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Local News - Victoria

Melbourne faces stage four lockdown within days


Mr Andrews said his government was deeply worried that 49 “mystery cases” identified on Saturday could indicate the virus was spreading widely through the Melbourne community and confirmed he was in discussions with Prime Minister Scott Morrison about tougher restrictions.

The Premier provided no detail on what was being considered but sources close to the planning process say Melbourne could move to stage four, likely to be in force for six weeks, as early as Wednesday under the plan being considered. The rest of the state would be placed under the stage three lockdown that has been in force in the metro area for the past four weeks, with further school closures also likely to be enforced.

Drastic moves being considered as part of the stage four response include an almost total shutdown of Melbourne’s bus, tram and rail networks, stricter rules that would force residents to stay even closer to their homes and the shutdown of many more businesses, although cafes and restaurants would still be able to provide takeaway services.

Mr Andrews said further restrictions were needed to act as a “circuit breaker” to curb community transmission, as he acknowledged that tougher restriction would take an economic toll.

“We are giving due consideration to a whole range of different options,” the Premier said.

“Even minor changes have a significant cost.

“But the numbers are too high and there is a growing case for us to do more.

“What we may be doing now may not be enough.”

Active cases in the state’s aged care system on Saturday surged beyond 1000 – with outbreaks in 100 different homes – for the first time since the pandemic began. Mr Andrews said hospital nurses had now worked more than 570 shifts in care homes.

The worst cluster has been linked to St Basil’s Home for the Aged in Fawkner, which on Saturday had 134 cases. Epping Gardens Aged Care had 118 confirmed cases and the Estia Aged Care Facility in Ardeer had 105.

Days after at-risk aged care residents began moving into hospitals, some families were struggling to make contact with loved ones or to even get information about where they had been taken.

Mr Andrews, who said he had raised this problem with Mr Morrison, acknowledged efforts to connect families, including nurses carrying iPads and phones through hospitals, were “by no means good enough yet”.

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The Australian Medical Association and other medical experts have led growing calls for the type of tough stage four lockdown that has all but eliminated the virus in New Zealand but Victorian health authorities have been cautious, saying it was unclear if such an approach would work here due to the high levels of community transmission.

“The AMA’s position has been very clear: we called for a New Zealand-style full lockdown two weeks ago”, Victorian AMA president Julian Rait said.

The Department of Justice confirmed that the two workers on the quarantine hotels had tested positive to COVID-19 on July 25, after Corrections Victoria took over from private security contractors.

Since the start of the pandemic, Victoria has recorded 1841 community transmission cases, where the source of a person’s infection is not known.

Victoria had its second worst day of the pandemic on Friday, with 627 new cases and eight deaths.

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Australian News

AFL to play matches across 20 straight days as part of next fixture block



The AFL will stage matches across 20 consecutive days as part of its fixture for rounds nine to 12 of the premiership season.

The Western Bulldogs and Richmond will kick off the schedule of matches when they face each other next Wednesday night, just two days after the completion of round eight.

Double-headers are a feature of the condensed schedule, while North Melbourne will play matches in Hobart in rounds 11 and 12.

More to come.



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Australian News

Essendon’s Conor McKenna released from quarantine nine days after positive COVID-19 test



Essendon player Conor McKenna has been released from quarantine by the DHHS.

McKenna tested positive to COVID-19 on Saturday, June 20 and was expected to spend 14 days in isolation.

He has tested negative in all subsequent tests.

McKenna will do a solo training session on Monday before making his return to full group training with his Bombers teammates on Wednesday.

The news of McKenna’s positive test threatened to derail the 2020 season when it was announced, but the fallout was not a significant as initially feared.

The DHHS ruled that James Stewart was the only other Essendon player whose contact with McKenna would have put him at risk, meaning they were the only two players forced into quarantine.

Stewart never returned a positive test.

In a statement late on Monday, Essendon confirmed it was accepting a one-match sanction for McKenna from the AFL for breaching COVID-19 return to play protocols.

McKenna was found to be in breach of the AFL’s living arrangement requirements because he visited his former host family.

“Had McKenna sought formal approval to visit his former host family, he would have been cleared under the guidelines,” Essendon said in the statement.

“McKenna has now served his sanction and will be available for senior selection this week ahead of the Bombers’ clash with Collingwood on Friday night.”

Essendon general manager of football Dan Richardson said the Bombers would continue to support McKenna and Stewart.

