Melbourne facing major shut down under stage four
Premier Daniel Andrews has shut down all non-essential business today after crisis meetings.
The premier and his senior ministers have been locked in crisis meetings all day thrashing out details of new restrictions set to come into force.
Mr Andrews said there will be progressive announcements made over the next few days to give people the clarity and certainty they need.
The majority of retailers, including department stores like Kmart and Target, will be closed in Melbourne for the duration of the stage 4 lockdown under tough new rules announced by Victorian Premier Dan Andrews today.
Most shops will be shut down for six weeks - except for essential services like supermarkets and pharmacies - in a move that is likely to trigger thousands of job losses and stand downs.
The state is battling a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections, which plunged Melbourne into an unprecedented lockdown and saw regional Victoria adopt tougher measures.
Supermarkets, pharmacies, newsagencies, post offices will remain open during the lockdown.
"That means people do not need to be going and buying six weeks worth of groceries,'' Mr Andrews said.
"I understand that there is a sense of concern in the community and hopefully the clarity of the message today, you do not need to do that because supermarkets as well as grocery stores, the local fruit and veg, the local butcher, the baker, all of those shops, they will remain open.
"You will only be able to be one person out of the house doing that for an hour, they will still be open and they will have to the best of everyone's ability, they will have the fullest range they possibly can have."
However, the majority of retail stores will close on Wednesday night in Melbourne at 11:59pm.
It comes as another 429 coronavirus cases were recorded in Victoria, bringing the state's total to 11,937.
Only 36 of the new cases have been linked to known outbreaks, with 393 cases under investigation.
Another 13 people have died, bringing the state's death toll to 136.
Of the new deaths, eight have been linked to known outbreaks in aged care facilities.
BUSINESSES THAT WILL REMAIN OPEN
Supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks, news agencies, post offices will remain open.
The Premier said that means people do not need to be going and buying six weeks worth of groceries.
"I understand that there is a sense of concern in the community and hopefully the clarity of the message today, you do not need to do that because supermarkets as well as grocery stores, the local fruit and veg, the local butcher, the baker, all of those shops, they will remain open," he said.
MELBOURNE SURVIVES FIRST NIGHT OF CURFEW
Melburnians have survived their first night of curfew with usually busy streets bare and city hotspots quiet.
Pedestrian numbers dropped in the CBD in the early hours of Monday morning, with locals heeding the 8pm-5am stay home ban.
According to data from the City of Melbourne's pedestrian tracker website, Flinders Street Station saw 31 per cent less foot traffic through its doors at 5am than its four week average.
Numbers were also down at Southern Cross, which counted only 55 people between 4 and 5am - an almost 50 per cent drop.
It comes as the state begins a six-week hard lockdown.
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COMMUNITY 'IN THE DARK'
A leading epidemiologist has warned that the state government's lack of transparency over coronavirus data has left the community "in the dark".
Professor John Mathews, from Melbourne University's School of Population and Global Health, said the government needed to win the confidence and trust of the Victorian people and admit problems with its contact tracing and public health interventions.
"Unfortunately, the Premier (Daniel Andrews) has done a good job in difficult circumstances, but it looks like he's lumping the problem on the people," he said.
"And the confidence and trust they need to have would be better served if the government.was more transparent about the data it's collecting, and what uses it would put the data to."
Prof Mathews said that there was obviously some kind of reporting problem with the dozens of mystery coronavirus cases reported over several days,
"But the government hasn't released the details of its protocols for reporting information like that," he said.
"It would be much better if the Premier took the people into his confidence...and said, 'here's the data we're collecting, here's how we want to go forward and get people more on side.'"
Prof Mathews said a wartime analogy had been used for the pandemic crisis.
"But that's not an excuse for keeping all the information locked up it's always been a problem with governments holding data and not acknowledging problems," he said.
"Everyone's a bit in the dark,really."
Prof Mathews said we needed to understand the data flow because the efficiency of contact tracing and quarantine depended on how quickly the information on positive rates was communicated to people.
"Ideally, we'd also want to know was this particular person, when their test was done, did they have symptoms, or were they a contact, or were they just someone who was concerned about their health," he said.
"And if we had that information linked to whether the result was positive or negative, and where it happened, we'd be much more able to make use of it in understanding what's happened."
- John Masanauskas
STATE PARLIAMENT CANCELLED UNTIL SEPTEMBER
The Victorian parliament has been cancelled this week, as outspoken Liberal MP Tim Smith has called on Daniel Andrews to resign.
Mr Smith, who has repeatedly been at odds with Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien over calls for the Premier to resign, said on Sydney radio today "ministers and Daniel Andrews have blood on their hands.
