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Local News - Victoria

Victoria records 216 new cases and one death


Thirty of the new cases are connected to known outbreaks. There are 49 Victorians in hospital and 15 of those are in intensive care.

Mr Andrews again urged Victorians to leave their homes for just four reasons: for groceries, to exercise, working or learning and caregiving.

“I know it is very frustrating, and it is not the place that we wanted to be in, but it’s a clear strategy.

“It will work, but only if every single Victorian and the whole community that will ultimately benefit from that strategy – it only works if we all play our part. It is the simple stuff, the common sense, just doing the right thing, the smart thing. That’s how we will get to the other side of this.”

Masks a part of the answer

Mr Andrews said it was “almost certain” that wearing masks would be part of Victoria’s eventual reopening.

‘It’s quite noticeable that many more people are wearing masks now, and I’m grateful to them,” he said.

He said two million Australian-made, perhaps even Victorian-made, masks would be ordered and distributed to “priority groups”.

“In the meantime… we have ordered some additional single-use masks to replenish any reuse in coming days and weeks. That will principally be in healthcare settings and other settings where we think there’s a really big reward.”

New testing sites

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos has announced new testing sites will be set up in Mernda, Greensborough, Tarneit and on the Mornington Peninsula. There are now more than 150 testing sites across Victoria.

“Ultimately our ambition here is to provide a testing site to everyone within 10km of their home within metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, the areas where we have a key focus at the present time,” she said.

Ms Mikakos said the state had now conducted 1,000,095 tests, more than 25,000 since yesterday.

“In terms of our testing rate per 100,000 people, that is now 16,606,” she said.

Hospitals ‘well prepared’

Ms Mikakos said Victoria’s hospitals and health services were “well supported and prepared”.

“They have been working since January to respond to this pandemic. Even when the numbers came down, they never paused in their efforts. They are well resourced and well trained to respond,” she said.

“We have ventilators in our warehouse. We have medical equipment in our warehouse and being distributed to our health services all the time, and personal protective equipment – 32 million masks are sitting in our warehouse as we speak.”

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She also urged anyone who was sick with any illnesses to ensure they sought appropriate medical care.

“I take this opportunity to reassure the community that our hospitals remain safe for them to visit.”

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there had now been more than 100 outbreaks across the state and acknowledged there were risks with schools.

“Certainly the Al-Taqwa outbreak had a lot of school-aged children.The risks were in school and out of school. And the physical distancing at school wasn’t ideal. I’m absolutely mindful of the risk with kids in school.”

Professor Sutton said it would be important to exclude unwell children as year 11 and 12 students returned to school, to ensure children were temperature tested and try to ensure social distancing within the classroom.

He also singled out aged care facilities as a source of concern.

“We are seeing single cases with staff members in aged care facilities. That’s the workforce that we have to be really mindful of,” he said.

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Powerball Lotto $80 million: Hunt for mystery Victoria winner


Victorians have been urged to check their tickets after one resident took out Australia’s third biggest lottery jackpot of all time last night.

The mystery punter won a staggering $80 million in this week’s Powerball draw – but so far, nobody has come forward to claim the incredible prize.

The player held the only division one winning entry across Australia in Powerball draw 1260, but as the winning entry was not registered to a Tatts Card, lottery officials have no way of contacting them to share the news.

The lucky person shares the title of Australia’s third biggest lottery winner, and it is the second time an $80 million Powerball prize has been won this year, after a Port Macquarie man scored the same amount back in March.

Details of the region where the winning ticket was sold is expected to be revealed this morning if the player has not come forward.

RELATED: Read more lottery news here

The Lott spokeswoman Bronwyn Spencer said the enigmatic winner might be completely unaware they held the only division one winning entry in the Powerball draw.

“Someone in Victoria could be completely unaware that their life has changed forever, scoring the mouth-watering $80 million jackpot in tonight’s Powerball draw,” she said.

“We are encouraging all Victorian players to check their entries online, via the Lott website or app, or if you choose to visit a store, please practice social distancing. We can’t wait to unite this player with their prize.

