Victoria recorded no new local cases of COVID-19 and no deaths from the virus on Sunday morning, but one additional case was found in an international traveller within hotel quarantine.
There were 5854 test results received across Saturday. Ten cases remain active in Victoria: nine travellers who were infected with the virus overseas and remain in hotel quarantine, and one 15-year-old girl who travelled from NSW and remains in home isolation.
The Department of Health and Human Services said an expert review panel was called in to review one case where a low positive result was returned from a coronavirus test.
A spokeswoman said the second test returned a negative reading.
The Victorian president of the Australian Medical Association praised the hospital’s decision to quickly send staff into isolation after the initial positive test.
“False positives occur,” AMA president Julian Rait said.
“It sounds as though all appropriate infection prevention protocols were followed on this occasion.”
NSW recorded nine new locally acquired cases on Saturday, including six people in one household. Almost 40,000 people were tested.
From midnight on Boxing Day until 11.59pm on December 30, residents of the northern part of Sydney’s northern beaches are restricted to outdoor gatherings of up to five people for exercise and recreation.
Residents of the southern part of the northern beaches can have outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people for exercise and recreation.
“Our strategy is to nip this in the bud as soon as we can, to make sure we do the hard yards now so we can have normality as soon as we can,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
With Rob Sharp, Melissa Cunningham
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CPB Contractors, which was responsible for the construction and installation of signage on the Tullamarine Freeway, is also accused of repeated negligence, including failing to adequately design, construct and install the signage, according to the writ.
Ms Lettieri suffered head and spinal injuries along with post-traumatic stress disorder from the crash, which she described at the time as “like a roller door slamming shut in front of me”.
The Transport Accident Commission had recently issued Ms Lettieri with a serious injury certificate, according to her lawyer, John Karantzis from Carbone Lawyers.
“Our client continues to suffer from severe physical and psychological injuries as a result of this incident and we intend to hold those responsible for these injuries to account,” Mr Karantzis said.
The incident prompted an investigation by CPB Contractors, which is part of the multinational CIMIC Group, formerly known as Leighton Holdings.
The review found the sign collapsed because of a “progressive fatigue crack” due to the omission of a stiffener plate during the fabrication process.
CPB Contractors declined to comment on the legal proceedings when contacted by The Sunday Age on Thursday.
A Department of Transport spokeswoman said it had conducted a thorough audit of similar signs and was confident the Tullamarine Freeway accident was an isolated incident.
“As this matter is now the subject of legal proceedings, we are unable to comment further,” the spokeswoman said.
Major Projects Victoria program director David Clements said it had undertaken an extensive review and site inspection of all overhead and roadside assets built by CPB Contractors as part of the CityLink Tulla Widening Project.
“These inspections did not identify any ongoing public safety concerns and we remain committed to working with government and industry to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” Mr Clements said.
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The Prime Minister (Mr. Gorton) announced the lifting of the night flying curfew yesterday when he pushed a button to open Melbourne’s $50 million international jetport.
But the terms of Mr. Gorton’s announcement left his audience, including reporters and aviation officials puzzled.
Many, including the Premier (Sir Henry Bolte) interpreted it as a hope that the night ban would be lifted, rather than a definite announcement.
Finally Mr. Gorton’s Press Secretary (Mr. Tony Eggleton) made a statement “to clarify the situation”. He said that the ban was officially off.
The puzzling part of Mr. Gorton’s speech was a condition that State authorities did not allow housing near the airport which could lead to noise discomfort.
Mr. Gorton’s words were: “And there is no need for an airport not to operate providing those living around it are not harassed by the noise of such operation.
“Those living around Tullamarine now, I believe, would not be so harassed.
“And it is our intention as a Government that this airport should so operation, subject in the future to just this one qualification that the State authorities concerned see that there is not built up around the perimeter of this airport housing settlements which, in the future, might lead to great noise discomfort to those living in them.
“Having the airport, let us have a buffer zone around it, and it then will operate as an international airport should.”
Mr. Gorton said that he hoped the jetport – officially called Melbourne Airport – would keep the name Tullamarine.
“I hope and I believe… that the lovely, liquid name Tullamarine will not be discarded from our vocabulary,” he said.
Sir Henry Bolte and airlines spokesman welcome Mr. Gorton’s announcement. But the mayor of Keilor (Councilor G. Fullarton) said he was terribly disappointed.