“This is a minor breach, but a reminder no less to all players of the importance in adhering to the strict protocols the AFL have put in place to ensure the health and safety of those involved in our game, as well as the community,” Richardson said.

“The visit to his former host family is in no way related to returning a positive result to the COVID-19 test, given the visit was after his testing was completed on the Friday.

“We accept that Conor should have first checked with our club’s compliance officer prior to visiting the family.”

Stewart remains in isolation.



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Local News - Victoria

William Callaghan found after days missing on Mount Disappointment


A short time later, he was carried into a waiting ambulance wrapped in a white blanket by his stepfather Nathan, with his mother Penny following close behind.

From the door of the ambulance, Ms Callaghan said she was “obviously immensely relieved” and thanked the hundreds of volunteers who had searched for her son.

“He’s quite calm considering,” she said.

Ms Callaghan said Will had communicated to them that he was confused, scared and that his body felt “a bit weird”, but he was otherwise okay.

“More than anything, thank you everyone. I’m so grateful, you’re all amazing. What an amazing community,” she said.

“I want to be with my boy.”

Will's mother Penny thanks the hundreds of volunteers, police and firefighters who searched for her son.

Will’s mother Penny thanks the hundreds of volunteers, police and firefighters who searched for her son. Credit:Justin McManus

Ms Callaghan said Will was a “very special person”, who deserved to go on a holiday after his ordeal.

“There are some amazing sides to autism. It is hard, but he’s just so special,” she said.

The moment William Callaghan was reunited with his mother after two days lost in the bush.

The moment William Callaghan was reunited with his mother after two days lost in the bush.Credit:AAP/Pool

Volunteer Ben Gibbs, from Research, found William standing barefoot in the bush, with his hands over his ears, blocking the noise of a helicopter above.

“I came up from the bottom of the mountain, there is a single track there I know quite well. I just followed that up and went off track once I got near the top and saw where the guys had tagged where they searched previously and I went a bit deeper than that,” Mr Gibbs said.

Ben Gibbs, who found Will in the bush.

Ben Gibbs, who found Will in the bush.Credit:Justin McManus

He said it was 20 minutes from the track, relatively near the summit.

“He was really angelic, just standing there.”

Mr Gibbs said he tried to relax Will and speak calmly to him, before giving him some chocolate, socks and a jacket.

“I heard he liked Thomas the Tank Engine so I talked to him about [the character] Diesel.

“After he ate half the chocolate bar, I carried him out.”

Acting Inspector Christine Lalor said it was “great news” and they would be providing more information later on Wednesday.

Almost 500 people in teams from the police force, SES and CFA searched for Will around the clock since Monday.

William Callaghan after his rescue.

William Callaghan after his rescue.Credit:AAP

Many concerned members of the public donated their time to join the effort and police were forced to turn some volunteers away.

The mood changed at the search site about 12.30pm as word filtered through that there had been a potential sighting of Will in the bush.

At 12.46pm, acting Inspector Lalor confirmed the boy was Will.

William Callaghan with his stepfather and a paramedic after being found safe and well.

William Callaghan with his stepfather and a paramedic after being found safe and well.Credit:AAP

Huge grins crossed the faces of volunteers and searchers when she announced the news, as friends of the family began crying tears of relief.

Police had asked the hundreds of people waiting at the search site to be quiet and not to cheer or clap in case it spooked Will.

The teenager, who taps his chest to communicate, went missing on Monday afternoon when his family lost sight of him.

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On Monday night, temperatures dipped toward zero degrees. On Tuesday night, the mercury dropped below 5 degrees.

On Wednesday morning, his mother, Penny Callaghan had described her son as a beautiful, gentle and resilient boy, and spoke of her desperate hope that he would be found safe.

“We are desperately hoping he will be found today,” she told reporters.

“Sometimes being the mother of an autistic child is really tough. I have two boys with autism, Will is my oldest son and he would be considered very low functioning. He has an intellectual disability,” she said.

“He is very smart in his own way, I’m feeling positive as he is quite resilient. He is very skinny … but he eats all the time, he’s always on the move so he’s very fit.

“He’s such a beautiful person, he wouldn’t harm a fly he is very gentle.”

Penny Callaghan addressed the media with her partner Nathan Ezard.

Penny Callaghan addressed the media with her partner Nathan Ezard.Credit:Justin McManus

It was a unique search for the teenager, who had never spent a night outside by himself or been camping.

