Coronavirus updates LIVE: Victoria records 429 new COVID-19 cases as Daniel Andrews implements business restrictions amid Melbourne stage four lockdown; Australian death toll jumps to 221

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Refunds likely as Sunshine Coast Stadium moves to cut NRL crowds

Sunshine Coast Stadium management is considering refunds for this Saturday’s NRL match after coming under fire when fans struggled to maintain social distancing on the eastern hill at the weekend.

Sunshine Coast Stadium management is considering refunds for this Saturday’s NRL match after coming under fire when fans struggled to maintain social distancing on the eastern hill at the weekend.

Stadium management met with Queensland Health on Monday afternoon to revise the venue’s COVID-safe plan, with the expectation of cutting the hill’s capacity of 3000 spectators by 40 per cent.

Qantas freight disruption

A Qantas spokesman said a contractor working in a security hut at Melbourne’s international freight terminal has tested positive for COVID-19, sparking a temporary shutdown of freight services.

He said two further employees at the domestic freight facility had also recently contracted COVID-19 though neither staff member had been at the facility for more than 10 days.

“In line with advice from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), we have temporarily paused operations at our Melbourne freight facilities,” they said.

“The Qantas Medical team has undertaken contact tracing in line with the protocols set out by health authorities. As a precaution, a number of co-workers have been
considered close contacts and are now also self-isolating.

“At least one of the employees appears likely to have contracted their illness through a family member.”

It remains unclear exactly what type of freight will be affected and when services will be back up and running.

“We have acted immediately and are working with authorities to ensure the site is safe before freight operations resume,” the Qantas spokesman said.

Both the international and domestic facilities have undergone additional cleaning. DHHS is also investigating the cases.


What exactly is a state of disaster?

A state of disaster was declared on Sunday in Victoria, broadening the powers for authorities to respond to COVID-19.

It will run in conjunction with the state of emergency, which granted the powers to Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton that Victorians are now familiar with, including prohibitions on gatherings and restrictions on movement.

The state of disaster powers generally aren’t used for public health emergencies and usually reserved for natural disasters or terrorism.

Though the declaration has been available since 1986, when the Emergency Management Act came into force, but the only two times it has been used have been in 2020 – what a year.

A state of disaster was declared in parts of Victoria in January in response to the bushfires and used to control entry into and out of the fire-affected regions.

The big difference with a state of disaster is that it gives power to Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville to direct government agencies on how they should respond, including giving police power to enforce curfew or enter properties.

Ms Neville is also bestowed with the extraordinary ability to suspend or override legislation, dubbed a Henry VIII clause after the infamous king who gave himself powers to avoid legislating through Parliament.

University of Sydney Professor Anne Twomey said this Victorian power is limited to allowing the minister to suspend or change laws that currently restrict the way public service agencies can respond to COVID-19.

Professor Twomey said a state of disaster can also be symbolic, citing the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires royal commission, which noted had authorities declared a state of disaster for that crisis, it would have provided “symbolic recognition of the gravity of a situation”.

“This is about shocking people out of their complacency,” Professor Twomey said.

“This is partly about making it very, very clear to people that you can’t be complacent anymore. This is very, very serious.”

Parliament to return as planned in three weeks

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said parliament will come back, at its scheduled next sitting date of August 24th.

“I always said it would meet, and I meant that when I said it,” Mr Morrison said.

“We’ll be putting in place arrangements that would comply with the advice that we received both from the Chief Health Officer here in the ACT, and we’ve also sought further advice from the CMO.”

The Prime Minister said that the government would work closely with those health organisations to ensure that the appropriate protections are put in place for any people who coming to Canberra from Victoria.

“If you bring together over 200 people plus staff into one place from all around the country, then obviously you’ve got to be very careful about the onward transmission from infected parts of the country and how that could then potentially operate going out into other states,” he said.

Retail giant speaks out against late action on sector

Billionaire retailer Solomon Lew has hit out at the Victorian government over today’s limits on trading in the retail sector, accusing the Andrews government of not acting early enough and causing unnecessary damage to the economy.