“Large enterprises have won the day and left the ordinary people to suffer,” he said.
“There should have been a trial period to ascertain the noise levels before the curfew was lifted.
“Keilor council will keep a close look at the situation. If local residents are disturbed at night, we will let the Government know about it.
“Our greatest concern is that the curfew was only lifted to serve freighting interest rather than overseas passengers.”
Sir Henry said the airport was surrounded by a buffer zone which would always remain.
He said, “I found Mr. Gorton’s remarks very encouraging.
“I don’t think Mr. Gorton would have said any more than he said today. There are two committees examining the problem.
“No one could have expected him to come out and say definitely that the night curfew against flights would be lifted.”
More than 1000 people waited outside the airport – listening to the national anthem, a fanfare of trumpets and 20 minutes of speeches over a loudspeaker system.
The first overseas jets to arrive in Melbourne for more than five years roared into Tullamarine within hours of the opening.
An Alitalia DC-8 took line honors when it touched down at 8.45 a.m. Qantas had the first plan out – a Boeing 707 headed for San Francisco.
The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) disclosed that Melbourne may soon be the base for two more international airlines – bringing the fleet to 10.
He said he expected Lufthansa of Germany and KLM of Holland soon to complete negotiations with the Government for landing rights.
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Almost 1000 Victorian jury trials could be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been revealed.
For the first time the County Court has acknowledged the impact of the crisis, warning that the scheduling of an estimated 750 trials will be affected because of the crisis.
There are fears the impact could cause years of delays in the court.
The figure was revealed in a new practice note to the legal profession released by the court.
It doesn’t include the significant number of Supreme Court jury trials also expected to be affected because of the pandemic.
In an effort to combat the expected delays the County Court has now introduced a series of emergency case management procedures to try and fast track some cases.
County Court chief judge Peter Kidd has described the COVID-19 pandemic as the most challenging crisis in recent memory for courts.
The pandemic has seen the Victorian court system effectively grind to a halt.
Hundreds of cases have been automatically adjourned while others are proceeding either without the need for appearances in court or via videolink.
All new jury trials have been suspended across the state.
It is not yet clear when trials will resume, but the courts have acknowledged it won’t be before the last quarter of the year.
Court sources suspect the delays could extend into 2021, and cause a knock on effect of up to three years.
The unprecedented delays has seen an increase in the number of bail applications, with fears more accused criminals on remand will seek to be released back into the community.
The Supreme Court has already ruled that COVID-19 is a significant factor in new bail applications.
A string of accused criminals awaiting trial have been granted bail, including an alleged teen killer freed after COVID-19 put a youth detention facility into lockdown.
Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth said granting bail was an acceptable alternative to leaving the youth in custody for an unknown period of time in pandemic conditions.
– Shannon Deery
EASTER SERVICES’ NEW ONLINE LOOK
The tough social distancing restrictions banning religious gatherings have prompted a local Minister to stream Easter mass online for the first time in the church’s history.
Canon Matt Williams from St James Old Church in West Melbourne began connecting with Church’s Anglican members via Zoom earlier this week to continue daily prayers in preparation for today’s Easter service.
“We now know how to keep praying together as a community”, Fr Williams said.
“I pray with my assistant minister three times a day and we have almost 30 people joining us for each of these sessions.”
Although it has been an adjustment getting used to saying mass from home, Fr Williams said the new digital service is getting more people involved with the church through technology than ever before.
“We’ve got our entire congregation including everyone aged into their 90s involved, no one is left behind.”
St James’ will resume face-to-face mass when possible.
But, Fr Williams said the Zoom services have shown the potential to continue connecting with vulnerable community members even after social distancing restrictions are lifted.
“This has given us a new way to provide people with access to worship when they can’t physically be there”, he said.
Until that day, Fr Williams urged people to continue staying home and following the state’s coronavirus restrictions, including for religious gatherings.
“Even though this is peculiar and upside-down, this is the way we honour God right now”, he said.
“The most effective way we can love people is to keep these social distances.”
– Olivia Jenkins
STATE OF EMERGENCY EXTENDED BY FOUR WEEKS
Premier Dan Andrews has announced the state of emergency in Victoria would be extended a further four weeks, expiring at midnight on May 11.
