Local News - Victoria

Melbourne’s best-in-nation social distancing crushed the virus

Victoria has recorded 55 new cases in the last seven days – fewer than NSW, which has recorded 61. However, almost half of NSW’s cases were from overseas travellers. All of Victoria’s cases are local.

While Victoria’s caseload was similar, Professor McCaw cautioned there was less “confidence” in local data than in NSW’s figures, which have been low for a long time.

Waiting to stabilise numbers while also making gradual changes to observe their impact remained the sensible approach, “even if I think a little more could have been announced today”, he said.

Professor McCaw’s Doherty Institute-led team has found only minor breaches of Victoria’s many restrictions in the past month of a lockdown that has lasted more than 100 days.

“There has been a very, very gentle, slight decline in compliance with the 1.5-metre rule and things like that over the last month. It’s marginal,” he said. “There are signs of a bit of lockdown fatigue. That may also be that the weather is nicer.”

Professor McCaw said Premier Daniel Andrews’ move on Sunday to ease some lockdown restrictions while keeping hospitality closed for at least another week was “a rational and principled approach. It is just an incredibly cautious one.”

After the state’s fifth day with fewer than 10 new cases, Mr Andrews on Sunday moved to expand Melburnians’ travel bubble to 25 kilometres and allow up to 10 people to gather outside.

Writing in The Age, Professor Catherine Bennett and a team of epidemiologists argue there was no justification for maintaining a 25-kilometre travel limit, maintaining that improved contact tracing removes “the need for hard borders or limits on movement”.

Other experts agreed the 25-kilometre limit served little purpose. “I don’t see any real strong reason for a limit at all,” said Professor McCaw.

Associate Professor Hassan Vally from La Trobe University said the rule did not directly stop the virus spreading.

“What spreads the virus is people coming into contact with each other. If people follow the rules, you could say maybe we don’t need that sort of travel restriction.”

Hospitality will have to wait at least another week before it can reopen – a decision that drew furious outcry from a disappointed business lobby.

Mr Andrews said all the decisions were based on public health advice.

“The science is driving us,” he said.

But epidemiologists told The Age the science offered no clear rules on what restrictions should be eased first. “There is no right answer to any of this,” said Professor Vally.

Restaurants, cafes and retail pose much greater risks because they often involve people spending prolonged time indoors, experts say.

The virus spreads about 20 times more easily inside and super-spreader events happen almost-exclusively indoors.

Professor Vally said restrictions could have been eased further.

“I personally think we can afford to come out a bit quicker than this. What we have seen in the last few days, one or two cases, I see no reason why that won’t continue throughout the week. And the people who tested positive today, they probably got infected about a week ago. They could have released the shackles a bit more.”

NSW’s restrictions remain far less onerous than Victoria’s.

The state allows up to 20 people to visit a home. Restaurants and pubs are open, with the NSW government on Friday easing capacity limits even further.

Outdoor events can have up to 500 people. The state recently opened up its borders to tourists from New Zealand for the first time.

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Australian News

Scott Morrison’s hopes of borders agreement crushed

Every state and territory has agreed to devise a strategy to bring down hard borders and reopen the country by Christmas – except one.

A meeting of the national cabinet today discussed a number of issues aimed at ending months of chaos, confusion and economic damage caused by border restrictions.

But Scott Morrison’s bid for unity was derailed by Western Australia, which was the sole jurisdiction to not sign up to an ambitious new goal of reopening by December.

That prompted Mr Morrison to declare that the era of “100 per cent consensus” that had been the basis of national cabinet’s operation was now over. has confirmed the Prime Minister opened up today’s meeting by telling state and territory leaders that it would no longer be run on a consensus approach.

“He opened up with it so it’s, ‘I am changing the rules so I don’t get rolled’,’’ a state official said.

But federal sources said it was a “very positive meeting” with most states happy to sign up to a national definition of hotspots to move towards reopening borders.

RELATED: Follow our latest coronavirus updates

There was progress on agreeing on a federal definition of a COVID-19 hotspot, but Mr Morrison said more consultation would take place.

