Local News - Victoria

‘Looming’ COVID-19 emergency in disability support homes

“There’s a looming emergency in this sector and we need to be proactive to prevent what’s happened in the aged care sector. We have an obligation to disability support workers, they’ve been the forgotten workforce in this pandemic. Unless we work with them we will have another aged care crisis,” she said.

Professor Kavanagh was the lead researcher in a survey of 357 Australian disability support workers in late May and June which found nearly one in four (23 per cent) had had no coronavirus infection training and of those who had, nearly half (48 per cent) said they wanted more.

“The workforce is scared and they just aren’t resourced to support people in [a COVID-19 infection] situation. They are not a prepared workforce.”

It found that as in aged care, disability support workers cannot physically distance while working. Each worker assisted an average six people each in the week before the survey – but one had work contact with 50.

The national research by the University of Melbourne Disability and Health unit and the UNSW, Canberra, found one third worked in two or more settings and 14 per cent worked in three or more settings. More than four out of five workers (83 per cent) were women.

Two in five (38 per cent) purchased their own masks, and of those who took time off due to illness, less than half were paid. A 2018 report by National Disability Services found Australia had more than 35,000 front line disability workers.

Victorian support worker Kristy said since the day centre she works in closed due to the pandemic she has been working across multiple sites and “every day we get new advice on what to do and that is stressful”.

Workers are unprepared to look after people with disabilities with COVID-19 living in a group home. I feel terribly worried about that.

Professor Anne Kavanagh

“I am worried about protecting the people I work with as many have health problems and if they got COVID they would really be at risk of dying from it,” she said.

“I feel like the government has forgotten about people with disability and support workers. All the attention is on aged care but disability services have the same risks, even worse perhaps because so many of the people have other health problems.”

Professor Kavanagh said it was concerning that so many workers who had had some infection control training “still didn’t feel confident” they knew enough about it and wanted more. “Once you get to using full PPE, which is more than just masks and gloves, it’s a very complicated and difficult thing to do.

“It takes a lot of training; support workers are unprepared to look after people with disabilities with COVID-19 living in a group home. I feel terribly worried about that.”

She said far greater oversight of services and their responses to the pandemic by public health authorities was needed, plus more outbreak preparation and support by medical workers.

“They really need well-trained nursing staff to work alongside workers in these situations. The disability support workforce is really precariously employed and there are all the same risks associated with aged care workers.”

The Disability Support Workers: The Forgotten Workforce in COVID-19 report, which contains 11 recommendations to help disability support workers prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus infection in group homes, will be released today.

Among the recommendations are:

  • Governments update guidelines regarding PPE use among disability support workers, particularly in areas of high community transmission.
  • Governments reach out to workers to provide required training and clear information about whether, when, and how PPE is used, including on-site training with specialised infection control nurses.
  • Workers in high community transmission areas should have access to appropriate PPE (minimum of masks) without cost to them.
  • Disability support workers are made a priority group for testing along with healthcare and aged care workers.
  • Paid pandemic leave is available to all disability support workers who do not have access to paid sick leave and need to self-isolate or quarantine.
  • Governments and providers ensure workers minimise the number of people they support and numbers of settings they work in to reduce transmission risk.
  • Skilled healthcare workers be put on standby for rapid deployment to work with or replace support service workers for clients infected with COVID-19 as has been done in aged care.
  • Options are considered to temporarily rehouse residents in group homes where infections have occurred, to separated infected and non-infected residents.

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Emergency nurse tests positive at Royal Melbourne hospital

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Melbourne, it has just come to light that an emergency nurse has tested positive for the virus.

Last night, Royal Melbourne Hospital put out a statement confirming that an emergency department nurse had tested positive.

Cleaning and contact tracing is now underway.

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“Any staff, patients or visitors who may have been affected have been informed and our Infection Prevention and Surveillance Service is providing support,” it said.

The hospital did not say how many patients and staff may have come into contact with the female nurse.

It’s bad news for the already struggling state, with Victoria recording 41 new cases of coronavirus yesterday.