“It may well continue beyond that,” Mr Andrews said on Sunday morning.
Three new coronavirus cases were confirmed overnight, bringing the state’s total to 1268.
But Victorians are being warned not to be complacent, as the state recorded its 14th COVID-19 death on Saturday.
“These are positive, albeit fragile numbers,” Mr Andrews said.
“These things can change very quickly.”
The Premier said that current stay-at-home measures would be in place for the “long haul” and wouldn’t be relaxed “anytime soon”.
Mr Andrews said the arrival of this morning’s first mercy flight had “gone smoothly”.
He said the state government was announcing a $59.4 million support package for mental health practitioners, organisations and strategy.
“We know that a lot of people are doing it very, very tough,” Mr Andrews said.
The Premier said the death toll had not changed overnight.
“(We’ve seen) no further deaths as a result of this virus,” he said.
“I do fear we have many weeks and months to go.
“The strategy is working, we are not seeing this virus get away from us.”
550 spot checks have been carried out by police in the past 24 hours, with 92 fines issued.
Those issued with fines include:
* A gathering of nine people at a rented short-stay apartment in Southbank;
* Nine people playing rugby at a Wyndham Vale park;
* Seven people playing soccer at a Mill Park oval; and,
* Several cases of private gatherings at residential properties.
Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in VIC
Source: Vic DHSS
Dr van Diemen said despite the positive trend in cases it was too early to consider lifting restrictions.
“It’s not too early to be talking about planning, it’s too early to be talking about lifting,” she said.
“We need to be planning for what’s going to happen in weeks, we need to be planning for what’s going to happen in months to even up to a year to 18 months.”
Prof Shitij Kapur — Melbourne Univeristy’s Dean of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences — told the Sunday Herald Sun the number of cases in Australia was “going in the right direction”.
“When you compare us to the other health systems … there’s absolutely no questions that we have a lower infection rate and a higher testing rate across the population as well as a lower death rate,” he said.
Melbourne’s Doherty Institute, which has been leading the fight against COVID-19, will this week begin a widescale study on a “large chunk” of confirmed cases.
It will trial the HIV drug Kaletra, which has been used in smaller studies overseas.
“It’s a really important study because at the moment there just isn’t enough evidence to show if these drugs are working,” director and University of Melbourne professor Sharon Lewin said.
Prof Lewin said controlling the rise in community transmission would be the next step in the virus fight.
She estimated tough restrictions would remain until there was “two-four weeks” of zero confirmed cases.
“The question is do we need to do more if there is (rising) community transmission.”
STRANDED AUSSIES RETURN HOME
A plane carrying more than 100 stranded Australian and New Zealand cruise ship passengers infected with COVID-19 has landed in Melbourne.
The flight from Uruguay touched down at Tullamarine just before 7am carrying 112 passengers from the Greg Mortimer cruise ship.
One of those passengers was taken to hospital in non-emergency transport, the state’s deputy chief health officer said, while the rest were checked into hotels for a 14-day quarantine period.
About 70 per cent of the 112 passengers who flew in from Uruguay this morning had earlier tested positive for coronavirus.
Crews in hazmat suits boarded the plane before a small group of passengers wearing masks were seen disembarking then walking towards a smaller aircraft.
It is believed that plane is bound for New Zealand.
About 1200 Aussies who were stranded overseas — including about 80 infected with coronavirus — will return on mercy flights to Melbourne.
The repatriation operation comes as experts say the virus looks to be on the run in Australia with the overall number of daily cases trending downwards.
Only three new cases were confirmed in Victoria overnight.
The ship’s operator Aurora Expeditions confirmed 128 of 217 people on board the Greg Mortimer, nearly 60 per cent, had tested positive for coronavirus.
Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Ernesto Talvi said two Australian passengers could not be transported home as they were in intensive care.
The ship had been stranded in the South American nation for more than two weeks, after leaving Argentina on March 15 for a 16-day return trip to Antarctica.
Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen told reporters yesterday the flight would be met by medical staff and ambulances.
“Everybody who needs to go to hospital will go to hospital and the remaining passengers will go into quarantine in hotels,” Dr van Diemen said.
Any passenger displaying coronavirus symptoms will be taken to hospital, whether or not they have tested positive for the virus.
The group are among 1200 Australian nationals being flown home from overseas to land at Tullamarine this weekend, with flights from India and Peru touching down on Friday and Saturday.
