Local News - Victoria

One public housing tower to remain in lockdown, restrictions to ease on others

Mr Andrews said a specialised coronavirus management plan would be introduced for all nine towers and flagged that there would likely be more new cases uncovered in the coming days.

“Acknowledging this is in some respects akin to an aged care facility, there will be continued support and continued protection for those residents, given their age and, for many of them, their health status makes them especially vulnerable,” the Premier said.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said increased infection prevention measures would include hand hygiene stations on every floor plus a “very substantial deep clean”, cleaning of high-touch surfaces such as lifts and stairwells and check-ins with health officials every day.

Mr Andrews said a 14-day isolation period for those at 33 Alfred Street, which he described as reaching a “balance” for residents, will continue to be enforced by police.

“That is an abundance-of-caution approach that not only protects the welfare and the wellbeing, the health, of all of those residents, but also protects public health as well.”

Police Minister Lisa Neville acknowledged it would be a “really tough” nine days for the residents remaining in a hard lockdown.

“It is very clear, the message from the health authorities,” Ms Neville said.

“We can’t allow people to be moving across floors or in lifts, because it is such a high-risk environment in that particular tower.”


Ms Neville said residents who tested positive and their close contacts would be offered the option of hotel accommodation.

“That is the safest for you and for everyone else in those towers,” she said.

Ms Neville said there would be a reduced police presence at the towers and an increased number of care workers and health workers. Some police will remain on-site to ensure public order, she said.

“It will be much more a health response than a police response,” she said.

Mr Andrews said police would not be “mucking about” in handing out $1652 fines for breaking restrictions, after residents of the Mornington Peninsula complained of scores of Melburnians illegally travelling to their holiday homes before the new, six-week lockdown began on Wednesday night.

“If you are breaking the rules then you will be fined. There won’t be too many warnings given out, there can’t be,” the Premier said.

Premier Daniel Andrews making the announcement for public housing residents on Thursday afternoon.

Premier Daniel Andrews making the announcement for public housing residents on Thursday afternoon.Credit:Joe Armao

“This six weeks, we have got to give ourselves every chance that at the end we can get the numbers down to control the virus and maintain that.

Victoria recorded 165 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, with six new aged care centres sent into lockdown and more infections confirmed among Melbourne hospital workers. Of Tuesday’s new cases, 135 are yet to be traced to a known outbreak.


The Al-Taqwa College outbreak in Truganina grew by six, making it Victoria’s largest cluster with 113 cases.

Professor Sutton confirmed some families in the Al-Taqwa cluster lived in the nine public housing towers but said it was unclear if either outbreak was sparked by the other location.

“It might have gone in one direction, it might have gone in the other direction,” he said.

“There may be multiple importations of the virus into the towers … these are communities that cross over between Truganina and these towers.”

Thursday’s cases included two healthcare workers from both the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Sunshine Hospital plus one staff member from the Northern Hospital, increasing the cluster linked to the Northern’s emergency department to 11.

Seven workers from six aged care centres have tested positive, putting six facilities into lockdown in addition to four aged care centres locked down on Wednesday due to confirmed cases among four staff and one resident.

Victoria has 932 active cases of coronavirus. Forty are in hospital, including nine in intensive care, up from seven on Wednesday.

Federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth revealed the national body of health experts had decided that people in areas of high community transmission, such as in Melbourne’s lockdown area, should now wear masks in situations where they could not maintain social distancing.

“There is a part of Australia in the moment where community transmission is on the rise … in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire area, surgical masks or cloth masks is recommended if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot socially distance,” Dr Coatsworth said.

Of the 165 additional people diagnosed in the past 24 hours, the majority are residents of local government areas in the city’s inner-north and west.

The Moonee Valley area – which includes the suburbs of Ascot Vale, Flemington and Moonee Ponds – recorded 26 cases.

Of Melbourne’s regional areas, Greater Geelong has six cases, up from two on Wednesday; Bendigo has four, up from one on Wednesday; and there is one case in each of Surf Coast, East Gippsland, Shepparton and Wodonga councils.

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Local News - Victoria

Jury trials pushed back indefinitely as restrictions return after second surge


Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Chief Judge Peter Kidd said they were “conscious of the impact of this decision and will continue the work to ensure that everything necessary is in place for the resumption of criminal jury trials as soon as it is appropriate to do so”.