They have so monumentally failed the people of Victoria."
"We are so sick of this man … we're just so utterly sick of him," he said.
"In the name of God, would he just go!"
Mr Smith later refused to tone down the comments in an interview with Neil Mitchell
It comes confirmation today that parliament would not sit this week on the advice of the Chief Health Officer
Speaker Colin Brooks said the advice left him in no doubt that the sitting should be postponed.
"The advice points to our responsibility to the health and safety of those working in the parliament, the Parliament's responsibility to analyse and respond to proposed new workplace directions and to play our part in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 between Melbourne and regional Victoria," he said in a letter to members.
"I have consulted with the Leader of the House and the Manager of Opposition Business and have set Tuesday 1 September 2020 as the next sitting day."
- Shannon Deery
BABY AMONG WAGGA WAGGA FAMILY WHO CONTRACTED VIRUS IN MELB
A baby is among four new coronavirus cases in Wagga Wagga with the child, its parents and grandmother believed to have contracted the virus in Melbourne.
The family, a 52-year-old woman, her son and daughter-in-law, who are both in their 20s, and the child, have been self -isolating aince returning from Victoria and are not believed to have infected anybody else with the virus.
These cases are in addition to 13 more from across NSW announced on Monday morning, as Premier Gladys Berejiklian called for residents to be on "extra high alert".
Read the full story here.
WOOLWORTHS CONVERTS STORES TO DELIVERY HUBS
Supermarket giant Woolworths will covert three stores into online delivery hubs under the new Stage 4 restrictions.
Stores at Dandenong Plaza, Watergardens South and Mountain Gate will be closed from Tuesday to in-store patrons in a bid to deal with a surge in at-home deliveries.
Woolworths Victorian General Manager Andrew Hall acknowledged the move would be inconvenient for some shoppers, but said it would allow them to meet growing demand.
"The demand for online delivery continues to grow at pace with more customers in self-isolation or seeking to limit their outings," he said.
"It's an uncertain time for many in Melbourne and this will ensure we have the delivery capacity to support the essential grocery needs of many more customers online."
All staff will be retained or deployed to nearby stores.
- Alanah Frost
BIRTHDAY REVELLERS AMONG 172 VICTORIANS FINED
A man found in the CBD playing Pokémon Go is among the hundreds of Victorians to be fined in the past 24 hours for disobeying stay at home orders.
Police issued a total of 172 fines including 27 for people refusing to wear a face mask and 22 at vehicle checkpoints.
Among the breaches were:
A KEILOR man who was intercepted by police in the Surf Coast who admitted he travelled there on Friday to stay at his holiday home;
A WOMAN at Southern Cross train station attempting to travel to Bendigo;
TWO MEN located at a fast food outlet in Hobsons Bay who stated they had come from a friend's house in Altona where they stayed overnight and
A GROUP of people who celebrated a birthday at a short-term rental in Point Cook.
Operation Sentinel remains ongoing.
- Brianna Travers
HEALTHCARE WORKERS IN INTENSIVE CARE STABILISED
Two medical professionals who were being treated in intensive care units for the coronavirus are now in a stable condition.
One doctor, aged in her 30s, had been working as an emergency department registrar at the Epping hospital before becoming seriously ill last week.
She is now stable.
The condition of another healthcare worker, understood to be a radiographer, has also improved.
"Both patients are in a stable condition," a Northern Health spokesman said.
- Brianna Travers
HEALTH MINISTER: CURFEW EXEMPTIONS FOR MEDICAL APPTS
The state's health minister Jenny Mikakos clarified exemptions from the 8pm-5am curfew include medical appointments and healthcare.
Melburnians can leave their homes to seek health care after curfew, and travel of more than 5km from home is permitted if seeking healthcare.
The minister urged Melburnians not to delay urgent healthcare or attending medical appointments.
Never delay urgent health care or attending a medical appointment. Stage 4 restrictions are now in place in metro Melb but if you need to, you can get health care after curfew & you can travel more than 5kms to reach it. Further Stage 4 info here https://t.co/zjF8cjG9un #springst— Jenny Mikakos MP #StayHomeSaveLives (@JennyMikakos) August 2, 2020
FOUR WOOLWORTHS STORES, DISTRUBUTION CENTRE CLOSE
Four Woolworths stores in Melbourne were forced to close overnight for deep cleaning while workers returned positive results for the deadly coronavirus.
The supermarket giant confirmed infections in staff members at Newmarket, Bundoora, Cranbourne East and Karingal Hub in the past 24 hours.
Any customers who shopped in the stores between July 28-30 and feel unwell in the next two weeks should get tested.