“If you do realise you’re holding that multimillion-dollar ticket from tonight’s draw, please call us on 131 868 to begin the process of claiming your prize.”

The division one winner is the sixth Powerball division one winner across Australia so far this calendar year.

It comes hot on the heels of Tuesday’s record $50 million Oz Lotto win, which took almost two days to be claimed.

The unnamed winner was eventually revealed to be from North Sydney and she purchased her entry from Inlet Newsagency, Shop 5, 172 Jacobs Drive, Sussex Inlet.

She revealed it had been the first lottery ticket she ever bought – a case of “beginner’s luck” – which she picked up while on holidays in the picturesque coastal town.

She realised she was the mystery winner after eventually checking her entry online.

After confirming the win with lottery officials, the stunned woman declared that she would “definitely keep working” despite her newly bulging bank account.

The record for the largest single winning Powerball entry is $107 million which was won by a Sydney healthcare worker in January 2019.



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Local News - Victoria

Melbourne lockdown checkpoints crowded with motorists, Victoria Police, some unstaffed


Most drivers heading north were through in minutes, with those waved into the queue of five waiting officers asked to first display their drivers licence.

Bar codes on the back of licences were scanned using an electronic device, with drivers then asked about their journey. Many said they were going to the nearby town of Wallan for work. Some showed work passes to back up their story or were asked for the names of job sites.

Police wearing masks and gloves stop drivers at a checkpoint on the Hume Freeway.

Police wearing masks and gloves stop drivers at a checkpoint on the Hume Freeway.Credit:Jason South

A police officer said he had not had to fine or turn anyone around in about 90 minutes of working on the roadblock. Those furthest from their destination were some NSW residents who were travelling to Bondi, the officer said.

“There’s a few roadblocks for them between here and there,” he said. On the Calder Freeway, a similar checkpoint was operating just south of Gisborne. Like on the Hume, it was a quick process for most who were stopped.

Earlier in the morning, a caller to radio station 3AW said the checkpoint was set up but was not stopping any cars.

Wayne said he had no problems travelling to Bendigo for work: “I’ve just been through Gisborne. [At] the Gisborne South exit there’s roadblocks set up – that’s all great – I’m thinking, ‘I’m not going to get away from the ring of steel’. I drive through, they’ve got all the roadblocks up, but nobody’s home.”

There were also roadblocks at Melton, Coldstream, Longwarry, Avalon and Lang Lang.

Motorists faced 45-minute delays for part of the morning on the Geelong-bound lanes of the Princes Freeway near Avalon, callers to ABC Melbourne said.

Police also set up checkpoints on South Road in Bentleigh and Royal Parade in Parkville, asking motorists why they were on the road during the lockdown.



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Quarantine hotel guards pumped up Working for Victoria job scheme numbers


The hotel program and the ministers responsible remain under intense scrutiny after breaches of hygiene protocols and other failings led to some of the outbreaks currently running through Melbourne’s suburbs, which have been linked to hundreds of new coronavirus cases.

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The state government says the Working for Victoria scheme, part of its $2.7 billion pandemic economic survival package, has helped nearly 7500 Victorians whose employment was hit by the pandemic back into work.

The program, launched in April, is designed to place workers in jobs with the state and local governments, and act as a jobs portal for the private sector. Guards employed at quarantine hotels were already on the books of the security companies appointed to the scheme.

The teams of cleaners patrolling Melbourne streets sanitising public infrastructure are the most visible presence of the scheme.

But the scheme also includes the nearly 1274 security guards deployed to the quarantine hotels, according to internal “jobs placement breakdown” lists from the Department of Jobs, Precincts and the Regions, which runs Working for Victoria and was instrumental in setting up the ill-fated hotel isolation program.

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With some of those guards now blamed for the breakout of the virus from the hotels into the Melbourne community, the government insists that it did not hire the guards through Working for Victoria, saying they were nearly all existing employees of the three security companies contracted for the quarantine hotels.