All incoming passengers will be shuttled off to hotels to start 14 days of quarantine.
Dr van Diemen said strict protocols would be in place to greet the virus mercy flights.
“Significant planning has been undertaken to ensure that the movement of the passengers and staff from the Uruguay flight is as safe as possible for them, and for the wider Victorian community,” she said.
A man has died while being quarantined in a hotel, a Victorian health department spokesperson confirmed this morning.
“Police are not treating the death as suspicious at this time,” the spokesperson said.
“The coroner will be investigating the incident and as such we are unable to comment further.”
The Premier said that the death was not coronavirus-related, and extended his condolences to the man’s family.
He said that “significant support” was being offered to “every single person” forced to undergo 14-days mandatory quarantine.
Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said that he was unaware of the death in Victoria.
“States and territories have all set up their own different quarantine arrangements,” Prof Murphy said.
“They are providing the health services and supervisory services.
“The AHPPC advice was that with the reduced number of travellers coming back to Australia and the high rates of infection that we were seeing, that it was important to formally quarantine people but obviously that does have to be in a safe environment.”
He said the AHPPC’s advice to National Cabinet for all returned travellers to be quarantined for two weeks was “not taken lightly”.
SINGLE-DIGIT RISE IN CORONAVIRUS CASES OVERNIGHT
Only three coronavirus cases were confirmed in Victoria overnight, bringin the total number of cases to 1268.
Of the total number of cases, 660 are in men and 608 in women, with ages ranging from less than one-year-old to early 90s.
119 cases have been acquired through community transmission, while 44 Victorians are in hospital.
16 of those are in intensive care.
1015 people have recovered from the virus, and more than 69,000 Victorians have been tested.
Of the total number of cases, 1015 are in metropolitan Melbourne, with 234 in regional Victoria.
The Stonnington area still has the highest number of coronavirus cases, with 88 cases confirmed in the area’s leafy green suburbs.
The Banyule area has 80 confirmed cases, while Booroondara and Greater Geelong have each recorded 60 cases.
WHEN WILL AFL BE BACK?
Premier Daniel Andrews has hinted that the resumption of the AFL season may not be as soon as many would like.
The NRL has an ambitious goal to resume Rugby League games on May 28, and there is talk of AFL re-starting in July.
But Mr Andrews said the issue was a matter for the AFL in consultation with health authorities.
“Everyone wants to get our state back to something approaching normal and footy is a really big and important part of the way that our state functions,” he said.
“I do fear, though, that we have many weeks and months to go with quite extraordinary measures, and the good thing … is that the strategy is working.
“And I’m very confident that the AFL will be in close contact with the Department of Health and Human Services … that’s how they’ve engaged over the last few months, and I’m confident that that will continue.”
Mr Andrews said he acknowledged that social distancing rules were deeply inconvenient and frustrating for Victorians.
“(But) at three more cases that is very strong evidence that our strategy is working,” he said.
Mr Andrews said the strategy was working, but he urged against complacency.
JUBILATION AS QUARANTINED TRAVELLERS RELEASED FROM CROWN
Travellers have taken their first breath of fresh air in two weeks this morning as they are released from quarantine inside Crown Casino.
Pre-booked taxis awaited their departure as travellers were checked out of the hotel.
They were seen leaving with face masks, luggage, a flyer and disposable gloves.
Security escorted the travellers straight into taxis where they were taken to their homes.
Intensive care pharmacist at The Alfred Hospital, Grainne Hughes, said she was pleased to be finally let out.
“It feels so good,” Ms Hughes said.
“I feel like it’s something I won’t take for granted so I’m very pleased to be out and actually be able to take it in.”
The Irish native was returning from her brother’s wedding who actually had the reception postponed.
She hopes to return back to Ireland back in October for the wedding.
“I went home for my brothers wedding and unfortunately the actual reception has been postponed until October,” Ms Hughes said,
“I planned to go home to Ireland for four-five weeks but I cut that short to two weeks because I needed to come back and help out the frontline workers.”
Ms Hughes was able to work remotely while in isolation and said she will be back on the frontline tomorrow.
She was full of praise for the way Crown dealt with the situation.
“I actually think it’s been very well-handled,” she said.
