Coronavirus death toll climbs as Victoria records 238 cases
Three Victorians have died of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, while 238 new cases have been confirmed.
Two deaths were confirmed yesterday, while the third, a woman in her 90s, was announced by the Premier this morning.
This brings the number of Victorian deaths to 27.
There are 105 Victorians in hospital with the virus, including 27 in intensive care.
There are currently 1931 active cases in Victoria, with a total of 4448 cases since the pandemic began.
In New South Wales, health authorities confirmed 13 new cases had been recorded overnight. Ten of those cases have been linked to the Crossroads Hotel, a Sydney pub that has been the source of a large outbreak.
More than 1 million people in the state have been tested since the outbreak began.
13 new cases of #COVID19 have been diagnosed in NSW between 8pm on 13 July and 8pm on 14 July.— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) July 15, 2020
10 additional cases are associated with the Crossroads Hotel - these new cases bring the total linked to the Crossroads Hotel to 30. Three new confirmed cases were overseas acquired. pic.twitter.com/cs0X4Ye4TJ
Two protesters who attended the Black Lives Matter rally have had their COVID-19 cases linked to the outbreak in Melbourne's public housing towers.
Health authorities have confirmed the link without saying if the protesters lived, visited or were close contacts of those in the towers, The Australian reports.
The public housing cluster has seen at least 242 cases.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton previously said it was unlikely the protesters caught the virus at the rally in Melbourne's CBD which was attended by 10,000 people on June 6.
The link does not necessarily mean the protesters were the original source of the public housing tower outbreak, which is the state's largest cluster to date.
Positive cases in the towers in North Melbourne and Flemington caused its 3000 residents to endure five days of hard lockdown.
Meanwhile, a strain of COVID-19 detected in southwest Sydney - where 30 people have been struck with the virus - originated from Victoria.
Genomic tests given to NSW Health show a unique Victorian strain has hit Sydney, where there is growing concern about the number of new cases.
The genomic sequence of the Crossroads Hotel outbreak "has not been seen before in NSW",
official NSW Health advice stated.
The laboratory analysis has mapped four of the current NSW cases to Victoria.
It is understood close examination of truck and logistics companies linked to Victoria is being undertaken in a bid to identify patient zero.
The sequencing was able to establish the Victorian strain of the virus had leaked into the border area at Albury, the western Sydney area with the four cases including:
• A man from the Blue Mountains who had dinner at the Crossroads Hotel on July 3 and had not been to Melbourne;
• A man who arrived in Sydney with a caravan from Melbourne on July 7; and
• Two Albury border cases - a woman in her 30s who travelled from Melbourne, and her family member who had not travelled from Melbourne.
"(They) are part of a new genomic cluster linked to other Victorian cases. This cluster has not been seen before in NSW," the health advice read.
"Other cases linked to the hotel are being sequenced. This would indicate that the Crossroads is most likely linked to Melbourne."
HEAVIER LOCKDOWN LOOMS
Authorities are engaged in high-level talks over potential stage four restrictions, with police being briefed on possible options.
Scenarios being discussed include a short blast, which would involve a complete shutdown for two to five days.
Such a crackdown would most likely be introduced as case numbers started to decline, with the aim of dramatically fast tracking the reduction in infections, enabling stage three restrictions to be eased sooner than currently planned.
Under this scenario, Victorians would be required to stay inside their homes most of the day, with limited exercise hours and curfews.
All shops except grocery stores and pharmacies would shut.
Tougher directives for staying away from work could also be introduced.
A purported official text message was leaked on Tuesday, detailing similar measures.
Asked if the government had started planning for the next phase of restrictions Premier Daniel Andrews said it was too early to make any announcements.
"We all the way through this have tried to be as frank and clear with the Victorian community as possible," Mr Andrews said. "If we're planning for something, if we've made decisions, we announce them in pretty good time.
"We always have to look at every single option about what a next phase, a next step, will be. It will all be based on health advice, it will all be based on the data."
It is understood a further tightening of restrictions would be likely when case numbers started to decline, to give a severe lockdown the chance to eliminate the virus.
Sources said an extension of current restrictions statewide would be a possible next step. Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said Melbourne's northwest remained the state's coronavirus hot spot region.
"All of metro Melbourne is a concern in the sense that we've got cases that cover much of metro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire," he said.
"But the northwest corridor is still where transmission is occurring."
Prof Sutton said Victoria was currently tracking on the wrong side of the curve to consider an elimination strategy. He said further restrictions were inevitable if numbers did not start falling.
"We would do the minimum required because we know how much of an imposition it is on businesses, on people's lives, but if it's required to reduce transmission then it has to be in play," he said. The Premier did not rule out the possibility of stage four restrictions.
It comes as Melbourne commuters using public transport are defying government recommendations, with some refusing to wear face masks despite major concerns the virus is spreading in the community.
The state government last week upgraded official recommendations that Melburnians wear masks when they could not social distance, with public transport being singled out as a high priority.
On train services across the city on Wednesday morning, many commuters were not wearing masks.
Instead, there were reports of people applying make-up and eating.
This was witnessed on several train lines and includes people travelling from high infection areas and moving through major hubs like Richmond and Flinders St stations.
Two days ago, Prof Sutton released a video advising Victorians to wear masks and how to wear them properly.
This included instructions on how to make your own.
"With a virus this infectious, every bit helps and the simple action of wearing a facemask will help protect your family, your neighbours and the most vulnerable in our community," he said.
- With Rachel Baxendale and Anna Caldwell
COMMUTERS IGNORE MASK RECOMMENDATIONS
Melbourne commuters using public transport are defying government recommendations with some refusing to wear face masks despite major concerns the virus is spreading in the community.
It comes a week after the state government upgraded official recommendations that Melburnians wear masks when they could not social distance with public transport being singled out as a high priority.
On train services across the city this morning many commuters were not wearing masks.
Instead, there were reports of people doing their make up and eating.
This was witnessed on several train lines and includes people travelling from high infection areas and moving through major hubs like Richmond Station and Flinders St Station.
Two days ago Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton released a video advising Victorians to wear masks and how to wear them properly.
This includes instructions on how to make your own.
"With a virus this infectious, every bit helps and the simple action of wearing a facemask will help protect your family, your neighbours and the most vulnerable in our community," Mr Sutton said.
- Alex White
Originally published as Black Lives Matter rally linked to towers outbreak