Coronavirus updates LIVE: Victorian businesses subject to tough COVID-19 restrictions amid stage four lockdown; two western Sydney schools close as Australian death toll stands at 221

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Federal Labor renews call for remote Parliament

Federal Labor has restated its call for the government to implement measures which will allow for Parliament to sit remotely.

“Parliament was scheduled to resume today, and indeed there would have been substantial questions to be answered and substantial scrutiny required of the government,” opposition leader Anthony Albanese told reporters this morning.

He said it was essential that Parliament sits as scheduled on August 24, noting issues such as aged care and paid pandemic leave should be discussed beyond the Senate’s COVID committee, which will be hearing from Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck today.

“There’s no indication that there was any spread, of course, or transmission resulting from those parliamentary sittings that were held earlier this year,” he said.

WATCH: Anthony Albanese addresses the media

Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese will address the media at 9.45am.


Queensland health authorities struggling to alert close contacts of Jetstar case

Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, says contact tracers are still working to track down people who shared a flight from NSW with the state’s latest case.

The man in his 20s, now revealed to be a private security contractor and not a consulate staffer, had returned from Afghanistan and was granted an exemption to fly on to Queensland on Jetstar flight JQ790 to quarantine at home.

But because domestic airlines are not required to keep details of their passengers, Dr Young said health authorities were still “struggling” to find two of close contacts identified from the flight.

“The airline cannot tell me how to get a hold of those two people,” she said.

Dr Young said that unless contact details were kept for domestic passengers in the same way they are for international flights, the only way to avoid similar cases in the future was to quarantine people where they returned to the country.

“I have pushed for it, yes, and I will continue to push for it,” she said.

Trio to appear in court after allegedly lying about Melbourne trip to skip quarantine

Queensland police have issued three men notices to appear in court for allegedly lying about a trip to Melbourne to skip quarantine in the state for a day.

State disaster coordinator Steve Gollschewski said police were alerted to the situation after one disclosed he “had been exposed to people in Melbourne”.

Further investigation then revealed two others, also in Logan in Brisbane’s south which has already been the focus of a rapid health response in the past week, had also travelled from the hotspot area.

The three are now awaiting test results in hotel quarantine, while police work with their counterparts in Victoria and NSW to further understand how the men were able to cross both borders.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the case was “undermining all of the great work that Queenslanders have done”.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said that until the test results were returned, nothing would change in the region’s health response.

“People just need to if they’re unwell immediately come forward and get tested,” she said

Victorian childcare centres prepare for plummeting attendance

Victorian childcare providers are braced for plummeting attendance rates in the next six weeks that could send some centres to the wall as most families keep their children home.

Parents and childcare providers remain in the dark about which specific categories of Melbourne workers will be permitted to put their children in care during the stage four lockdown, less than 48 hours before tough restrictions on attendance are to take effect.

Narelle Lawton from Dawson Street Children’s Co-operative in Brunswick has welcomed the decision to restrict access to childcare.

Narelle Lawton from Dawson Street Children’s Co-operative in Brunswick has welcomed the decision to restrict access to childcare.Credit:Eddie Jim

Under Melbourne’s stage four restrictions, only vulnerable children and the children of permitted workers will be allowed to attend childcare centres from Thursday, with all other children in early education expected to stay home.

Thousands of childcare centres are at risk of folding permanently due to a lack of income from parents’ fees if the vast majority of children do not attend for six weeks, the Community Child Care Association has warned.

Police to ‘investigate’ documents provided in returned security contractor case

Queensland police will look at documents provided to grant diplomatic quarantine exemptions to a private security contractor who returned home to Toowoomba via Sydney and the Sunshine Coast.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters on Tuesday that she had forwarded the details provided to state health authorities to grant the man an exemption to quarantine at home, including one letter on DFAT letterhead, to the police commissioner to “investigate”.

“There is a loophole here and it has to be closed,” she said.

A letter from NSW granting the exemption would also be passed along.

Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles said he supported the decisions made by Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young based on the evidence provided to her.

The state recorded no new cases again on Tuesday, from almost 10,000 tests conducted in the previous 24 hours.


Pupil-free day today, as VCE students prepare to work from home tomorrow

Victorian schools have a pupil-free day today, as the state prepares to return to remote learning tomorrow.

That will mean Melbourne’s year 11 and 12 students are back to studying from home, after being exempt from the stage three restrictions on attending schools; a stressful proposition as some approach their final exams.

Education Minister James Merlino said the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority was looking at introducing measures “to ensure fair, valid and reliable results”, as it did after the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, and would ”have more to say in coming days”.

“I am mindful of how disruptive this year has been for our VCE and VCAL students and we are doing all we can to support them,” Mr Merlino said.

WATCH: Queensland Premier gives a coronavirus update

Business Council welcomes pandemic payments for Victorians

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott has welcomed a new federal pandemic payment for Victorians who are forced to self isolate and don’t have enough sick leave to fall back on.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday the government would fund $1500 grants for people in isolation that the Victorian government had previously paid.

Ms Westacott said the $1500 payment would make a “huge difference” in encouraging people to stay home if they had to quarantine if they had been tested for COVID-19 or were a close contact.

“I think it takes the burden off particularly small business, there’s always going to be arguments about can it go further,” Ms Westacott told Radio National.

Ms Westacott said the Business Council’s preference would have been that the payment was made by the employer who would then be reimbursed by the government in the same way as JobKeeper.

However she said the council would monitor the scheme and continue to work closely with the government.

“I think it’s a really good start,” Ms Westacott said.

Focus of stage four is case numbers, not R number: Coatsworth

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth has said the aim of Victoria’s new restrictions is to decrease case numbers overall, noting that the state had already done a good job of controlling the reproductive rate of the virus.

“We already got to a point where the basic reproductive number was about one, so on average one person was infecting one other in Melbourne,” Dr Coatsworth explained on Today this morning.

“But those numbers were too high; stubbornly high – between 600 and 700. So the really significant measures have to be put in place, but they will bring the basic reproductive number down.”

Asked about travel between Victoria and NSW, Dr Coatsworth said he was not recommending a total border closure amid concerns about cases being imported on an ongoing basis.

“There are reasons why people still need to travel,” he said, adding that the reduced numbers of people able to enter NSW from Victoria meant transmission was “far less of a risk” than it once was.

Dr Coatsworth said he was hopeful that NSW’s case figures would “go in the right direction”, as only one case in the state each day has been recorded without a known source. He said he was similarly hopeful, although cautious, about the situation in Queensland.

“I love seeing zero new cases in Queensland, so does [Chief Health Officer] Jeannette Young, but we need to wait for several weeks before we can come off alert.”

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