- Victoria has recorded 55 new COVID-19 cases, indicating the state’s daily figures are now firmly in the double digits after the Premier unveiled the road map to recovery. Sadly, eight more Victorians have died. The state’s Health Department ‘outbreak squad’ is under scrutiny at the hotel quarantine inquiry.
- New COVID Suburban Response Units will be set up across Melbourne to boost contact tracing efforts as the state prepares to ease lockdown restrictions. It comes as a Silicon Valley tech company gives Victoria’s contact tracing system a much-needed digital revamp.
- NSW has recorded nine new COVID-19 cases, while the boarding school at Kincoppal Rose Bay in Sydney’s east has closed after a student tested positive. Anyone who attended Epping’s Plus Fitness gym on Saturday from 9am to 10.15am has been directed to get tested and self-isolate immediately.
- Queensland recorded just one new case in a returned traveller in hotel quarantine, as State Parliament sat for the final time ahead of the October election.
- Spain has become the first country in western Europe to register 500,000 coronavirus infections, after a second surge in cases that coincided with schools reopening.
That brings us to the end of our live coronavirus coverage today. Thanks very much for reading along, commenting and supporting our work.
What made COVID-19 news today?
- Melbourne’s 14-day average hit 78.6 – the city must reach 30-50 cases by September 28 to ease restrictions to step two.
- There are 85 fewer active cases of coronavirus in Victoria today than there were yesterday, bringing the total down to 1696. Half of those are linked to aged care.
- New COVID Suburban Response Units will be rolled out across Melbourne amid further efforts to boost contact tracing; It comes as a Silicon Valley tech company gives Victoria’s contact tracing system a much-needed digital revamp.
- The inquiry into Victoria’s COVID-19 quarantine hotels scandal has heard poor cleaning efforts and lack of infection-control training increased the risk of the virus escaping into the community.
- One hundred Sydney students have been placed into quarantine after being identified as close contacts of a COVID-19 positive student at an eastern Sydney school. It comes as NSW recorded a total on nine new cases today.
- Payroll jobs and wages are recovering everywhere across the country except Victoria, according to Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released today.
- Lady Pamela passengers and crew who travelled from Melbourne to the Gold Coast on the luxury yacht last month have left their Queensland hotel quarantine and will be allowed to remain in the state.
And a quick reminder – particularly for our Victorian readers – It’s ‘R U OK?’ Day this Thursday. In 2020, the sentiment carries more weight than past years.
It’s truly been a year like no other, and we want to know how you’re feeling.
If you’re up for sharing, please send through a short video clip (no longer than 20 seconds in landscape mode) using the form below answering the simple question ‘How are you?’ and we will publish some of the responses.
If you’re struggling, please reach out to one of the following organisations who can help:
Lifeline on 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au/forums
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or suicidecallbackservice.org.au
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or kidshelpline.com.au
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732)
This is Rachael Dexter signing off.
As always, if you appreciate our COVID-19 coverage and are an avid reader of the blog, please consider taking out a subscription to The Age or The Sydney Morning Herald to support what we do.
Stay safe, look after one another and goodnight.
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A contractor who worked in a Melbourne quarantine hotel and caught COVID-19, didn’t tell health investigators about a housemate who flew to Queensland and then tested positive.
In statements tendered to the Victorian inquiry into the hotel quarantine program, the public health team tasked with investigating outbreaks at two hotels said their contact tracing was impeded by workers who lied, gave incorrect information or who weren’t upfront.
In one case, a worker contracted to the Rydges on Swanston failed to disclose they had been in close contact with a housemate during the infectious period.
“The close contact in question left the house for Queensland early on the morning that the Department made contact with the case,” Dr Sarah McGuinness said.
Dr McGuinness said the Health Department was unaware the housemate existed until they developed symptoms and tested positive in Queensland, leading to a notification to Victorian authorities on June 6.
“If the existence and identity of this close contact had been disclosed from the outset, the close contact would have been advised to quarantine, which would have prevented a number of exposures and the need for additional contact tracing efforts,” Dr McGuinness said.
World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today the world must be better prepared for the next pandemic, as he called on countries to invest in public health.
More than 27 million people worldwide have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus as of Monday and 888,236 have died due to the pandemic, according to a Reuters tally.
Listen to Mr Ghebreyesus’ comments below:
A Gold Coast politician says she has been “sickened” by Queensland’s border regime and said the the chief health officer’s exemption process was “complete chaos”.