That’s its second highest single-day spike since the coronavirus pandemic began.

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St George Illawarra Dragons coach Paul McGregor survives after emergency board meeting

The Dragons are the only team in the NRL not to win a game this season, and haven’t scored a try since the competition resumed two rounds ago, losing to cellar dwellers the New Zealand Warriors and Canterbury Bulldogs in consecutive weeks. The Dragons play the Sharks and Titans over the next fortnight.

McGregor, who is in his sixth full season as Dragons coach, is on a contract until 2021 on a deal worth around $750,000 a season, and would have received close to a $1m pay-out if the club decided to end his tenure.

Dragons players dejected during the loss to the Bulldogs on Monday.

Dragons players dejected during the loss to the Bulldogs on Monday.Credit:AAP

“If they make the decision I’ll understand it,” McGregor said of his potential sacking following the loss to the Bulldogs on Monday night.

“I’ll be disappointed obviously but I understand the situation and there’s conversations around it every day which doesn’t help the team. If that decision is made, I’ll wear it. I’ve certainly got the backing of the players and the staff.


“I’m not scared [of being axed] if that’s the word you’re looking for. I’m an optimist, but I’m a realist and I know that our team aren’t playing well enough at the moment and I’m the coach of that. I’ve got confidence in my team. At the moment they’ve lost a bit in themselves I think so I accept the blame.”

Assistant coach Shane Flanagan is prohibited from taking on the head coaching role under the NRL’s strict rules surrounding his return from suspension, leaving premiership-winning club legend Dean Young as a potential interim coach if McGregor is axed in the coming weeks.

Young’s appointment is unlikely to extend beyond this year, but it will provide the Dragons time to find a long-term option for next season should they decide to part ways with McGregor.

Options include Sydney Roosters assistant Craig Fitzgibbon, Panthers assistants Trent Barrett and Cameron Ciraldo, former Newcastle coach Nathan Brown and England coach Shaun Wane. Whispers around Wayne Bennett returning to the club won’t go away, especially if the Dragons can offer him a three-year deal beyond his 2021 expiry at the Rabbitohs.

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Coronavirus state of emergency extended in Victoria as cases two clusters continue to rise

More than 509,000 Victorians have been tested for coronavirus as the Health Minister announces the state of emergency has been extended by three weeks until June 21.

The number of people infected with coronavirus linked to a cluster in Keilor Downs, in Melbourne’s west, has risen by two overnight.

It takes the total number of people linked to the family cluster to 13.

The two cases are from the original household and have been in self-isolation for the past two weeks.

One additional case has been linked to the outbreak at Rydges on Swanston, bringing the total cases linked to the hotel to seven.

There was a net increase of four cases identified taking the total number of confirmed cases to 1,649.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the state of emergency, which will now expire at 11:59pm on June 21, was extended to give the Chief Health Officer the powers needed to enforce new restrictions that come into effect on Monday.

The sign outside of the Rydges on Swanston hotel in Melbourne.
There are now seven cases linked to staff at the Rydges on Swanston.

“It’ll mean the legal directions we’ve had in operation will be issued from tomorrow to give effect to regulations relating to mass gatherings and the changes that will allow for example up to 20 people to be in a gathering in a private home,” she said.

“It’s really important that Victorians understand this pandemic is not over.

“The virus is still with us. It is highly contagious. It’s important that we take it seriously.”

Victorians told to ‘use common sense’

From tomorrow up to 20 people will be allowed to gather at homes. That rule will also apply to indoor and outdoor gatherings in public spaces.

Beauty, tanning and nail salons will be allowed to reopen as will public playgrounds and outdoor gyms.

Restaurants and cafes can open for up to 20 patrons, subject to physical-distancing rules.

Ms Mikakos warned there were risks involved in the easing of restrictions and the largest outbreaks seen so far had been from social gatherings.

“It’s been the birthday parties, the weddings, it’s been family groups coming together for a dinner, going out to a restaurant for dinner,” she said.

“Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it,” she said.

“Our message from tomorrow will be: stay safe, exercise common sense.”