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on Victoria’s court system. The pandemic has hit barristers specialising in criminal law hard, with one in 10 saying the protracted loss of work and income would likely force them to quit the bar.

The courts had originally planned to resume jury trials in less than two weeks, while limiting jury selection to suburbs that were not under lockdown and adhering to social distancing guidelines.

On Monday Victoria’s first judge-only criminal trial started as Thi Lang Bui and Phong Troung, both facing drug charges, began to have their cases decided exclusively by County Court judge Liz Gaynor.

The suspension of jury trials since March has meant hundreds of accused people have had their cases delayed – many will not be heard until 2021 at the earliest – but Monday’s is the only judge-alone trial before the Supreme and County courts.

Accused people can apply for judge-only trials and effectively jump the queue if the court approves, but the legal sector has a strong preference for jury trials.

Criminal Bar Association of Victoria chair Daniel Gurvich says judge-only trial applications may increase if jury trials do not resume soon.

Criminal Bar Association of Victoria chair Daniel Gurvich says judge-only trial applications may increase if jury trials do not resume soon.Credit:Paul Jeffers

Criminal Bar Association of Victoria chair Daniel Gurvich, QC, told The Age juries are an important part of the criminal justice system and that people accused of crimes typically prefer to have their case heard by a group of their peers than a judge alone.

“Most people will prefer to have their case determined by a jury of their peers and the reasons for that is that those accused of crimes generally trust juries to make the right call and would prefer that ‘little parliament’ or ‘little democracy’ rather than a single judge,” Mr Gurvich said.

“It’s generally the view of the criminal bar is that juries are the better option. But there are exceptional cases where the administration of justice is better serviced by a judge-alone trial.


Mr Gurvich said that “the overwhelming majority view is that as long as the accused may elect whether it should be a judge-alone trial, that is something to be supported.”

Barrister Sharn Coombes, who has worked extensively as a prosecutor, said even though the pandemic meant a longer wait for trials, accused people preferred being judged by their peers rather than by one person who has spent their life working in the law.

“It is an illuminating statement that accused persons are not opting for judge-alone trials, especially where delay in reaching a trial date is inevitable given the pandemic,” Ms Coombes said.

“For those in custody awaiting trial, without taking up this option, speaks volumes about the faith an accused and their representatives have in the jury system.”

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Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire six-week lockdown restrictions start tonight

Nearly five million residents of greater Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire are set to enter a very different world from midnight Wednesday, with a new six-week lockdown coming into effect.

On Tuesday Premier Daniel Andrews reinstated stay at home restrictions across metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, to the north of the city, to take effect from 11.59pm on July 8.

He announced 191 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday including 154 under investigation.

None of the cases were detected in returned travellers in hotel quarantine in a worrying development showing the virus is established in the community.

There are 772 active coronavirus cases in Victoria and 35 people are in hospital. Nine of those patients are in intensive care.

RELATED: Follow the latest coronavirus news

RELATED: Massive supermarket queues ahead of lockdown


The restricted areas are Mitchell Shire and 31 local government areas across the greater city: Banyule, Bayside, Boroondara, Brimbank, Cardinia, Casey, Darebin, Frankston, Glen Eira, Greater Dandenong, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Kingston, Knox, Manningham, Maribyrnong, Maroondah, Melbourne, Melton, Mitchell Shire, Monash, Moonee Valley, Moreland, Mornington Peninsula, Nillumbik, Port Phillip, Stonnington, Whitehorse, Whittlesea, Wyndham, Yarra and the Yarra Ranges.

“2020 has not been the year any of us wanted,” Mr Andrews said when announcing the news.

“Cancelled events. Plans put on pause. Uncertainty about what the future holds.

“And I guess that’s why so many people want to pretend this is over.”

He stressed the stay at home direction applies to principal places of residence.

“That means no escaping to holiday homes,” Mr Andrews said.

According to a summary of the restrictions, second places of residence outside restricted areas cannot be visited except for limited exceptions such as an emergency or maintenance, shared custody, or to stay with an intimate partner who does not live with you.