Woolworths said they were making contact with all relevant team members and would provide "full support to those required to self-isolate".
A distribution centre in Melbourne's west has shut after a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Woolworths Liquor Distribution Centre in Laverton North is yet to open this morning after a "cease work" notice from the site's health and safety team.
It comes after a worker tested positive for the virus on Friday evening.
In a statement, a spokesman from the Woolworths Group said:
"The opening of our Melbourne Liquor DC has been delayed this morning after the site's health and safety representatives issued a cease work notice.
"The safety of our team is our priority and we're working through the notice with the UWU and WorkSafe Victoria as a matter of urgency."
Woolworths have been cleaning high-touch areas at the site five times a day for many weeks now and said they did so over the weekend "in line with Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommendations."
Woolworths said they have not been instructed to close or for members to be put into isolation.
It is not anticipated there will be any liquor supply issues as a result of the delay.
- Anthony Piovesan and Alanah Frost
Read the full story here.
STAGE FOUR TO 'MEAN THE END' FOR VICTORIAN BUSINESSES
Thousands more Victorian jobs are expected to be lost with the widespread shutdown of businesses under the harsher lockdown imposed by the state government.
Government and industry groups were negotiating on Sunday night over which businesses could continue to operate amid drastic fears for the state and national economies.
Food and beverage retailers will stay open and hospitality venues still be able to offer takeaway services, with announcements expected on Monday about which other businesses and industries will be able to trade as essential services.
A limited number of abattoirs are expected to continue as others come online to maintain meat supplies if they are hit by outbreaks.
Urban Development Institute of Australia state chief executive Danni Hunter said the construction sector was trying to convince the government that work should continue if it was safe to do so.
"We've proven that there have been very low numbers of cases in the building industry, and if there are they've been dealt with effectively and swiftly to make sure sites can reopen and workers are safe," she said.
Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Paul Guerra said it was very tough for Victoria.
"Stage four will mean the end for many businesses, with thousands more jobs set to be lost. Business will take a further hit with employees now also having to supervise school-age children at home again, and childcare centres closed for the first time," he said. "Victorian businesses are going to need cash to survive these six weeks … then we'll need certainty to build a runway so we can come out of this."
Premier Daniel Andrews said that in talks with Prime Minister Scott Morrison there was acknowledgment that current JobKeeper and Jobseeker rates would continue until the end of September.
"We're going to continue our discussions and if there are other areas where there are anomalies, and businesses might not or workers might not qualify for those payments when clearly they should, then we will continue to work through those issues," he said.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said: "The new restrictions announced by the Victorian government will put an even greater burden on a state economy already under pressure. This is why we are working through options for additional federal support to complement what the Victorian government has done and will need to do."
Non-essential businesses such as clothing shops are likely be forced to close.
Jade Matthews, co-owner of Tibbs & Bones on Chapel St, has already found the pandemic difficult due to her shop specialising in festival and night-life wear. "I am understanding of the lockdown but as a small-business owner, it's stressful," she said.
The owner of Kew restaurant Mister Bianco, Joe Vargetto, said it was a relief that takeaway services could continue, although the new curfew meant some changes.
Harvey Norman owner Gerry Harvey said if his shops had to close then online shopping and delivery could continue, but it was better "to leave as much open as you can".
"If someone's fridge or washing machine breaks down, that's essential," he said.
"If their lounge breaks down, it's not, but if you're going to let someone buy a fridge, well then it's silly not to allow them to buy a lounge because there are a lot fewer people in your shop who are allowed in anyway."
Australian Retailers Association chief executive Paul Zahra said shutting down discretionary retail would be of concern. "What could happen is there will be an influx of international goods from online shopping, and that can't be good for the state or the country," he said.
DONALD TRUMP WEIGHS IN ON MELBOURNE LOCKDOWN
US President Donald Trump has weighed in on Australia's alarming coronavirus surge, which has led to Victoria declaring a "state of disaster" as it recorded another huge spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths.
President Trump responded to a tweet that directly explained that Victoria was moving to a state of disaster declaration.
He said: "Big China Virus breakouts all over the World, including nations which were thought to have done a great job. The Fake News doesn't report this. USA will be stronger than ever before, and soon!"
News of his tweet was running on the New York Post which reported: "President Trump tweets about troubling COVID-19 outbreak in Australia."
Read the full story here.
COLES' DRAMATIC NEW CURFEW TRADING HOURS
Coles has drastically shortened its opening hours in keeping with Melbourne's strict stage four lockdown restrictions.
The supermarket said in a statement that all metropolitan shops will close by 7.45pm, including liquor stores.
