’s hope that October reopening means it’s the last time we ever have a state-wide lockdown.”

The state is projected to reach the long-awaited goal of 70 per cent vaccine coverage in October, triggering a gradual reopening.

Nearly three-quarters of NSW residents aged 16 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Some 41.79 per cent had received both doses, according to data published on Tuesday.

The door to the pub will only be open to those who can show they have had both doses of the vaccine, the premier warned on Tuesday.

People will eventually be able to add their vaccine status to the Service NSW app that’s being used to manage check-ins and scanning QR codes.

But it won’t be ready by next Monday, when people outside hotspot council areas can meet for picnics of five.

Picnickers will need to use the federal government’s Medicare app, which shows a user’s immunisation history, to prove they’re double-jabbed.

October is also projected to be the worst period for the state’s hospital system.

But Ms Berejiklian said that won’t get in the way of the government’s reopening plans.

“Coincidentally, the worst time in hospitalisation is likely to be the time that we open up,” she said.

“But that shouldn’t stop us from proceeding with what is a safe thing to do.”

NSW reported 1220 new locally acquired COVID-19 cases on Tuesday.

There are 1151 coronavirus patients in hospital, including 192 in intensive care.

That is just over one third of the number of COVID patients expected to be in the state’s ICUs at the peak of the crisis in late October.

Three out of every five people testing positive for COVID-19 in western NSW are Indigenous, health authorities have revealed, amid alarm over falling testing rates.

While Aboriginal people make up 13 per cent of the population of the Western NSW Local Health District, they represent 60 per cent of the district’s positive cases, LHD Chief Executive Scott McLachlan said.

Wilcannia’s Victory caravan park will accommodate isolation cases. Photo: AAP

Some 885 people have acquired the virus in that district the last few months, more than 600 of whom live in Dubbo.

More than 13 per cent of the majority-Indigenous town of Wilcannia, population 745, has now been infected.

A devastating outbreak in Enngonia has infected at least 18 people in a town of just 148, one hour from the nearest hospital. Some 44.9 per cent of residents are Indigenous.

A well-known Aboriginal Elder from Enngonia, a woman in her 70s, died from COVID-19 on Monday.

Her death came after an Aboriginal man from Dubbo in his 50s died in August – the first Aboriginal COVID-19 death in the country.

State MP Roy Butler says the outbreak in western NSW should never have happened.

“(The virus) should never have gotten out of Sydney,” the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP, whose electorate includes both Enngonia and Wilcannia, told AAP.

Mr Butler said the NSW government was too slow to clamp down on people leaving Sydney after the city’s outbreak began in mid-June.

He said he had warned Premier Gladys Berejiklian 18 months ago that a leak of the virus to the regions would be devastating, and that the government has fallen short on planning.

Federal Parkes MP Mark Coulton agreed the outbreak in his electorate was a “huge concern”.

“As a government, we knew it was going to be a huge problem should these more remote and isolated communities get COVID, and that’s been proved,” the Nationals MP said.

But Mr Coulton said efforts on the ground were preventing the outbreak spiralling out of control.

“Two Indigenous people in my electorate have passed away in this latest outbreak,” he said.

“Tragic as that is, it could be much worse.

“Having this come through your village would be very, very stressful… But there is a lot of people with the best of intentions and a big effort putting resources into these communities and… there’s not enough recognition of good work that’s going on.”

He rejected criticism the federal government’s vaccine rollout had failed Indigenous people in remote and regional communities.

Residents of Enngonia and Wilcannia were among the first in his electorate to be offered the vaccine, he said.

“The idea that this has just blown up and no one saw it coming and these poor people are left there …is just not true,” he said.

Testing numbers in the Western NSW and Far West LHDs have fallen in the last week or so, prompting concern that there could be unrecognised chains of transmission.

Despite a small increase, the numbers “are still hell of a long way lower than what we’d like to see across the region”, said Mr McLachlan on Tuesday.

The Western NSW LHD reported 27 new cases on Tuesday. There were four in the far west, including two in Wilcannia.

ACT

The ACT has become the first place in Australia to crack the 80 per cent fully vaccinated rate in an age group.

Health department figures show 80.2 per cent of the national capital’s over-70s have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, with the over-50s cohort edging closer on 71 per cent.

The ACT leads the nation on vaccinations, with 47 per cent of over-16s fully dosed.

A national plan to reopen the economy, based on modelling from the Doherty Institute, involves the winding back of some restrictions once the 70 per cent threshold is reached and longer term changes from the 80 per cent mark.

But chief minister Andrew Barr has signalled the ACT would not automatically follow the NSW government’s lead in relaxing restrictions at 70 per cent full vaccination coverage.

He described a mid-October goal for Sydney pubs to reopen as ambitious.

“I wouldn’t presume that because New South Wales might do something that’s adventurous and risky we might copy them,” Mr Barr said.

“Playing rule-in and rule-out games on things that might happen in six or seven weeks given a lot can change in six or seven days just seems a little bit foolish.”

Canberra recorded 19 new cases on Tuesday, with 13 linked to current exposure sites or contacts and six under investigation.

Eleven of the people were in quarantine for the duration of their infectious period, six spent some time in the community and two remain under review.

There are 230 active cases in Canberra, where the outbreak has infected more than 400 people.

Mr Barr warned despite the high vaccination rate it still meant 185,000 Canberrans had no protection and 267,000 only a single shot.

“We’re going to continue to face ongoing risk, not only of internal community transmission within the ACT but new sparks and clusters emerging from a degree of cross-border travel.”

-with AAP


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