Will is a fan of Thomas the Tank Engine, so three speakers moved around the area playing the Thomas theme tune, in an effort to draw him out.

Police encouraged people in the area to cook a barbecue, if possible, as Will loves the smell of onions and bacon. He’s interested in water bottles, so police also asked people to put water on their verandah or porch.

And they urged locals to open any windows and doors if they were cooking, in the hope Will would smell the food.

SES volunteers searching thick bushland for William Callaghan on Tuesday.

SES volunteers searching thick bushland for William Callaghan on Tuesday.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Authorities knocked on the doors of residents from towns and suburbs near the summit of Mount Disappointment to see if Will sought refuge in a bed or outhouse.

Searchers on foot, motorbikes and on horseback called out “Will” as they made their way through vegetation so thick that made it difficult for air units to search from above.

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NSW records 10 days with no locally-acquired coronavirus cases


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“While there have no new cases recorded in the past 24 hours, the virus is likely circulating among people in the community with mild symptoms.

“As such, the risk of outbreaks and a resurgence of cases remains.”

The state no longer has any COVID-19 patients in intensive care and just 71 people being treating by health authorities.

Some 341 cases remain active.

NSW has recorded 3110 cases in total, with 50 people dying in the state.

Victoria has also recorded no new coronavirus cases in the same 24-hour period – the first time since the pandemic began, but authorities are warning the risk is not over ahead of a protest in Melbourne.

One person with COVID-19 at Saturday’s Black Lives Matter rally could be all it takes to squander the gains made, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has warned.

There have been no new cases confirmed since Friday, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said on Saturday morning.

“We’ve been able to achieve this through Victorians doing an incredible job of keeping themselves & each there safe,” she tweeted.



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Chinese lab experimented on ‘highly pathogenic viruses’ days before COVID-19 outbreak


THE Wuhan Institute of Virology was given permission to engage in experimental research involving highly-pathogenic viruses just 10 days before the first recorded case of COVID-19.

A Sky News special investigation can reveal the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s level 3 laboratory, where Shi Zhengli is director, had just been given permission by the Chinese Government to conduct even risker experiments on November 7, 2019.

This was 10 days before the South China Morning Post cites the first recorded case of COVID-19 on November 17, and weeks before the outbreak of the pandemic.

The new level of research is confirmed in three documents, including a statement from the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which states:

“Wuhan National Biosafety (Level 3) laboratory was officially qualified for experimental activities, and has the ability and conditions to carry out experimental activities of highly pathogenic microorganisms”

A separate document from the Chinese Academy of Sciences states: “On November 7, 2019, the National Health Commission formally approved the Wuhan National Institute of Biological Safety (Level 3) Laboratory of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences to engage in experimental activities of highly pathogenic pathogenic microorganisms.

“The application has undergone data review and on-site evaluation and demonstration, and approved the activity qualification.”

Shi Zhengli is the vice-chairwoman of the level 4 laboratory as well as the director of the level 3 laboratory.

It is understood that most coronavirus research takes place in level 3 laboratories.

The order meant the laboratory could start to engage in more experimental activities with “highly pathogenic microorganisms” such as the “Ebola virus, Niba virus, Marburg virus, Lassa fever virus… the Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Bacillus anthracis and the tick-borne encephalitis virus.”

Sky News is not suggesting that the laboratory is responsible in anyway for the outbreak.

It comes as the director of China’s Centre for Disease Control, Gao Fu, told Chinese state media that the wet market played a role in spreading the virus but it was not the origin of the outbreak.
“At first, we assumed the seafood market might have the virus, but now the market is more like a victim,” he told the Global Times.

He said samples collected from animals in the market in early January did not contain traces of the virus.

“The novel coronavirus had existed long before.”



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Local News - Victoria

Stir-crazy Victorians ready to hit the regions within days


However, concerns remain high about large gatherings and public places.

The percentage of people “uncomfortable” about using public transport increased by five points to 62 per cent from early May to mid May.

In the same period, the percentage of people uncomfortable about visiting restaurants or cinemas remained stable at 51 and 56 per cent, respectively.

“Open or not, most people aren’t ready to attend public gatherings,” according to the researchers. “We’re trapped in the ‘wait and see’ phase.”

But when it comes to simply getting away, the survey showed 24 per cent of Victorians “want to go right now and are just waiting for the cap to be lifted,” said Tom Leslie, the research director for Quantum Market Research.

Only 23 per cent said they would not visit a regional area this year.