The state’s chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton said Victorians have got “six very difficult weeks ahead”.

The new directions are to continue until 11.59pm on August 19.

No one in the impacted areas is allowed to have private gatherings with visitors, and public gatherings are limited to “two people or household members only”.

“For people who live in regional Victoria, where case numbers remain low, current restrictions will remain the same for now,” Mr Andrews said.

Regional Victorians cannot enter restricted areas except for “necessary purposes” being necessary goods or services, work and education if necessary, medical care or compassionate reasons.

RELATED: School holidays extended in parts of Victoria


The “four reasons to leave” home are to shop for food and other essential items; attend work or school (if it can’t be done from home); medical or caregiving; and exercise – though it must be inside the metropolitan area.

“The most discretionary of those four reasons is, in fact, going for what should be daily exercise,” Mr Andrews said.

“It is not an opportunity to run a marathon or to be doing a five or six-hour hike hundreds of kilometres away from home and into regional Victoria where there aren’t cases. Even if you were to follow all the rules when you were there, if you have the virus it will travel with you. It is just an unacceptable risk.”

Exemptions to the “reasons to leave your house” again include “visiting a person with whom you are in an intimate personal relationship”, including if they live outside the 31 metropolitan Melbourne LGAs or the Mitchell Shire.

You cannot leave restricted areas for exercise or recreation.


A number of businesses and facilities in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will be required to close, just weeks after reopening, including beauty and personal care services – aside from hairdressers, cultural and entertainment venues and community facilities.

Restaurants and cafes are to return to operating as “take away only” venues, food courts will be shut, and pubs, bars, clubs and nightclubs are closed with bottle shop and take away only.

Galleries, museums, zoos, outdoor amusements parks and arcades, indoor and drive-in cinemas, concert venues, theatres, auditoriums, arenas and stadiums will all be shuttered.

Community sport will also need to stop. Gyms will have to close but can remain open in regional Victoria.

Sporting activities such as fishing, golf, boating, tennis, surfing and drive range shooting with one other person or household members are allowed proving 1.5m distance can be maintained.

Attending a wedding or funeral is a permitted reason to leave home however weddings are limited to five (a couple, two witnesses and a celebrant) and funerals are capped at 10 plus those conducting the service.

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AFL western derby ticket sales suspended as WA phase five coronavirus restrictions reviewed

Ticket sales for the upcoming western derby have been suspended, pending a WA Government review of the planned easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The Government is reviewing its proposed move to phase five restrictions on Saturday July 18, following the outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Victoria.

The easing of restrictions would have allowed up to 60,000 fans to attend Perth Stadium for the derby between the Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles on Sunday, July 19.

But the Government has advised Fremantle and West Coast to halt tickets sales for the match.

Both clubs have released statements on social media saying sales have been temporarily suspended.

Perth Stadium with the Swan River in the foreground.
Perth Stadium was set to host a capacity crowd of 60,000 fans for the derby.(ABC News: Rebecca Carmody)

In a statement posted on Fremantle’s website, the Dockers said tickets would go back on sale to club members and the general public pending the outcome and completion of the Government’s review.

“We understand and are more than happy to work with the Government’s recommendation to [temporarily] suspend ticket sales … while remaining optimistic that the game will go ahead with a capacity crowd,” Fremantle chief executive Simon Garlick said.

“Premier Mark McGowan had previously indicated that this was subject to ongoing review in the lead-up to the planned introduction of phase 5 restrictions on 18 July.

“The last instance of community transmission in WA was 87 days ago and, in announcing the review of the timing of Phase 5 restrictions, the Premier noted that there was no evidence of community spread in WA, which provides us with a level of optimism about the likely outcome of the review.”

Fremantle said all member ticket allocations and ticket sales to date remained valid “at this time”.

More to come.

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Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt warns Victoria could face further restrictions

Health Minister Greg Hunt is not ruling out further restrictions being imposed in Victoria as the army prepares to lock down the border with NSW at midnight.

Speaking on the Today show, Mr Hunt said rings to curb the spread of coronavirus were being extended to the borders because of the worrying levels of community transmission in Melbourne’s north and western suburbs.