"In line with the curfew requirements, we ask that customers shop alone wherever possible and visit our stores no more than once per day," a spokesman said in a statement.
Coles reminded customers of the importance sanitising upon entering stores. physical distancing and not shopping if feeling unwell.
The chain also announced new limits on meat, with customers now restricted to only two packets of chicken thighs, breasts and mince.
The two-pack limits on hand sanitiser and face masks remain in place.
- Rhiannon Down
IS THIS MELBOURNE'S FIRST CITY-WIDE CURFEW?
The curfew which came into effect on Sunday night is believed to be the first of its kind in Australian history, according to the Royal Historic Society of Victoria.
VHSV Executive Officer Rosemary Cameron said member historians couldn't recall a time when the entire city had been locked down before, even during the darkest days of WWII.
"During the black outs in WWII some suggested there should have been a curfew, after the Brownout Murders," she said.
The Brownout Murders were a series of killings in Melbourne which took place in 1942 by American soldier Eddie Leonski against a series of young female victims.
Ms Cameron said curfews had also historically been used to target Indigenous people and youths in many parts of Australia.
"There have been selected curfews for Indigenous people which were city wide, such as that between 1927-1954 where Indigenous people were curfewed in the Perth CBD after 6pm," she said.
A youth curfew was introduced in 2003 in Northbridge, WA to prevent young people from walking after dark in a particular geographical area.
Professor of Australian history at the University of Melbourne Andrew May agreed the curfew was "unprecedented" in Melbourne's history.
He said even during the 1932 Victorian police strikes, when rioting and chaos filled the streets after half of the police force went on strike, the history books don't make any reference to a curfew.
"I can't find any references to curfews in any of my sources tonight," he said.
AGED-CARE HOMES' TESTING PRIORITY EXPOSED
Mass coronavirus testing in Victoria's aged-care homes is prioritising residents over workers, despite staff being blamed for spreading the virus.
Subcontractors brought in to conduct the testing blitz amid devastating outbreaks have been told to test residents and staff on separate visits - rather than at the same time as happened previously.
The testing teams have been told to double the number of homes whose residents are being tested each day and leave staff for later checks because of time pressures.
The policy change comes despite repeated statements from Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly that workers were the ones who spread the virus between homes.
There were more than 1000 active cases linked to aged-care homes across the state on Sunday, with a further six deaths in aged care.
Four homes have recorded more than 100 cases - the worst being St Basil's Home for the Aged in Fawkner, with 136 cases.
The troubled Epping Gardens Aged Care had 122 cases on Sunday and Estia Aged Care in Ardeer had 106.
In a desperate scramble to find out how many vulnerable elderly Melburnians have the virus as the death toll surges, testing units subcontracted by the federal government to conduct tests were told to split up the testing of residents and workers.
Sources told the Herald Sun the directive changed on Thursday morning.
Until then, workers and residents from one home were tested by the same team as part of a mass-testing blitz.
A Department of Health spokesman said pathology service provider Sonic Healthcare had advised the department it would be faster to split the testing.
"Sonic advised that sample collections from residents take longer than sample collections from staff and separate teams would enable them to provide more rapid collection and to service more facilities a day," the spokesman said.
"Aged-care worker tests continue to be prioritised, along with resident tests, under the Sonic contract."
But one of the contractors working under the directive said they had been told to test residents first and that residents' results were being rushed over those from workers.
If an aged-care worker's test result took longer to return and they continued working while unknowingly carrying the virus, all residents would have to be retested.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt on Sunday said the situation in Victoria's aged-care homes was "being stabilised" despite the soaring number of cases.
FULL IMPACT OF COVID-19 COULD SOON BE REVEALED
Melbourne researchers are growing human organs in a lab to map COVID-19 damage and find targeted treatments to combat the virus.
Amid growing evidence COVID-19 is impacting all areas of some victims' bodies, including their heart and brains, the team led by Murdoch Children's Research Institute, is racing to uncover the long-term consequences.
The cutting-edge project - which also involves the Doherty Institute, Monash University, and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute - is one of seven backed under a $5.5 million COVID-19 research fund to be announced on Monday by the Andrews Government.
To jump ahead of the long-term impacts, the Melbourne collaboration has unlocked a way to use stem cells to grow lungs, heart, kidneys, brain, immune system and blood vessel tissue in their laboratories, and infect them with coronavirus.
MCRI director of cell biology Professor Melissa Little said targeted drugs able to help each area could be hastened.
"People don't quite appreciate yet that this is attacking our heart muscle, it's attacking our kidneys, it is even attacking our brains," Prof Little said.
- With additional reporting by John Masanauskas, Grace McKinnon and Tamsin Rose