He said challenges remained for operators, which still have 20-person limits to dining areas and strict social distancing requirements, in turning foot traffic into dollars.

“A lot of people just want to get away and get a breath of fresh air,” he said. “But there’s no economic benefit to the town of Torquay, for example, if they just have a cup of coffee and sit on the beach, watch the surfers, let the dog have a run and then go home.”

The data also shows people looking for thrilling and adventurous activities sits at 41 per cent, which Mr Leslie said was historically low.

He said this could also translate to behaviour around more everyday activities.

“You’re probably more likely to go out for dinner now to a familiar, local pizza restaurant that you’re comfortable with, than you are to go to a 10-course degustation,” he said.

Executive planning director for ClemengerBBDO, Paul Rees-Jones, who teases out the cultural trends beneath the long sets of data, believed the time spent at home during the pandemic had reacquainted people with the value of slow and relaxing time with family and friends.

“Think about how things like resourcefulness have really come into the fore – making the most of what you’ve got,” he said.

He said this included a renewed enthusiasm for simple hobbies.

“If I was selling regional tourism, what I might be doing is rather than selling it as a place to go, I’d be selling regional Victoria as the hobby capital of Australia – not just to people in Melbourne but all Australians” he said.

“How do you get to children and mum and dad in the car go somewhere? It’s the promise one of you gets to go horseback riding. One of you gets to go fishing. One of you can take some cooking classes and see a gallery – and then we all get to go for a walk and enjoy food together.

“Actually making the most of very little and appreciating having time back on your side is a really rich vein for the tourism industry tomorrow.”

Other finding from the research provided to The Sunday Age reveals net business confidence has been tracking up through May after hitting an all-time low of negative 27 points in the week beginning March 26.

The score as of mid May was negative 11, which is on par with the surveys’ findings over much of the last decade.

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Shift work and days at home on the cards to avoid public transport overcrowding


He ruled out mandatory masks on public transport or using commuter data, such as Myki, for the purposes of contact tracing.

And he said that while teams would regularly clean surfaces and help commuters, there would no enforcement of social distancing.

Premier Daniel Andrews last week said public transport could remain safe at 15 per cent capacity as long as the coronavirus remained a threat, and called on people already working from home to continue to do so for at least another month.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has said July was “not out of the question” for more offices to begin reopening.

Mr Weimar predicted there would be fewer people using public transport at traditional peak times whenever it was that offices reopened, with earlier and later services becoming busier.

A “structural shift” in workplaces offering more flexible arrangements would facilitate this, he said, while more people would choose to walk, ride or drive.

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He acknowledged additional strain would be put on the already congested road network.

“There is no global blueprint for this, all parts of the world are going through this more or less at the same time,” he said.

“But the short answer is … I think there will be a marked reduction in the number of people travelling on the [public transport] network, even after the restrictions are lifted at some point in the future.”

Mr Weimar said it was ultimately up to commuters to make safe choices on public transport. However, the government would help by adding services where possible and deploying additional teams to clean and help.

Additional hand sanitising stations would be available from June, he said, while commuters would be able to access information about which lines and services were least busy.

“What I don’t want to do is suddenly reduce the capacity of the transport network by three-quarters and leave people behind,” he said.

“Also, we can’t just run two or three times as many [services] in peak hour because of the actual physical constraints in the network.

“I also don’t want to create a problem …. of leaving people on the platform four-deep in queues, that’s not a great solution either. We’re about keeping moving, we’re about giving people room and using the capacity we do have.”

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Nathan Turner held party days before dying from COVID-19


Australia’s youngest coronavirus victim, Nathan Turner, held a party in his Queensland home just days before his death, sparking fears multiple people could have been exposed to the virus.

The 30-year-old was found unresponsive in his home in Blackwater by his fiance, Simone Devon, when she returned home from work on Tuesday afternoon.

He could not be revived and was declared deceased at the scene.

Despite having respiratory symptoms for weeks, Mr Turner and Ms Devon hosted a party in their home last Friday, according to 7 News.

Mr Turner died just four days later, with tests conducted after his death returning a positive result for COVID-19.

RELATED: Town ‘pointing fingers’ after virus death

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Health authorities have been scrambling to test anyone who may have come into contact with Mr Turner and have so far tracked down 20 people who were in close contact with him.

Of those people 18 have tested negative, with the other two tests due to be carried out on Thursday.

Ms Devon had shown symptoms of the virus but had previously tested negative.