Asked if a total lockdown of Victoria was possible, Mr Hunt replied: “I don’t think that anybody can rule out that if the disease continues to spread, there could be further restrictions.

“I think it is very important to be open and honest about that.”

RELATED: How quickly the pandemic can change

He said the outbreak in Victoria was “very serious”.

“To have the unprecedented closure of the border, not done in a hundred years, that is a sign that we have seven states and territories with effectively zero community transmission, one state, in particular, the north and the west of Melbourne, with a very serious outbreak,” Mr Hunt said.


Huge surge in new COVID-19 cases across Melbourne

On Friday, Premier Daniel Andrews issued a fresh warning to Victorians being complacent about coronavirus, threatening to lock down the entire state.

“You don’t have to live in a hot spot postcode to follow the rules, and if people don’t follow the rules then you will be living in a hotspot postcode because I will have no choice but to shut down more and more parts of our city and potentially our state,” Premier Andrews said.

Underlying cases of community transmission in Victoria, coupled with people ignoring social distancing as restrictions began to ease and hotel quarantine breaches, are behind the outbreak.

Victoria on Monday recorded its worse day with 127 new confirmed cases in 24 hours.

Victorians will be physically blocked from entering NSW as the state’s second wave of COVID-19 mounts.

A balloon in cases from community transmission while other states and territories remained at zero has prompted the closure of the Victorian-NSW border from midnight.

Border communities will be eligible for special travel exemptions.

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Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt warns Victoria could face further restrictions

Health Minister Greg Hunt is not ruling out further restrictions being imposed in Victoria as the army prepares to lock down the border with NSW.

Speaking on breakfast television, Mr Hunt said rings to curb the spread of coronavirus were being extended to the borders because of the worrying levels of community transmission in Melbourne’s north and western suburbs.

RELATED: How quickly the pandemic can change

“I don’t think that anybody can rule out that if the disease continues to spread, there could be further restrictions,” he told the Today show.

“I think it is very important to be open and honest about that.”

Underlying cases of community transmission in Victoria, coupled with people ignoring social distancing as restrictions began to ease and hotel quarantine breaches is behind the outbreak.

Victoria on Monday recorded its worse day with 127 new confirmed cases in 24 hours.

A balloon in cases from community transmission while other states and territories remained at zero has prompted the closure of the Victorian-NSW border from midnight.

Border communities will be eligible for special travel exemptions.

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Victoria’s newly enforced restrictions in place from today

Just when Victorians thought they were moving onto greener pastures from the peak of the pandemic, the state has today been placed under strict new restrictions amid a second spate of the coronavirus.

The state now has a total of 2231 confirmed COVID-19 cases, after it recorded 73 new infections in Victoria’s highest ever single-day increase in virus cases acquired through community transmission.

Stage three coronavirus restrictions were implemented at 11.59pm last night, with the more than 310,000 residents who occupy the 10 hotspot postcodes only able to leave the house for four reasons. They are: exercise, food, caregiving and work/school.

RELATED: Big question Victoria needs to answer

RELATED: Follow the latest coronavirus updates

The postcodes subject to the new stay-at-home orders include:

• 3012 (Brooklyn, Kingville, Maidstone, Tottenham, West Footscray)

• 3021 (Alban Vale, Kealba, Kings Park, St Albans)

• 3032 (Ascot Vale, High Point City, Maribyrnong, Travancore)

• 3038 (Keilor Downs, Keilor Lodge, Taylors Lakes, Watergardens)

• 3042 (Airport West, Keilor Park, Niddrie)

• 3046 (Glenroy, Hadfield, Oak Park)

• 3047 (Broadmeadows, Dallas, Jacana)

• 3055 (Brunswick South, Brunswick West, Moonee Vale, Moreland West)

• 3060 (Fawkner)

• 3064 (Craigieburn, Donnybrook, Mickleham, Roxburgh Park and Kalkallo).

The measures will be in place until at least July 29, with fears the rest of Victoria is also headed for the same restrictions as case numbers continue to spike.

Hundreds of police descended on the neighbourhoods under stay at home orders last night with amped up patrols expected over the next few weeks, while supermarket shelves are again being ravaged for essentials including toilet paper.

Acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly said residents caught out and about without a valid reason would be transported back home in a booze bus.