Mr Lew, who operates stores such as Smiggle, Just Jeans, JayJays and Dotti under his Premier Investments business, said that, while the steps taken today were the right choice, the government should have moved more quickly.

Solomon Lew, who operates stores such as Smiggle, Just Jeans, JayJays and Dotti, says the Andrews government should have moved more quickly.

Solomon Lew, who operates stores such as Smiggle, Just Jeans, JayJays and Dotti, says the Andrews government should have moved more quickly.Credit:Eddie Jim

“While this is the right step, acting sooner could have prevented a lot of illness and unnecessary deaths. Delaying has only placed further pressure on the rest of the country and the national economy,” Mr Lew said.

“We expect significant consequences from the inaction, in particular, vast amounts of cost in federal government stimulus that is going to be required to support the Victorian community through this challenging period.”

The retailing veteran also took a swipe at retail landlords, accusing them of prioritising the health of their businesses over the health of customers by continuing to remain open for trade during the recent stage-three lockdown.

“Notwithstanding Premier Andrews’ request weeks ago for people to stay home, shopping centres in Victoria have remained open,” he said.

“While Just Group had elected to close all of its stores in the Melbourne metropolitan area in the interests of protecting our employees and our customers, landlords should have followed suit in prioritising the health and safety of their shoppers ahead of collecting rent.”

PM envisions payment scheme to last “for some time”

The federal government’s payment will run parallel to the existing Victorian payment, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he’ll propose to Premier Daniel Andrews that they consolidate into one single- payment process.

“I imagine that we can move fairly quickly to streamlining those as quickly as possible,” he said.

Mr Morrison said the payment would be available for as long as necessary.

“It’ll be there for as long as the government considers it a disaster – we’ve left it open-ended at this point,” he said.

“Once the pandemic disaster is, we hope, returned to the sort of situation you’re seeing in other states currently, then that’s when disaster payments traditionally are no longer applied.

“But we anticipate that this payment will be needed for some time”


Casey leads overnight cases

A local government area breakdown of the latest official Victorian COVID-19 data shows Casey has recorded the highest number of new cases overnight.

Department of Health and Human Services statistics show the outer south-eastern council had 23 new positive results taking its total of active cases to 297.

Other LGAs saw a rise of more than 10 new cases in the past 24 hours included Wyndham which was up 16 to a total of 744 active cases, Brimbank which was up 15 to a total of 749 active cases and Darebin where 10 new cases took its total active cases to 166.

Greater Geelong also cracked 100 active cases overnight with eight new cases taking its total to 106.

PM announces pandemic leave disaster payments

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the federal government will be establishing a fund for pandemic leave disaster payments – and said that there was now “no economic reason” for people who should be self-isolating to go to work.

“This pandemic is a disaster. And we need a disaster payment when it comes for people who have to isolate for a period of 14 days through no fault of their own, regardless of what job they’re in or employment they’re in – they need that support,” Mr Morrison said.

The payment will be modelled on the criteria put in place by the Victorian government, for people who have no sick leave available and need to self-isolate for 14 days.

“That payment will be made in the same way that Disaster Recovery Payments are made. People would only need to ring the number from Wednesday, and they’ll be able to make their application over the phone,” he said.

“That should be turned around fairly quickly.”

The payment can also be accessed multiple times if required, he said.

“We will be there to support you with a $1500 payment in the same way that others receive JobKeeper.”

The Prime Minister also said people who were not previously eligible for JobKeeper payments or were unaffected can now apply for that program.

Morrison urges Australians to reach out to Victorian friends

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that many in Victoria would have reached breaking point trying to come to terms with new announcements today.

“They’ve worked so hard for their jobs, for their livelihoods, for the care of their children and their education. It’s heartbreaking. This pandemic, this virus, is taking a heavy toll.”

Mr Morrison urged anyone outside of Victoria to offer any support they can.

“If you’ve got friends in Victoria, call them. Cheer them up. Encourage them. Let them know you’re there for them.”

LIVE: PM addresses the media

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