“Nurses phoned all the time to see if there were any symptoms and asked if there was anything we needed
“There were board games left outside people’s rooms just to keep people going or if there was something else – they were always checking in.”
The 35-year-old said that she will go for a run once she returns home
One man was seen leaving Crown with an Easter egg and threw up a celebratory hand signal leaving the lobby.
Another man leaving the complex lapped up the moment taking in a huge breath of fresh air before giving a fist pump.
A man still inside his hotel room has plastered two signs on his window.
Both reading “Thank you Victoria” while giving a thumbs up and a ‘shakkaz’ hand sign.
The Crown Promenade’s entrances are cordoned off by security who are also wearing face masks and disposable gloves.
Other travellers will be released throughout the day.
Health authorities will stagger the release of the international arrivals who have completed their mandatory isolation period.
Hundreds of people will progressively be sent home in pre-booked taxis to minimise potential chaos.
Family and friends will not be able to pick their loved ones up to ensure mass gathering rules are not breached at the Southbank venue.
Troy Vigushin, 36, flew in from Toronto on Sunday March 29 and was in the first wave of international arrivals forced to stay at the hotel.
“I can’t wait for some fresh air and a Maccas cheeseburger,” Mr Vigushin said.
“I have been climbing the walls in here.
“I can’t wait to go for a run. Even if it is pissing down with rain, I’ll probably be running away.”
Mr Vigushin said while it was great to be in a “luxury lockdown” it wasn’t the same without hotel facilities such as restaurants, bars, gaming floors and pools.
“It has been interesting, a real mental test,” he said.
“I’ve only been doing 200 steps a day, when I would usually do 10,000.”
Under the strict quarantine rules, those in lockdown have been unable to leave their rooms with security roaming the precinct to ensure no one breaks the rules.
Rooms are not serviced out of safety for hotel staff and meals are left outside hotel room doors.
OUT AND ABOUT? BETTER HAVE AN EXCUSE READY
Police on the hunt for lockdown law-breakers are requesting receipts to ensure people are out for good reason.
The extreme measure comes as a dedicated taskforce issued more than 180 fines to people flouting coronavirus laws on Good Friday — the highest number yet.
It amounted to a near $300,000 revenue windfall.
But wild weather helped ensure most people on Saturday towed the line.
The Sunday Herald Sun has been told police have asked to see shopping receipts if they doubt the authenticity of someone’s reason for not being at home.
Only travel to shop for food and supplies, exercise, attend work or education or for caring and compassionate reasons is allowed under lockdown rules.
Asked about officers asking for receipts, a Victoria Police spokesman said: “Police officers are human and have vast experience in interacting with the Victorian community every day.”
“Common sense will be applied in these situations,’’ he said.
“While individuals are not required to have proof of reasons for leaving the home, if officers suspect a person is in breach of the restrictions then they will take appropriate action and may issue a fine.
“The restrictions provide very clear, specific reasons for leaving the home and if these don’t apply the clear advice is to stay home.”
Retiree Graeme Robinson is among the latest Victorians to be slapped with a $1600 fine.
The Metung local, 71, said he was on an “essential” grocery run by boat to his nearest supermarket in Lakes Entrance when stung.
Mr Robinson said he was “pissed off” because the local council had a sign at the yacht club fence advising it was OK to travel on the water to get essentials and a call-taker on the national coronavirus hotline later gave it the thumbs up.
He said he’d never been in trouble with the law and will dispute the fine in court.
“It is rubbish, we understand how critical coronavirus restrictions are, but this is an example of police heavy handedness,” Mr Robinson said.
“It is not about the money, but the principle of it all.
“I’m just a retired guy who follows the law.”
Parties at inner-city apartments and short-stay accommodation have emerged as a major issue for police battling to enforce isolation rules.
Officers are being repeatedly called to boozy gatherings and dinner parties in the CBD, Docklands and Southbank.
But poor weather and a plea to stay away looks to have kept Victorians away from holiday hot spots over Easter.
Apollo Bay’s Sally Cannon said her bakery was “ridiculously quiet”.
“Business has beyond flatlined — it is dead,” Ms Cannon said.
Portsea cafe owner Zac Leontiades said there were “a few people around” but it was “no where as busy as a usual Easter” for business.
It was a little too close for comfort in parts of the city however, with crowds flocking to South Melbourne Market, supermarkets and Bunnings.