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The state government is set to announce easing of social distancing restrictions.
Among the possible windbacks are moves to allow outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people, visits to other people’s homes and a reopening of schools.
Cafes and restaurants could also be allowed to seat up to 10 patrons at a time.
Follow Daniel Andrews’ announcements with heraldsun.com.au throughout the day. Check back for live coverage, a detailed list of what’s allowed and when, plus expert analysis.
CEDAR MEATS RAMPED UP PRODUCTION AFTER OUTBREAK
Working hours increased at Cedar Meats in the days after the abattoir was notified of a COVID-19 outbreak among workers.
The Herald Sun can also reveal a sample from at least one Cedar Meats employee was mishandled by a laboratory, and he is still unsure if he has the virus 10 days after taking the test.
The distraught worker yesterday said he feared workers had been put at greater risk of exposure after Cedar Meats increased its shifts after confirmation of the outbreak.
Cedar Meats last night confirmed it continued receiving and processing livestock days after being notified of coronavirus-positive workers, but denied it increased production before its May 1 shutdown.
Read the full story here.
– Grant McArthur
10 ARRESTED AT ANTI-LOCKDOWN PROTEST
Angry protesters calling for tough lockdown restrictions to be eased clashed with police yesterday, sending one officer to hospital.
Violence broke out when police arrested 10 people outside the state parliament yesterday, resulting in crowds spilling onto Spring St and swarming police vehicles and officers.
Although focusing on the lockdown, demonstrators also labelled coronavirus a conspiracy, even suggesting it was created by billionaire Bill Gates.
Some also hit out at the safety of the 5G network and slammed compulsory vaccinations.
Read the full story here.
– Tamsin Rose and Grace McKinnon
RAPID RESPONSE TEAMS PREPARED FOR NEW OUTBREAKS
It comes as rapid response teams were set up to tackle new coronavirus outbreaks.
The “crackdown squads” will operate as part of a new outbreak unit within the Department of Health and will carry out testing, contact tracing and deep cleaning as soon as a cluster is identified.
The teams will also visit high risk facilities, businesses and industries, to work on infection prevention.
Mass testing will also continue to add to the tally of 161,000 Victorians tested over the past two weeks.
Even those with the mildest of symptoms are encouraged to be checked to help achieve a target of 50,000 tests to be conducted over the next week.
A further 10 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Sunday, taking the state’s tally to 1487.
One new case was related to the outbreak at Cedar Meats abattoir, while another was a traveller in mandatory hotel quarantine.
A worker at Kyabram and District Health Services also tested positive and colleagues are now self-isolating.
More than 150,000 Victorians have been tested for coronavirus in the past two weeks. Only about 20 were positive.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said while Victoria’s fight against the virus was going well, the state was “not out of the woods yet”.
Ms Mikakos urged Victorians to continue to stay home as much as possible.
Following reports of big crowds at shopping centres, Ms Mikakos said people should not shop simply for retail therapy.
“It’s important that the community understands that the pandemic is not over. Your shopping should only be for essential items,” she said.
“You should not be heading out to the shops to kill boredom. You should only be heading out there for as little time as possible to do the essential shopping you require for your family.”
As restrictions ease, sniffing Victorians could be turned away from shops and workplaces.
“If one of your colleagues or an employee or a client turns up, you have every right to say, ‘Go away, I am not going to let you in, I am not going to treat you’ … unless you’re a doctor, of course,” Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said yesterday.
“All of us over our lives have been, on occasions, wanting to soldier on with a cold and a flu-like illness. We cannot do that anymore.”
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Michael O’Brien called on Premier Daniel Andrews to give Victorians more clarity on easing restrictions.
“Victorians have done the right thing and (Mr Andrews) owes them a road map out of these harshest restrictions in the country,” he said.
JOBS TO RECOVER IN 2024
Australia’s economic recovery from the coronavirus will be a slow ‘marathon’ and unemployment is not expected to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels until late 2024, according to a new report.
Deloitte’s latest Budget Monitor released today says unemployment would be the biggest challenge, with more than one million Australians already out of work because of the virus.
“The ‘mission accomplished’ signs can’t be put up until unemployment is back at said per cent,” report author Chris Richardson said.
“On our forecasts that doesn’t happen until 2024.”
Unlike the speed at which lockdown measures were introduced, the recovery “may well be slow” as families and businesses are cautious about taking risks after “copping body blows to their confidence, income and wealth”.
The report said the pandemic had unfolded at a speed governments around the country had never dealt with before and that had caused divides in opinion on key issues like schools.
“The crystal ball had never been foggier,” the report said.
“Well-meaning expert advisers to governments were often disagreeing on the best path forward.”
The report said governments were in the unenviable position of choosing between jobs and health.
“Until there’s a vaccine or effective treatments, Australia will stay stuck in a terrible trade-off between risks to our lives and risks to our livelihoods,” the report added.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg echoed that sentiment, pointing to the $130 billion Job Keeper payments being provided in a bid to curb unemployment.
“We are fighting a war on two fronts in trying to protect both our health and our economy from the coronavirus,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“Every arm of government and industry is working to keep Australians in jobs and businesses in business, and to build a bridge to recovery on the other side.”
The report was a “sobering assessment” of the serious economic damaged caused to Australia by the virus so far, according to Labor Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers.
“Weak growth, stagnant wages, record high household debt, falling business investment and record high underemployment were major economic challenges before the virus and are expected to hamper Australia’s recovery,” Mr Chalmers said.
Treasurer Frydenberg will present an updated economic outlook at Parliament House on Tuesday when the government returns.
CYCLING BOOM DRIVES PUSH FOR MORE LANES
Cyclists want to claim a bigger slice of the road.
Bike traffic has tripled on trails across the city as most Victorians continue to avoid public transport and long trips in their cars.
The state’s peak cycling group, Bicycle Network, says the increase will be permanent but the government must improve safety.
It is pushing for action on key streets where it says dedicated lanes are needed, and projects to connect Melbourne’s network of bike trails.
The RACV has been making the case for 17 cycling superhighways so people can more easily ride into the city each day.
Bicycle Network chief Craig Richards said travel behaviour was changing.
“We’ve seen a lot of people that are new to riding enjoying the roads with very few vehicles,” he said.
“Then there are the people who ride regularly who are getting to the stage where they feel trails are overcrowded.
“We’ve got this short-term opportunity to build something to address this change before life starts returning to whatever the new normal becomes.”
The group is calling for bike lanes that would have barriers between bikes and cars, on St Kilda Rd, La Trobe St, Exhibition St, Sydney Rd and other roads.
Infrastructure Australia also has a plan to revamp busy peak-hour routes into cycle-friendly superhighways as a priority project.
Among these would be a massive City Loop stretching from the inner-west to Kew, then down to Elwood.
Mr Richards said authorities should temporarily hand over some roads to cyclists immediately to meet demand.
“They are doing it overseas with new pop-up bike lanes,” he said. “Not only is it a great opportunity to rethink our roads but if we do accelerate the process of building more permanent infrastructure there is an economic stimulus benefit.
“We also need to run trials so we’re ready for when people return to their workplaces but crowding on to public transport is not recommended. When that happens, bikes will be a key solution.”
The City of Melbourne last week announced it would bring forward plans to replace carparks with more footpaths and bike lanes across the CBD.
RACV senior mobility planner Stuart Outhred said the surge in riders had proven the need for safer cycling infrastructure.
“With fewer vehicles on the roads, and most Victorians working and studying from home, now is an ideal time to fast-track this project,” he said.
Eltham resident Scott Louder said he and his family regularly used bike paths and encouraged others to do the same instead of riding on the roads.