If caught people could face an on-the-spot fine of $1652, with businesses risking penalties of up to $100,000 if they ignore the rules.

Police Minister Lisa Neville said officers will be out enforce ensuring the rules are being followed.

“They‘ll have mobile teams, so they’ll be pulling up people randomly,” she told Nine.

“They‘ll look at things like on and off ramps at arterial roads, so using a booze bus type model where you pull people over, check where they’re going in, why are they going in, why are they leaving.

“They‘ll be at transport hubs – who’s getting on the transport system and why they’re doing that.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday said he was fearful of a statewide shutdown, as he urged the community to take restrictions seriously.

“If we don‘t get control of this really quickly we will end up with … a whole state shutdown,” he told 3AW.

“This is not over. This is so wildly infectious that even minor breaches of the rules can lead to this random movement of the virus around the community.”

The Premier also told The Project last night he was disheartened about the number of people refusing tests as health officials embark on a door-to-door testing blitz in the affected suburbs.

One in ten residents are refusing testing in the hotspots.

“I think there might be some people that don’t have access to pay, whether it be sick pay or holiday pay,” the Premier told Lisa Wilkinson.

“Their economic circumstances might be very uncertain and the notion of having two days away from work while you wait for your test result may be a big challenge.

“That is why we’ve put in place essentially a no questions asked hardship payment, a $1500 payment to deal with that perhaps as a disincentive to getting tested.

“Beyond that there will be many different reasons and I’ve got my public health experts trying to analyse the data from people who have said no.

“If someone knocks on your door and says ‘I’ve got a test kit for you’, your only answer should be yes. It is very disappointing whenever someone says no to a test.”

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NRL fans still in dark about returning to attend matches as coronavirus restrictions begin to lift

Select season ticket holders and club members have been told they will be allowed at games across New South Wales from Friday night, but 48 hours from the highly anticipated return of crowds to the NRL, some feel much of the detail is still up in the air.

“The club is drip-feeding information as they get it, but it’s still not very clear exactly where everyone is going to be sitting or how many people are sitting together or how many are going to be in the stadium as a whole,” said Parramatta season ticket holder Mick Radojkovic.

He was emailed by the club, telling him he was allowed back at Parramatta Stadium for round eight against the Cowboys on Friday night.

“It’s probably the first time this many people have done this since COVID-19.”

He’s been a die-hard fan for 39 years and can’t wait to be back at the footy after the coronavirus shutdown, but has some trepidation.

A Parramatta Eels fan takes a selfie
Mick Radojkovik does not believe we will see full stadiums this season.(Supplied)

“It is a bit nerve wracking and intimidating because we haven’t done it for so long, we’ve heard we can sit in groups of 10, maybe 20,” he said.

“I’m not sure if will be able to sit together, I sit with the active supporter pack — the Blue and Gold Barracks — we’ve been told that we are going to be going but I don’t actually have a specific entry ticket yet, so exactly how and what time we get there I am not sure.

“But hoping by Friday I will know what to do.”


From today, the New South Wales Government is relaxing crowd restrictions so that sporting venues of up to 40,000 can operate at a capacity of 25 per cent or less, to a maximum of 10,000 people.

Parramatta Stadium has a capacity of 30,000, so 7,500 fans will be permitted and for many fans a three-quarter empty stadium is a great option.

“I don’t think we will see full stadiums this year,” Mr Radojkovic said.

“I am pretty worried what we are seeing in Victoria is going to happen in NSW — and that going to the footy could be a very rare event, so I’ll take very chance I get.”

Adam Martin has been part of the blue and gold army for 11 years and travels the five hour round trip from Maitland for home games.

“It’s so great to be back — I didn’t think that it would be possible this year and it was so boring without footy during the COVID-19 lockdown,” he said.

Parramatta fan Adam Martin stands alongside his wife Emma Martin
Parramatta fan Adam Martin says he isn’t worried about attending matches, even with his 33-weeks-pregnant wife Emma.(Supplied)

He was among a select group of 500 people that were allowed to go to last weekend’s match against the Raiders, describing it as a game-day experience like no other.

“Temperature checks on the way in, three seats apart from people you didn’t travel with at all times. Going up for drinks, areas were marked up for where you line up and were allowed to go.