Laura Gerber, whose Currumbin electorate abuts the NSW border, said people living on the border were losing their jobs and their mental health was deteriorating.
“A month ago I advocated on behalf of a Currumbin constituent for two members of her family to be granted an exemption to attend her late mother’s funeral,” she told State Parliament on Tuesday night.
“The Palaszczuk-Labor government granted the exemption a painful 10 days after the funeral. “My constituent writes ‘this was heartbreaking and cruel’.
”The woman’s husband is a fly-in fly-out worker who is not allowed to return home, Ms Gerber said.
“She writes ‘I am suffering feelings of isolation, loneliness, anxiety, depression, heart palpitations, sleeplessness and suicidal thoughts’.”
Ms Gerber said a construction worker in her electorate had lost work because of the border closures and “one of his colleague committed suicide as a result”.
If you need help please contact on Lifeline 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636
As reported earlier, 50 per cent of Victoria’s active cases are linked to aged care facilities – either residents, staff or close contacts. That’s out of 863 out of 1696 total active cases.
I’ve reported on the blog previously that getting a clear idea of where all of those active cases are isn’t straight forward.
What we do know:
- As of yesterday, there were a total of 94 facilities with active outbreaks. That number has dropped by 12 over the past week.
- Victorian authorities are investigating an outbreak at Opal Hobsons Bay aged care facility in Altona North
- The DHHS only release daily data on the top 10 historically worst affected facilities.
Based on that data we can see that since yesterday there has been a new case of COVID-19 linked to both BlueCross Ruckers Hill Aged Care Facility in Northcote (now at 120 cases) and Japara Goonawarra Aged Care Facility in Sunbury (now at 119 cases).
The other eight worst affected facilities have registered no change since yesterday in their cumulative cases:
– 232 cases linked to BaptCare Wyndham Lodge Community in Werribee
– 215 cases linked to Epping Gardens Aged Care in Epping
– 206 cases linked to St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner
– 162 cases linked to Estia Aged Care Facility in Ardeer
– 139 cases linked to Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth
– 127 cases linked to Twin Parks Aged Care in Reservoir
– 119 cases linked to Japara Goonawarra Aged Care Facility in Sunbury
– 117 cases linked to Estia Aged Care Facility in Heidelberg
- The total number of aged care outbreaks since 1 January 2020 is 166.
- There have been a cumulative total of 4218 cases in aged care in Victoria:
– 1843 staff
– 517 close contacts which are neither staff nor residents of the facility
- Total number of deaths associated with aged care outbreaks in Victoria is 528.
What we don’t know:
- How how many cases are linked to the all of the remaining 84 facilities with active cases.
- Where every death has occured.
The Age has requested comprehensive aged care data from the Aged Care Response Centre.
One hundred students and staff have been identified as close contacts of the student who tested positive at an eastern Sydney school today.
“All close contacts of the cases, including teachers and students, are being placed into quarantine,” a South Eastern Sydney Local Health District spokesperson said.
The student, at Kincoppal Rose Bay School, is one of two new cases linked to the Sydney CBD cluster.
“The school has been cleaned and the boarding facility remains open to some year groups,” the spokesperson said.
The school has sent home boarding students in the year 7 to 10 age groups, citing a reduced capacity to supervise students due to staff being quarantined.
A group of West Australian nurses who volunteered to help Victoria deal with its COVID-19 outbreak are stranded in the state after one tested positive to the virus on Sunday.
The nurses volunteered to head to Victoria at the beginning of August and claim they had permission to re-enter WA at the conclusion of their rotation.
But they have been told by the WA government they will have to stay in Victoria because they had contact with the disease.
The healthcare workers were among 19 WA nurses and support staff who flew over last month. They had been split into three teams and were working at aged care homes.
On Sunday, one of those teams were tested, with one of the nurses returning a positive test. She is currently quarantining in a Hotel for Heroes hotel for frontline workers while another six staff are quarantining in a different hotel.
The Australian Nurses Federation told Nine News Perth the nurses had received assurances they would be airlifted out of Victoria.
They face the prospect of two weeks lockdown in Melbourne and a further two weeks of mandatory hotel quarantine in Perth.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said the state government was seeking medical advice on how to bring the nurses home safely, but did not rule out the nurses completing four weeks of quarantine.
He said the wellbeing of the nurses was front of mind and a decision would be made over the next 24 hours.
Mr Cook told media the government wanted to do the best by the nurses, but there were also strict infection controls in place.