Although acting chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly had provided a good starting point.

When decided, the definition will be an important component of a devised plan to get to ‘stage three’ of the Commonwealth’s plan for the country, announced in May.

“What’s different about this plan from the last one is it just isn’t about how many people you can have in a cafe, as important as that is, it’s about how the testing regimes have to work, the availability of passenger manifests for people moving around the country, the sort of surveillance testing arrangements… the specific testing arrangements and the sort of ratios you need to hit to ensure that you can have a confident about the level of outbreak, if it were to occur in any place,” Mr Morrison said.

“In all of these areas, there’s a necessity to put the protections in place so, as we open up, that we can be confident and states can look at each other and be more confident about how people can move between the various jurisdictions.”

The new goal is to have the plan enacted by December, but Mr Morrison said one state didn’t commit to it — WA.

The PM said discussions with Premier Mark McGowan would continue.

“Western Australia has a very different border and a very different economy than most of the other states and territories where these decisions have been made,” he said.

“There are not large border towns. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, there are virtually none along the Western Australian border.

“Their economy is of a much greater scale than the South Australian and the Tasmanian economies.

“So, they will watch carefully, they will look on, and the thing about our new way of working in National Cabinet is the door always remains open.

“And they are always able to join us at a subsequent time. And I believe there are many things they can offer in that process.”

RELATED: Annastacia Palaszczuk defends Queensland’s hard border and slams her ‘relentless’ critics

Earlier, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she wouldn’t be bullied into reopening borders.

“It is relentless. It is intimidating. But I will not be intimidated,’’ she said.

“If we all focused our efforts on Victoria and NSW and getting the community transmission under control, right, to the extent that there was no community transmission – and that is the advice of the Deputy Health Officer of the country.

“That is the aim. They moved from elimination, to suppression, to no community transmission. If we focus on that, there will come a time when everybody could open up.”

Mr Morrison conceded that national cabinet had disagreed on issues, but insisted it would find a way to work through disagreements.

“At the times when sometimes our frustrations have been greatest, and the tensions have been at their peak, that has been exactly the same time when we have been reminded of just how important it is that we continue this great work of our Federation and how it has delivered for Australians, for over a century.

“The national cabinet began from a realisation that, if we each went and tried to go our own way, that in the face of something at the time we could barely imagine, that we wouldn’t prevail, and that we would fall short. And so our federation instincts kicked in.

“I remember the day vividly. There was no disagreement, there was no debate about it. We all looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve gotta do this. And we’ve gotta come together’.

“Now, from time to time, those federation instincts have grown a little faint, but I can tell you today, once again, as I find each and every time I bring this national cabinet together, they find it again, and we find the way to work through.”

He confirmed that the notion of 100 per cent consensus on any issue wasn’t a practical way to operate national cabinet.

“And so what we will do is we will set out areas where we can come together, and get as many states and territories as possible to come around that agreement,” Mr Morrison said.

“Not everyone has to get on the bus for the bus to leave the station. But it is important the bus leaves the station, and we all agree on that. We all agree on that.”

More to come

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Australian News

Man dies, crushed by semi trailer

A man has died in a workplace accident in Sydney’s southwest after he was allegedly trapped under the wheels of a semi trailer.

Paramedics and police were called to the tile business at Punchbowl Road in Greenacre about 4:30pm with reports a person was hit by a truck.

The man went into cardiac arrest following the incident and could not be saved.

NSW Police said the driver of the vehicle was taken to Concord Repatriation General Hospital for mandatory testing.

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Australian News

Cars crushed after incident in Gosford, NSW

A row of cars have been crushed and there are reports one person has head injuries after a scaffolding collapse in Gosford on the New South Wales Central Coast.

A NSW Police spokeswoman told they attended the scene around 3pm on Wednesday along with NSW Ambulance paramedics.

Nine reports the incident occurred on the intersection of Gosford’s main street – Mann St – and Erina St.

All lanes of Mann St are closed in both directions between Erina St East and Donnison St.

More to come

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