Keilor Downs cluster sends more students into self-isolation

A fence with signs pointing Grade 2 students to the correct gate they can enter the school from.
Twenty children from Holy Eucharist Primary School are in isolation after a student tested positive.(ABC News: Nicole Asher)

A student from St Albans Secondary College has tested positive for COVID-19 after coming into close contact with a student from Keilor Downs College

Eighty students who attend Keilor Downs Secondary College and St Albans Secondary College are now self-isolating.

Students from the schools attended a VET class together last week.

According to internal emails seen by the ABC, St Albans Secondary College does not need to close.

Another 20 students from Holy Eucharist Primary School are also in self-isolation after a student, who was a close contact with someone in the Keilor Downs cluster, tested positive.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaleise van Dieman said genomic testing was underway to find out if the Keilor Downs outbreak was linked to the one at Cedar Meats in Brooklyn — a cluster of 111 cases of coronavirus.

She said how the Keilor Downs family became unwell was unknown at this stage.

A new testing facility was set up on Saturday at the Keilor Library and about 150 people got tested in their cars.

Dr van Dieman continued to urge anyone in the area with symptoms to get tested.

The a nest maked out of twigs in a redwood forest.
The Redwood Forest at Warburton was closed by Parks Victoria because of concerns about overcrowding.(ABC News: Kathy Lord)

On Saturday, Victoria Police shut down popular state parks including the 1,000 steps walking track and the Redwood Forest at Warburton, after it was determined too many people were not adhering to physical distancing protocols.

If there’s overcrowding, leave

Dr van Dieman said it was disappointing the parks had to close.

“If you get somewhere and there’s a lot of people choose an alternate location and avoid crowding,” she said.

Ms Mikakos also warned Victoria Police would continue to issue fines if breaches of the new restrictions occurred.

“We don’t want to see people being fined, we want everyone to embrace these legal directions,” she said.

Ms Mikakos urged people to go home or go elsewhere if they turned up to a park or shopping centre where there were large crowds.

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The Market for Emergency Vaccines Is Like No Other | Planet Money | NPR – NPR

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Tasmania Police and emergency services on scene of Montrose crash – The Mercury

Tasmania Police and emergency services on scene of Montrose crash  The Mercury

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Coronavirus update: Mike Pompeo blasts China over COVID-19 outbreak, Spain extends state of emergency

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again blasts China over the coronavirus pandemic, as the European Union forecasts the deepest recession in its history.

This story is being updated throughout Thursday. You can also listen to the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.

Thursday’s top stories:

US-China stoush over virus origins intensifies

China could have prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people around the world by being more transparent about the new coronavirus, according to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Mr Pompeo also sought to deflect questions about his Sunday comment that there was “a significant amount of evidence” that COVID-19 emerged from a Chinese lab.

“They knew. China could have prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide,” Mr Pompeo said on Wednesday [local time].

Mr Pompeo’s renewed criticism of China’s handling of the early stages of the pandemic, which has now infected 3.6 million and killed more than 258,000 worldwide, is the latest of several heated exchanges between the two nations.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying urged the US to provide evidence of its coronavirus claims.(MOFA)

China also hit back at some of Mr Pompeo’s claims on Wednesday during a press briefing and said that if Mr Pompeo is so certain of the origins of the virus being from a lab he should prove it.

“He said there was ‘enormous evidence’, then show us,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

“I think that this question should be left to scientists and medical control experts to answer, and the politicians should not keep lying on this issue for the needs of domestic politics.”

Asked what China thought about the US allegedly putting pressure on allies to stand up to China, the spokesperson had a harsher way of describing America’s actions.

“The United States is just threatening or coercing them to help the country to frame China together,” she said.

Mr Pompeo also said the WHO needs to demand an investigation into China’s handling of outbreak.


Iran’s COVID-19 cases pass 100,000

A woman in black with a head covering and face mask wrings her hands and cries with her head thrown back.
Relatives of a victim who died from the new coronavirus mourn in Iran.(AP: Ebrahim Noroozi)

The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Iran rose 6,418 and the total number of infections to 101,650, the Health Ministry said in a tweet on Wednesday (local time).