“I’m so used to going to a game and being able to talk to everyone.”

Those spectators received an email before the game stating “all attendees will have their ticket scanned on entry and must submit to and pass individual temperature checks to confirm a temperature of 37.4 or less and confirm to staff if they have any COVID-19 symptoms, whether they have come into contact with anyone who has been diagnosed or if they’ve been in quarantine in the past 14 days”.

He feels safe going to the game, even with his wife who is 33 weeks pregnant and hopes footy fans will use common sense and obey the rules.

“The biggest thing will be getting people out after the game and probably half-time as well, everyone wants to get a drink and go to the toilet, I haven’t heard … how that’ll be done yet,” he said.

“Last week I was told where I’d be sitting; you had to go on to Ticketek and select your row — I am usually a silver member, but got bronze last week, but I haven’t got it this week yet.”

A spokesman for the NRL says all venues must comply with the 25 per cent capacity — including on hill areas and one person per four square metres for indoor spaces like corporate boxes.

“Alternate rows will be used to ensure spacing and half of each row will be in use, groups will also be separated by two empty seats,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Venues are having to develop their own COVID-19 safety plans and implement those for games and given the guidelines, not all venues will be able to make that 25 per cent capacity.

Crowds will be hosted at three games in Parramatta this round as well as at Brookvale Oval and Central Coast stadium.

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As NSW coronavirus restrictions ease further, here’s what has changed from today

Today brings a raft of eased NSW coronavirus restrictions right in time for school holidays, but the winter break is going to look a little different this year.

From today, indoor venues including pubs, cafes and restaurants, as well as functions, can hold any number of people, as long as they remain seated and stick to one person per four square metres.

Weddings can have up to 20 guests, excluding the couple getting married.

A maximum of 10,000 fans are allowed to fill stadiums for sporting or cultural events from today, while community sport can resume for kids and adults alike.

But some things are staying the same: the 20-guest limit on household and outdoor gatherings remains in place, which means nightclubs and music festivals are still off the cards.

What can I do this winter break?

Winter break begins in NSW from this weekend until July 19, meaning about a million students in the state will have two weeks worth of free time to fill.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb and Luna Park will reopen this week, while the Blue Mountain’s Scenic World will also open its gates.

Ice-skating rinks across the state have reopened, along with museums, galleries, libraries and some cinemas — but are all subject to the four-square-metre rule.

If you’re eyeing off an alpine holiday in the state’s snowy region, be warned: although the 2020 season has gone ahead, slashed capacity resulted in mountain passes and accommodation mostly selling out.

Where can I travel?

Although international travel is still off the cards, NSW people are free to visit Queensland, Victoria and the ACT these school holidays — however, there are a few catches.

Although she has refused to shut the Victoria-NSW border, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian commanded people not to travel to Melbourne at all and encouraged NSW accommodation vendors to bar Melburnians.

From July 10, Queensland will welcome travellers from every state except Victoria, whose citizens will need to quarantine for 14 days before they can visit the sunshine state.

Everyone else will need to sign a form swearing they haven’t been to Victoria in the past two weeks and Health Minister Steven Miles warned that “strict penalties will apply for people who lie to us about any travel to Victoria”.

Travel to South Australia is not permitted for NSW or Victorian people, after the SA Government scrapped plans to fully reopen their borders by July 20.

The NT said they plan to open their borders on July 17, but people who live in Melbourne “hotspots” will have to self-isolate for 14 days at their own cost upon arrival.

Tasmania’s borders are still shut to interstate travellers.

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Victoria restrictions: Locking down hotspots ‘an option’, but not an easy one: Chief Health Officer

Border Force offices at Melbourne Airport were also undergoing a deep clean after a cleaner tested positive on Saturday.

Many of Monday’s 75 cases were picked up in the door-to-door testing blitz targeting Melbourne’s 10 “hotspot suburbs”, with a lot of outbreaks occurring at work and gatherings affecting multiple households.

Professor Sutton said: “I think it’ll get worse before it gets better. It is a concerning number, but it’s very hard to make predictions in this space.”

The hotspot suburbs are Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Hallam, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir, Pakenham, Keilor Downs and Broadmeadows.