She will be tested again and is currently isolated in her home.

Three testing clinics have opened in the coal mining town and sewage from its 5000 residents will be screened to determine infection levels in the community.

More than 120 Blackwater locals have been tested for the virus but Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young says that figure was disappointingly low.

“There is a significant fly-in, fly-out workforce so all of that’s being investigated as well,” Dr Young said.

Mr Turner is the youngest person in Australia to die from COVID-19, with the national death toll now at 103.

It is understood the 30-year-old had been suffering some seizures and had been on workers compensation since November.

Locals in the mining town gathered on Wednesday night to pay their respects to Mr Turner.

People gathered at the end of their driveways at 6pm with candles, with Ms Devon’s family saying they were “blown away” by the support from the community.

“We are overwhelmed and very grateful,” Simone’s mother Lorraine told The Courier Mail.

“We never expected this.”

The woman who organised the vigil, Annette Boase, told the publication that she wanted Ms Devon to know the community was thinking of her.

“We’re doing this for her and for Nathan’s family so they know they’re not really alone,” she said.

“It won’t be any easier on her but she’ll know that we care and that we’re behind her.”

There is still confusion around how Mr Turner contracted the virus as he had not been overseas recently and had not travelled outside Blackwater since February.

This was the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the town.

Investigators are considering whether his case could be linked to a Rockhampton nurse who

tested positive for the virus earlier this month after she broke government enforced lockdown rules to travel to the town.

The woman reportedly told contact tracers she made the 400km round trip to “see a sunset”.

However, Health Minister Stephen Miles has been advised that is unlikely because Mr Turner developed symptoms before the nurse visited the town.

“My advice, via the chief health officer, is that the timing of that trip means it’s unlikely she is the source of the infection, but it’s possible,” he said. The woman is the same nurse who sparked the lockdown of a Rockhampton aged care centre earlier this month.

The nurse is suspended and under investigation after she continued working while showing symptoms.

On Tuesday Deputy CMO Paul Kelly refused to comment on whether there could be a connection between the two cases but said it was worrying someone in such a remote area fell ill.

“It shows that there is community transmission of some sort,” he told reporters.

“We haven’t had many people in rural areas in any state and so at this point in the pandemic it is a concern.

“I understand that he had been sick for some weeks and I guess he hadn’t assumed that it was COVID-19. It is another very strong reminder to all of us at this point that if anyone has any symptoms that are of a respiratory virus.



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Brisbane girl, 4, dead for days before being found, police allege


Horrific new details have emerged about how a little girl with an intellectual disability was left dead in her cot for days as Australia’s down syndrome community calls for the country to join a vigil tonight.

Willow Dunn, 4, was found dead at a Cannon Hill address on Monday morning but police allege she was murdered by her father on Saturday and left in her bed.

Mark Dunn, 43, has been charged with murder and accused of failing to seek medical help after the little girl’s death.

Australia’s down syndrome community will hold a virtual vigil for Willow tonight with calls for the hashtag #HerNameIsWillow to trend on social media.

Willow’s death has sent shockwaves around Australia with Down Syndrome Australia CEO Dr

Ellen Skladzien saying the community was “incredibly saddened” by the four-year-old’s death.

Dunn did not appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Tuesday and has been remanded in custody to reappear in the same court later in July.

Police would not confirm the girl’s cause of death or whether a post mortem examination has been completed, but The Courier Mail reports the four-year-old had horrific sores on her body after being starved and left to die.

The newspaper reports Willow had sores on her hips so deep the bones were exposed when police found her at the home on Bent Street on Monday.

The Mail also reports that the child’s stepmother lived at the home with children of her own but she has not been charged.

Reports have also surfaced that Willow’s mother died while giving birth to her.

Dunn was charged under new child killer laws in Queensland that include an extended definition of murder as showing reckless indifference to human life.

The Australian reports the little girl’s face had been attacked by rats and that when paramedics arrived at his home, New Zealand-born Dunn allegedly asked them: “I’m in trouble, aren’t I?”

Neighbours of the family told the newspaper they never knew about Willow.

“They’ve been there for that long and we didn’t know a little girl lived there,” one neighbour said. “I can’t believe it.”

Down Syndrome Australia issued a statement after the heartbreaking news.

“The (alleged) neglect or abuse of any child is not acceptable,” Down Syndrome Australia CEO Dr Ellen Skladzien said.

“Children with disabilities, as any other children in the community, should be protected and cared for.”



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