Iran has suffered the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East. There has been a gradual increase in the number of infections in 15 provinces over the past couple of days, a Health Ministry spokesman said on Twitter.

Iran, keen to mitigate the pandemic’s blow to an economy already battered by US sanctions, has been gradually lifting restrictions on public life imposed to limit contagion from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Health officials, however, have repeatedly warned that Iran could face a new wave of infections if social distancing is not maintained and masks and gloves not used as more and more restrictions are lifted.

‘Deepest economic recession’ in EU’s history

A man speaks at a podium with a graph projected in the background.
The European Union predicted “a recession of historic proportions this year” due to the impact of the coronavirus.(AP: Kenzo Tribouillard)

The European Union has predicted “a recession of historic proportions this year” due to the impact of the coronavirus as it released its first official estimates of the damage the pandemic is inflicting on the bloc’s economy.

The 27-nation EU economy is predicted to contract by 7.5 per cent this year, before growing about 6 per cent in 2021, assuming countries steadily ease their lockdowns.

As the virus hit, “economic activity in the EU dropped by around one third practically overnight,” he said.

More than 1.1 million people have contracted the virus across Europe and over 137,000 have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, though the true scale of infections could be much higher.

The pandemic has hit jobs, with the unemployment rate across the EU forecast to rise from 6.7 per cent last year to 9 per cent in 2020 but then fall to around 8 per cent in 2021.


Spain extends coronavirus state of emergency

The Prime Minister speaks in a chamber with three other people sitting at a safe social distance.
Spanish Prime Minster Pedro Sanchez ask for a fourth two-week extension of the state of emergency.(AP: Ballesteros)

Spain has extended the state of emergency imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic for two more weeks from Sunday, allowing the Government to control people’s movements as it gradually relaxes a national lockdown.

Parliament approved the measure after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who heads a fragile coalition Government, mustered enough support from opposition parties to carry the vote.

“Lifting the state of emergency would be a total, unpardonable mistake,” Mr Sanchez said in a parliamentary speech, adding that the billions in state aid to help businesses and individuals hit by the lockdown were released thanks to the emergency decree.

Spain, where more than 25,000 people have died from COVID-19, has been under a lockdown since March 14 and the current state of emergency ends at midnight on Saturday.

The parliamentary wrangling on how to orchestrate the exit from the lockdown underlines the divisive political environment in a country that has faced four national elections in four years and where the Government must battle for any backing.

Germany’s Bundesliga to return as lockdown eases

Two footballers compete for the ball in an empty stadium.
The German Bundesliga has Government approval to restart in May behind closed doors.(Reuters: Wolfgang Rattay)

The German Bundesliga will be the world’s first major soccer league to return since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, after it was given Government approval to restart in May, albeit behind closed doors.

The move was one of several steps Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday to ease the lockdown, saying the first phase of the pandemic had passed but there was still a long way to go.

Under measures agreed with Germany’s 16 federal state leaders, people from two households will be allowed to meet, and more shops will open, provided hygiene measures are in place.

But guidelines on keeping a distance of 1.5 metres and wearing mouth and nose masks on public transport will remain.

Their plan included a fail-safe ’emergency brake’, so restrictions would be reintroduced if an area registers more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days.

‘Entering the worst stage’: 50,000 cases confirmed in Peru

A close up of a person with brown eyes with a face mask reading the Spanish message "Resist Peru".
Peru has the second highest number of infections in South America.(AP: Rodrigo Abd)

The number of new coronavirus cases confirmed in Peru on Tuesday (local time) soared above 50,000, highlighting the country’s struggle to control the virus’s spread with the infection rate yet to reach its peak, a medical expert said.

Peru was one of the first Latin American countries to implement a shut down when coronavirus landed, but cases have doubled in the last 10 days. Peru ranks second only to Brazil for contagions in the region.

Ciro Maguiña, an infectious disease specialist and vice-dean of Peru’s College of Physicians, said the “worst stage” of the outbreak was still ahead.

