Good evening, here are the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic in Australia. This is Naaman Zhou and it’s Friday 7 August.
Deadliest day and 20,000 case milestone passed
On Wednesday, a man in his 30s became the youngest Australian to die of Covid-19. Victorian premier Daniel Andrews also announced 725 new cases and 15 new deaths in the 24 hours to Wednesday, making it the worst day ever for Covid-19 deaths nationally, and the second-worst for new cases. On Friday, prime minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia had passed the milestone of 20,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.
Victoria enters stricter lockdown
Daniel Andrews announced a suite of new restrictions in Melbourne, including the closure of retail and reduced workforces for abattoirs and construction, which will result in an estimated 250,000 people being stood down from their jobs.
Melbourne also introduced a permit system for permitted workers, and police were given “extraordinary powers” under the state of disaster, including the state’s largest on-the-spot fine. On Tuesday, people in self-isolation were banned from leaving their home to exercise. The rest of Victoria also entered stage three lockdown.
NSW on “knife edge” as A-League game becomes hotspot
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state was on a “knife edge” and called for people to curb their social activity after a series of people with Covid-19 attended a string of pubs, restaurants and even an A-League game with more than 2,000 attendees.
One man in Sydney visited a series of inner-city and inner-west restaurants and pubs, and another visited venues in the west and south-west. One man in Newcastle visited a range of venues as well as a Newcastle Jets A-League game, which drew a crowd of 2,570 on 2 August.
Border closures across the country
Queensland closed its border to all people from NSW and the ACT effective from Saturday, in a surprise announcement that the ACT chief minister, Andrew Barr, said he was not told about. The ACT currently has zero active cases.
NSW also announced that all residents returning from Victoria will have to go into hotel quarantine for 14 days, at their own expense. On Friday, ACT residents with permits to return from Victoria were turned away at the border due to the last minute change and confusion over the rules.
Pandemic disaster payment and extended jobkeeper
On Monday, Morrison announced a “pandemic leave disaster payment” for people in Victoria who are required to self-isolate for 14 days but do not have any paid leave. The payment is $1,500 for 14 days. Unions and the Greens said the payment was a “half-measure” and called for full sick leave.
On Friday, the government also announced an expansion of eligibility for jobkeeper, just three weeks after announcing a cut to its rate, due to the lockdown in Victoria. The changes will apply nationwide, and will cost the budget $15.6bn.
Unemployment to rise
Australia’s effective unemployment rate is expected to rise past 13%, and the official unemployment rate will rise to 10%, Scott Morrison announced. Virgin Australia announced it would cut 3,000 jobs, and also retire the Tiger Air brand, and the University of Melbourne said it would cut 450 jobs.
911 Victorian healthcare workers with Covid-19
On Friday, it was confirmed that 911 Victorian health care workers are currently considered active cases of Covid-19, a rise of more than 100 from Thursday.
Coronial inquiry into aged care, hotel inquiry delayed
Victoria’s inquiry into hotel quarantine was granted a six-week delay to produce its report – shifting its deadline from 25 September to 6 November. The government also announced the coroner will conduct an investigation into the deaths at St Basil’s aged care home.
However, the federal aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, refused to publicly release a list of aged care homes in Victoria battling outbreaks due to “reputational issues” for the facilities.
Covidsafe app finds first NSW contact
NSW Health confirmed that the Covidsafe app discovered its first contacts not previously identified through manual contact tracing. However, the previous chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, revealed that Victoria had stopped using the Covidsafe app for a period because it hadn’t found value in it during the first wave. Victoria is currently using the app again.
1,100 in isolation in SA, WA delays easing, and NT revokes Brisbane’s hotspot status
The South Australian opposition leader and deputy leader went into self-isolation – along with another 1,100 people – after they had potential contact with a cluster at Thebarton Senior College. The WA premier, Mark McGowan, announced that he would delay the state’s planned easing of restrictions (due to start 15 August) by at least two weeks. And the Northern Territory revoked hotspot status for Brisbane and other parts of Queensland and NSW.
No trans-Tasman travel bubble
Jacinda Ardern said there will be no trans-Tasman travel bubble until 2021.
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