‘Significant pain’ on deadly day for Victoria, tough new virus penalties

Victoria has announced 439 new COVID cases and 11 deaths as Premier Daniel Andrews revealed harsher penalties for breaching Melbourne’s six-week lockdown.

Tuesday was one of Victoria’s deadliest days yet in the pandemic, with the deaths of a man in his 70s, a man and three women in their 80s, two men and three women in their 90s and a woman who was more than 100.

It is the 30th day of triple-digit figures for Victoria, with 429 new cases on Monday and 671 cases on Sunday alone.

“All of those tragedies, all of those fatalities are are connected to aged-care settings,” Mr Andrews said.

Victoria still has 1186 active cases in aged care.

“That remains a very challenging setting for us,” Mr Andrews said.

Worryingly, he confirmed that Victorians with the virus are still flouting orders to stay at home – with more than 800 people out of 3000 not there when door-knocked by Australian Defence Force and state health officials.

From Tuesday, anyone who has the virus will be banned from leaving home – even for exercise.

‘There will be no exercise, if you supposed to be isolating at home. You will need to stay in your home or on your property – fresh air at the front door, fresh air in your front yard or backyard, or opening a window. That’s what you’re going to have to do,” he said.

“I apologise to those who were doing the right thing but we have simply no choice.”

On-the-spot fines of $4659 will be introduced for anyone found absent from home.

For “repeat breaches” of the stay-at-home rules, fines of up to $20,000 will be enforced.

In other virus developments in Australia on Tuesday, South Australia had two new cases and Queensland had none.

NSW had 12 more infections – only one in a returned traveller in hotel quarantine. The others include four people from one family – one a baby – in Wagga Wagga, who had recently returned home from Melbourne.

Other cases (two of which will be included in Wednesday’s state figures) were in students at two Sydney schools – Bonnyrigg High School and Greenway Park Public School. Both were closed on Tuesday.

Former Australian Medical Association president Kerryn Phelps has called for masks to be made compulsory in NSW, and for the state to halt air travel from Victoria.

“NSW is on a precipice and unless we take it seriously and actually have an effective closed border, we are going to see leakage of these cases from Victoria over to NSW,” Dr Phelps told Q+A on Monday night.

But the focus of the virus crisis remains on Victoria, where businesses are bracing for “significant pain” as many prepare to scale back production or shut down until mid-September to help quell the deadly outbreak.

On Monday, Mr Andrews outlined a three-tiered system for Victorian workplaces, effective from Thursday, to complement Melbourne’s six-week Stage 4 virus lockdown.

“There will be very significant pain,” he said on Monday.

He expected a further 250,000 workers to be stood down under the latest changes.

They’ll join 250,000 others who have already lost jobs in the pandemic, and a further 500,000 working from home.

Supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, post offices and banks will remain open in Melbourne’s tough lockdown.

Hardware stores such as Bunnings will be accessible to tradespeople, but only as “click and collect” services for the public.

Many other business will not be able to operate at all.

Bearing the brunt of the impending closures is the retail industry, with travel and tour agencies, car washes, furniture wholesalers and hairdressers among those to close.

Pubs, taverns, bars, clubs, nightclubs and food courts had already closed their doors, while cafes and restaurants will continue to run as takeaway services.

Other industries will cut back production.

They include meatworks across the state. They have been a consistent source of COVID outbreaks and will be able to run at only two-thirds capacity, with staff dressed in full medical kit and unable to work at multiple locations.

Cedar Meats, the source of Victoria’s biggest cluster of the first wave with 111 cases, has welcomed the extra safety measures.

virus victoria restrictions

Cedar Meats was previously Victoria’s largest COVID cluster.

Large-scale construction will be capped at 25 per cent of the regular workforce, while small-scale projects will only be allowed up to five workers on site.

“We are moving them to a pilot-light phase,” Mr Andrews said.

“Not being turned off completely but they are dramatically reducing the number of people they have working for them and their output over the next six weeks.”

Mr Andrews said the state government would expand its $5000 grant program for affected businesses to reflect restrictions running much longer than first expected.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra welcomed the extra payment, but said the restrictions would “severely damage jobs and productivity” in construction and manufacturing.

To support Victoria, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government would establish a $1500 fortnightly “disaster payment” for paid pandemic leave.

The restrictions will run until at least September 13.

Similar restrictions introduced in Melbourne in early July are estimated to have prevented thousands of virus cases and saved hundreds of lives.

Research from the Burnet Institute, published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Tuesday, found the state’s response to the second wave of COVID-19 averted 9000 to 37,000 cases between July 2-30.

-with AAP

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