Significant outbreaks have been uncovered in food markets, at mines, in prisons, among homeless communities and police forces, laying bare the patchy enforcement of Government-ordered social isolation measures.

Protective equipment shortages have sparked protests at hospitals, while the country’s ability to contain the virus has been hampered by its high poverty rate — about 21 per cent of its 33 million people live on less than $US102 [$158] a month, official statistics say.


Glass house dining on the menu in Amsterdam

A couple sitting in a glass enclosure with the water in the background and candles as they eat.
Amsterdam is serving up “quarantine greenhouses” for diners during the coronavirus pandemic.(Reuters: Eva Plevier)

A Dutch restaurant has come up with an idea on how to offer classy outdoor dining during the pandemic: small glass cabins built for two or three people, creating intimate cocoons on a public patio.

Waiters wear gloves and transparent face shields, and use a long board to bring dishes into the glass cabins to ensure minimal physical contact with customers.

While the concept is currently being trialled only for family and friends of staff from the ETEN restaurant, which is part of the Mediamatic arts centre, it certainly looks glamorous, as diners enjoy candle-lit meals with a waterside view.

“It’s super-cosy, it’s really cosy, it’s nice and the food is delicious,” said Janita Vermeulen, who was invited to a trial dinner with her roommate.

Organisers call the project ‘Serres Séparées’ (Separate Greenhouses) because they say it sounds better in French.


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Former crew reveal coronavirus saga aboard the Ruby Princess

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ME Bank redraw policy change sparks emergency response from ombudsman


“A lender has the right to change the terms of the loan contract but if the change adversely affects the borrower, they have to be given 20 days notice. It’s a minimum requirement under legislation,” Mr Williams said.

Accountant Phillip Stam received ME Bank’s letter, dated April 23, on April 30, three days after the redraw facility had been suspended. “On Friday afternoon, it was in the mail. They’d already implemented it of course,” he said.

Mr Stam has since spent hours trying to regain access to the money. “I’ve tried calling twice. Yesterday and Monday. I was on hold for an hour and just gave up and hung up. I’d had enough, couldn’t wait any longer.”

Mr Williams said the cancellation of the ability to redraw is not legal if customers are not given the appropriate notice period, and customers can lodge a complaint with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) to have it overturned.


“If that is cancelled on two days’ notice, that cancellation is not effective,” Mr Williams said. “What you would then do is launch a complaint with AFCA, they will find in your favour.”

AFCA activated a “significant event response plan” – last used for monitoring insurance claims after the summer bushfires and hailstorms – on Tuesday following ME Bank’s policy change, as it braces for a flurry of complaints from affected customers.

If the policy change is found to be illegitimate, Mr Williams said ME Bank could be forced to reinstate customers’ redraw facilities. Banks are required to pay AFCA to cover the costs of investigating and resolving complaints.

“If you have 100 complaints at $2000 a pop, that’s $200,000. If you have 1000 complaints, you’re up at $2 million. Then, of course, ASIC [Australian Securities and Investments Commission] won’t like that. Then you’ve got the ASIC investigation coming as well,” Mr Williams said.

University of Wollongong senior lecturer Andy Schmulow said ME Bank is also in breach of five articles in the Australian Banking Association’s code of practice, related to rules around fair and timely communication with customers.

“When you take away money that you’ve said is available for redraw and you didn’t tell people about it, I don’t see how that is compliant,” Dr Schmulow said. “Once you’ve signed up to this, every contract that is already enforced is bound by this.”

ME Bank did not respond to requests for comment.

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Local News - Victoria

Meat worker at centre of abattoir cluster sparked Sunshine Hospital scare after emergency surgery on a severed thumb


The business said the first it knew that one of its workers was infected was on April 27. Two days later, the virus had spread to three people who worked alongside the injured man in the plant’s boning room.

By Monday, the total number of infections at the meatworks reached 34, with 19 new cases added to the 15 announced over the weekend.