He said the government did not expect any more nurses to travel to Victoria because the situation had stabilised.
Nurses union president Mark Olson told WAtoday the only reasonable option was to have the nurses airlifted home.
As the state government’s inquiry into its ill-fated hotel quarantine program moved on Tuesday into its final weeks of public hearings, counsel assisting Ben Ihle summed up much of what has been learned in recent evidence about just how the management of Melbourne’s isolation hotels went so disastrously wrong.
The hearings have been long and forensic. State Political Editor for The Age Noel Towell has done a great summary of the stand-out points so far:
Just who was in charge?
Nobody seems to have known. The confusing jumble of responsibilities shared between the Jobs Department, the Health Department, the hotels themselves and Victoria Police have made it hard to pin down just who was responsible for key failings in relation to protective gear, infection control and quarantine breaches.
“The lack of common understanding and clear lines of command was mired in different perspectives and understanding of where responsibility for matters of infection control and training lay,” Mr Ihle told the board of inquiry.
What about infection control?
Confusion seems to have reigned here too, with the government’s deals with hotels and security guards putting the onus for infection control on those private contractors. However, evidence to the inquiry suggests that many in the quarantine program were looking in vain to the Health Department for leadership in containing the spread of COVID-19.
“There was evidence of an expectation that the Department of Health and Human Services would provide training and otherwise be the source of expert advice on matters of infection control and the use of personal protective equipment,” Mr Ihle said.
“There was evidence of concern and frustration that those expectations were not met.”
Whose idea were the security guards?
We still don’t know, although the question is to be explored in greater depth in next week’s hearings.
But the inquiry has managed to establish that nobody thought the decision was a big deal, or a bad idea, at the time.
“The evidence suggests that the decision to engage private security guards was apparently not considered controversial at the time, at least not openly,” Mr Ihle said.
“Nothing has been revealed that suggests any person or body expressly or vehemently disagreed with it at the time those decisions were being made.
“But it has proved to be a contentious decision and there is a range of views about whose decision it actually was.”
[Read the full story here]
Anyone who attended the Oatlands Golf Club on Friday September 4 from 6.30pm to 8.45pm, or the Paperboy Cafe in Concord on Sunday September 6 from 10am to midday are being advised by NSW Health to self-isolate and get tested.
They must stay isolated for two weeks, even if a negative test result is received, the department said.
Of specific interest at the golf club is anyone who attended the Bavarian Night Dinner in the Bistro in the club’s main dining room.
Details have also been released regarding four other venues across Sydney, which, if visited at specific times, people should consider themselves to be casual contacts and monitor for symptoms.
• Stanhope Village Shopping Centre, including Kmart Stanhope Gardens, on Monday September 7 from 8.30am to 9.30am
• Clovelly Hotel on Saturday September 5 from 1245pm to 1.45pm
• Rouse Hill Town Centre, including Target Rouse Hill, on Saturday, September 5 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm
• Fitness First Maroubra on Saturday September 5 from 8am to midday
“NSW Health is working with Fitness First to identify people who attended the Maroubra gym that morning, and will directly advise those who are considered to be close contacts and need to get tested and isolate for 14 days,” a statement from the department read.
The 14-day average for new coronavirus cases is going to be one of the key pieces of information that Victorians will be checking each day over the coming months, because most steps along the way on the path to reopening are tied to it being driven down below a certain level.
In today’s detailed data release, the state’s health department has stated that the current 14-day average for metropolitan Melbourne is 78.6, down from 84.8 yesterday. For regional Victoria it is 4.9, down from 5.3 yesterday.
I mentioned earlier today (around 10.24am in the blog if you’d like to read a long stats-based post) that I was seeking confirmation from the health department about what data they used in their 14-day average calculations and what type of average they use.
A representative of the Health Department has got back to me and confirmed that the 14-day average they are using is based on the arithmetical average (which you get by adding up the last 14 days and then dividing it by 14).
As for the data, they take all the new cases from the 14-day window, removing any ‘reclassifications’ along the way.
Reclassifications here mean anyone who tested positive positive initially, but it later turned out the test got it wrong, along with other reasons inaccuracies could have ended up in the data.
This might all seem a bit pedantic in terms of counting up the cases, but at the moment it can cause differences of about three to five in the average for metropolitan Melbourne and for all of Victoria.
Given the step two target is 30-50 cases by September 28, I want to make sure our daily graphs, along with ones I am currently building, display the agreed-upon 14-day average.