Professor Sutton said further conversations about lockdowns would be held over the next couple of days.

Drivers queue for testing at a pop-up clinic outside Keilor Community Hub.

Drivers queue for testing at a pop-up clinic outside Keilor Community Hub.Credit:Joe Armao

“We don’t want to drive people out of suburban areas, into new, unaffected areas, so there’s a balancing act in terms of making the call on a lockdown,” he said.

“It would be a significant logistical exercise to manage stay-at-home that’s just about particular postcodes, particular suburbs or local government areas. But it is absolutely an option and we flagged the possibility of using it and we will use it if it is required.”

Professor Sutton said the most recent cases had been transmitted five or six days ago and more time was needed to see if people had responded to the communication blitz about the need to be tested and stay home if sick.

“That has to be the focus,” he said.

“We absolutely want people to get the message that if they have symptoms, they shouldn’t be going and visiting other people, they shouldn’t be going out to any other setting, including work, because that is where we are seeing transmission at the moment.”

Professor Sutton said he was still considering whether masks should be recommended in hotspot suburbs, particularly in enclosed spaces where it was difficult to keep a distance from other people.

But he said he didn’t think wearing masks would have made much difference in recent cases, as most occurred when people visited extended family in different households.


“People don’t wear masks to see extended family members, they wear masks when they’re going out in public places but if it’s got a role that can add some value in terms of reducing transmission in crowded places, I’m all for it.”

However, national Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said medical officials were considering whether to recommend people in Melbourne wear masks in public.

The nation’s expert health committee considers its position on masks every week. “But certainly, if there is a place where we are looking to see whether masks should be recommended, it’s down in Victoria.”

Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, epidemiologist and disease control expert at the UNSW and a member of the World Health Organisation COVID-19 experts advisory panel, said it was time authorities accepted masks were a necessity for people living in hotspots.


Professor McLaws characterised Victoria’s COVID situation as “a resurgence of epic proportion”.

Of Monday’s 75 cases, only one was linked to hotel quarantine, 14 were linked to known outbreaks, 37 had been detected through routine testing and 23 were under investigation.

Professor Sutton said there was still an opportunity for COVID-19 cases to “turn around”.

“If it isn’t, absolutely … changing the law is something we have to consider because we have to do whatever is required to turn this around.”

Monash University Associate Professor Philip Russo, an internationally regarded expert in healthcare associated infection prevention, said logistically it would be difficult to police a lockdown of individual areas.

“I think Dr Sutton is right in that there is a danger it might actually drive people underground and introduce infections into areas where there are low levels of cases at the moment,” Associate Professor Russo said.

He said there had been an increased emphasis from authorities in recent days on the need for the public to stay home, isolate and get tested.

“The hope is numbers will start to turn around in the next few days and drop off, which would mean those interventions put in place five to six days ago had started to take effect,” Associate Professor Russo said.


“However if there is a continued significant increase in cases for the next week that is when lockdown discussions would come back on the agenda.”

Two businesses in a COVID-19 hotspot contacted by The Age said they were confused about what a suburb lockdown would mean for them.

Melba’s Food Hall, a grocery store and cafe in Brunswick West, one of the COVID-19 hotspots, has been allowed to stay open through the pandemic because the supermarket component is an essential service.

However, owner Vince Garuccio said that if Brunswick West went into lockdown, he may be instructed to close because people could shop in other suburbs.

“That would kill me because I have got a lot of perishable products and there would be a lot of wastage,” he said. “Absolutely, it is a stressful period, because you don’t know what to do about staff.”

Rodney Mom, from Brunswick West cafe Mister and Missus M, lives in COVID-19 hotspot Keilor Downs.

“I’m not sure I would be able to travel from Keilor Downs to West Brunswick if the suburbs went into lockdown – your guess is as good as mine,” he said.

Professor Sutton said the risk of transmission was well managed in restaurants that had applied COVID-19 safety regulations.

“So it may not look the same in terms of shutting down a lot of those settings because that’s not where transmissions are occurring,” he said.

Meanwhile, Victoria is rolling out a saliva test with 87 per cent accuracy for vulnerable people such as the elderly and children, who might not otherwise take the more intrusive throat and nasal swab test.

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