Cedar Meats general manager Tony Kairouz said all of the company’s 350 staff were tested after learning of the first four cases.

The company, which started as a butcher shop in Melbourne’s north in the 1980s, said it had a strong record of workplace safety.

Exports account for most of the business, which sells under the labels Jimba Premium Lamb and Southern Pride Premium Lamb. It has also supplied meat to some Australian food businesses, including restaurants.

A shipment of meat sold by Cedar was flown to Wuhan in early March. It was placed on the return leg of a flight that had brought medical supplies from China to Australia to celebrate the reopening of Wuhan after it emerged from lockdown, according to industry website SheepCentral.

The Victorian government had earlier refused to name the meat processing facility, declaring the site did not pose a public health risk.

However, Mr Kairouz said the company was not trying to avoid being transparent with the community.

“We are deeply saddened that there is speculation that we have sought to hide from something that
is not of our making – it is an outbreak of a worldwide pandemic at our plant,” he said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with [the Health Department] and will fully co-operate with any requirements as they eventuate.

The facility has been shut down for two weeks to allow for thorough cleaning.

“Meatworks are particularly vulnerable, we’ve seen from the US extremely large outbreaks in meatworks,” said Cheif Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton.


“In some ways because they are forced to work closer than some other workplaces.”

More than 4900 workers at meat processing facilities in the United States have tested positive to the virus, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr Sutton defended the decision not to name the business when the outbreak was first revealed on Saturday, despite revealing the location of other places where people had tested positive.

“It has always been the case that if we need people in the community to understand where they might have been exposed to a cluster or outbreak of cases that we identify those sites,” he said.

“If we are following up everyone, we have the names of contacts of everyone in the site, and we’re not concerned about the general community being exposed then there’s no specific public health reason to name those places.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said the owners were not related to Marlene Kairouz, the Minister for Consumer Affairs.

“It is my understanding that there is no connection apart from the family name,” he said.

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Month extension for Vic state of emergency | The Canberra Times

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Victoria’s tough coronavirus crackdown has been extended for a month, as a plane loaded with infected cruise ship passengers arrived. Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday that the state of emergency will be extended until midnight on May 11. Under the declaration, the government has the power to keep measures designed to “flatten the curve” of coronavirus. It was due to expire on Monday. With just three new cases of coronavirus recorded on Sunday, the premier said restrictions were working. “We are aggressively tracing our outbreaks, and making sure this virus does not get away from us,” he told reporters. “If it does, our health system will simply be overrun and people will die.” The state’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases hit 1268 on Sunday, with 14 deaths. Twenty-eight patients remain in hospital, 16 in intensive care. A flight from Uruguay landed at Melbourne Airport just before 7am on Sunday, carrying about 112 Australian and New Zealand passengers from the Greg Mortimer cruise ship. 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. About 70 per cent of passengers on board the flight have COVID-19, but only one went to hospital, the state’s deputy chief health officer Brett Sutton said. Mr.Andrews said there was “no comparison” between the mercy flight and the Ruby Princess cruise ship debacle. “These people were tested and known to be positive, and none of these people have been let into the community,” he said. Hundreds of people were confirmed to have the virus after the Ruby Princess docked in Sydney last month, and more than a dozen have since died. Mr Andrews said a small group of New Zealand passengers from the Greg Mortimer had been put on a charter flight home, while the remaining Australians went to hotels for 14 days of quarantine. A man died while in quarantine at a Melbourne hotel overnight, but his death is not suspicious and the coroner will investigate. Mr Andrews said the man did not have coronavirus and was subject to a daily health check. Mental Health Minister Martin Foley announced a $59.4 million package for mental health organisations and practitioners to help meet demand during the pandemic. One in four calls to Lifeline relate to the virus, while Beyond Blue had experienced a 30-35 per cent increase in calls, he said. More than 1200 Australian nationals have flown home from overseas to land at Tullamarine this weekend, with flights from India and Peru arriving on Friday and Saturday. Australia’s national death toll from the virus stands at 59. Lifeline 13 11 14 beyondblue 1300 22 4636 Australian Associated Press

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