Dozens of Victorian state politicians will defy Melbourne’s strict stage four COVID-19 lockdown and the advice of health authorities on Tuesday to gather at Parliament House for several hours of debate and questions.
More than 30 upper house MPs, including several country members who have travelled from regional Victoria, are expected to be at the scheduled session of the Parliament’s upper house beginning at 12pm on Tuesday, despite advice from the Chief Health Officer to consider postponing.
The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Labor’s Colin Brooks, acted on the Chief Health Officer’s advice and postponed the lower house’s sittings scheduled for this week until early September.
But in the upper house, where Labor does not have a majority, the Liberal-National Coalition and cross bench MPs combined to overcome government objections and force a short sitting on Tuesday, when Health Minister Jenny Mikakos will face a likely hostile question time.
A state of disaster has been declared for the second time in Victoria’s history as the Andrews government calls on the same powers invoked during the summer bushfire crisis to enforce tougher coronavirus restrictions across Melbourne, including the city’s first nightly curfew.
What are the new stage four rules? And when do each come into effect? Sherryn Groch has answered many of the common questions from those who live inside the lockdown zone. Here are some highlights:
- Do we still have takeaway coffee? Cafes and restaurants can still serve takeaway and local stores such as butchers and fruit and vegetable markets will stay open so, in the words of the Premier, “people do not need to be going and buying six weeks’ worth of groceries”.
- Can I move house or have tradies over? You can move house if you have to but you can’t have cleaners or lawnmowers or tradies over to your home except for emergency reasons – such as a burst waterpipe. This is not a time for home renovations, the Premier has said.
- When can I visit family and friends? Social visits are banned throughout Victoria. The only exceptions are for romantic partners and those providing care, say, to help out a sick or elderly relative; for shared custody of children; or to look after pets, animals housed elsewhere or injured wildlife. (But routine visits to the vet should stay outside of curfew hours.)
A returned overseas traveller who tested positive to COVID-19 after avoiding mandatory hotel quarantine and taking a further flight to Queensland has been revealed to be a security worker, not a consular staff member.
The man in his 20s flew into Sydney from Kabul and was able to continue on to the Sunshine Coast.
He then drove from the airport to his home in Toowoomba, about 230 kilometres away.
Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said on Sunday that the man had avoided quarantine at his city of arrival under nationally agreed exemptions which allow “consulate staff” to instead quarantine in their homes.
On Monday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would raise the exemptions at the next meeting of national cabinet.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has now dismissed the classification of the man, saying he was a “private security contractor, not a diplomatic or consular staff member”.
In a statement late on Monday, Queensland Health said that DFAT had written to confirm the man had been “travelling on essential Australian Government business” before he provided his diplomatic passport number.
“Irrespective of this person’s circumstances, we are concerned with the number of overall exemptions,” the health authority said.
Contact tracers were still looking to notify 14 people who also travelled on the July 31 JQ790 Jetstar flight from Sydney.
There has been a bit of talk in NSW this week about border controls at Sydney Airport.
Currently, returning Victorians receive a temperature check before being trusted to self-isolate for 14 days, travelling home in Ubers, taxis or the cars of family and friends. It is very different scenes for international arrivals, who are placed on buses to quarantine hotels for 14 days.
This morning, breakfast television has been focused on the “17 flights” which will be arriving in Sydney from Melbourne today, however it should be noted that 14 of those scheduled flights have been cancelled: like yesterday, there will be just one Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar service flying into Mascot.
Five of the 17 new COVID-19 infections reported in NSW were acquired in Victoria. One case was confirmed earlier on Monday, and four cases were confirmed later in a family who had returned to Wagga Wagga from Melbourne.
Ms Berejiklian said the NSW hotel quarantine had done an “amazing job” in stopping the spread of COVID-19 from overseas travellers, and the government was monitoring the situation in people entering NSW from Victoria.
“We are considering the situation with returning people from Victoria,” she said.
“At the moment we require them to self-isolate, but we will continue to consider what measures we need to take, if we need to take further measures.”
Teachers and support staff at more than 35 school districts across the United States on Monday staged protests over plans to resume in-class instruction while COVID-19 is surging in many parts of the country.
The protesters, who formed car caravans and attached signs and painted messages on their vehicles, demand schools hold off until scientific data supports such a move, Reuters reports.
On Twitter, the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association showed protesters making fake gravestones that said, “Here lies a third grade student from Green Bay who caught COVID at school” and “RIP Grandma caught COVID helping grand kids with homework.”
Coronavirus deaths are rising in 31 states, up from 27 states a week ago, according to a Reuters analysis of the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks. More than 155,000 people have died of COVID-19 related illness in the United States, the most in the world.
The Victorian state government has flagged harsher penalties for those caught flouting coronavirus restrictions, as police issued the largest number of fines in one day since Victoria’s second lockdown began.
Victoria Police issued almost $250,000 worth of fines in the 24 hours to Monday morning, including one to a man who travelled to the Melbourne CBD to play Pokemon Go and another who went to his Surf Coast holiday home.
It was the largest number of fines issued in a day in Victoria since stage three restrictions were re-introduced in the state at midnight on July 8.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday announced the sweeping shutdown of some workplaces and tight restrictions on others, and flagged that there would be further announcements around compliance and police powers on Tuesday.
The UK’s plans to contain further outbreaks of coronavirus allow for ministers to lock down London, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Monday.
The so-called ‘Contain Strategy’ sets out the possibility of restricting movement and closing down local transport networks, James Slack confirmed when asked whether the government had war-gamed sealing off the capital.
His remarks followed a report in the Sunday Times newspaper that ministers could curb travel on the M25 encircling London and ban overnight stays in the city if there was a surge in cases.
With cases ticking upwards, Johnson is caught between the competing goals of suppressing the spread of the virus and reopening the economy. Last week, ministers introduced fresh restrictions on more than 4 million people in the north of England and postponed the reopening of casinos, bowling alleys and ice rinks.
At the same time, Johnson is pushing ahead with efforts to revive the stalled UK economy, which is facing a potentially devastating recession.
On Monday, a month-long government program to encourage people to return to restaurants began. The Eat Out to Help Out program gives diners a 50 per cent discount on meals at participating restaurants from Monday to Wednesday throughout August.
Here’s what is making news on the front pages of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age today, August 4.
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Two western Sydney schools have been closed on Tuesday after students tested positive to COVID-19.
Bonnyrigg High School will be shut to on-site learning as cleaning and contact tracing is undertaken, a message on the school’s website reads. All students and staff are required to self-isolate until further information is available.
Greenway Park Public School, at West Hoxton, has also been closed after two students tested positive. All students and staff at the primary school have also been required to self-isolate.
Elsewhere, state and territory governments are putting out spot fires: new restrictions on gatherings in homes were announced in South Australia after a returned traveller from Victoria infected close contacts. In NSW, where 13 new cases were recorded yesterday, restrictions have remained the same, although Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said: “If we need to do more, we will.”
We will be bringing you live coverage throughout the day. If something is happening in your community which you think we should be covering – such as a school or business being closed due to a positive case – send me a tweet @marywardy or use this form.