The internal lists go on to disclose that “new roles through government demanding additional services or goods beyond what would otherwise be provided,” without the pandemic are included in Working for Victoria’s numbers.

Mr Pakula’s office confirmed anyone working in a job created as direct result of the COVID crisis might be counted as a Working for Victoria placement.

Mr Pakula’s office has previously confirmed the three firms, Unified Security, MSS and Wilson, were chosen on the basis of their ability to quickly deploy a large number of trained guards to the quarantine hotels.

A spokesman for Mr Pakula said it would allow the judicial inquiry established to investigate the quarantine debacle to do its work.

“A judicial inquiry has been established at arm’s length from government to examine issues relating to hotel quarantine,” the spokesman said.

“We will let the inquiry do its work – our focus remains on containing this virus.”

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Whatever it takes for Victoria to stop the coronavirus, let’s just do it


The Bureau of Meteorology said it would not rain yesterday. It did. The footy tipsters said there was no way Essendon could beat Collingwood. The Bombers won. Believe it or not even the bookies sometimes get it wrong, as do stockbrokers. My mechanic – who is a genius – replaced the wrong part and my old car still stalled at the lights and needed to be fixed twice.

It is an imperfect world. Not everything goes the way it should. Even experts get it wrong. The Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton has been at the forefront of criticism since the first days of the pandemic. His measures were too severe, said his critics. The business community were furious – his advice “ignored the commercial reality” was their complaint. For weeks he resisted their urging to relax the restrictions, and despite his “scaredy cat” approach, Victoria now has what suspiciously looks like a second wave, albeit not yet of Brazilian or Floridian proportions.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces fresh restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces fresh restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on Tuesday.Credit:Getty Images

Applying the blowtorch to him and his colleagues in the middle of this emergency is not just unhelpful but plain dangerous. He and the team must get on with their job and be provided with every support possible. Just as in the middle of a bushfire emergency, we put out the flames first, ask questions later.

The blame game will happen, and the judicial inquiry under Judge Jennifer Coate is the best forum to interrogate what has gone wrong. She will have the power to search for smoking guns within the bureaucracy, seeking internal memos of advice that were ignored or overlooked, and evidence of contract supervision that was lax, fraudulent or even non-existent. Her work has already started. The document survey and search within the public service and in private providers will deliver a mountain of evidence that will need to be carefully sifted. Anyone from any private security firms been seen buying shredders in large quantities lately? Witnesses will need to be proofed, independent analysis sought. Her $3 million budget may need to be increased even before any public hearings begin.



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AFL moved to desperate measures to keep the season going as Victoria says farewell to football for now


We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when — the beautiful sounds of the late Vera Lynn have been a constant in my mind these past few days.

When I first started listening to football on the radio, there were six games in Melbourne on a Saturday afternoon.

From this weekend there’ll be none at all. The AFL has resorted to desperate measures to continue this unprecedented season with the relocation of all 10 Victorian clubs the latest requirement to keep things going.

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In fairness, these are desperate times for all major sporting codes, codes dependent on lucrative television deals to sustain them.

The AFL should be commended for its ability to navigate an almost impossible fixturing scenario but it’s running out of options.

AFL fixture boss Travis Auld told ABC Grandstand the league has guaranteed Victorian clubs they’ll return home after round nine regardless of whether border restrictions have eased.

“I think you’d look at a bye or a split round of some sort to find your way through that,” he said.

“We’ll start looking at round eight and nine now and hopefully in the next week or so we’ll release those… but we’re certainly open-minded to what it might look like after this little batch of five games.

“If it means we need to give the competition a week off or those teams in Victoria a week off then that’s what we’ll do in order to meet our commitment.”

2020 delivers another footy blow with Rowell injury

Football is all about taking your chances. This past weekend was one to enjoy games in Victoria while we could and driving down the highway to Geelong on Saturday brought a genuine sense of excitement.

There was the lure of seeing two champions, Gary Ablett and Joel Selwood, chalk up rare football milestones, but most enticing was the prospect of watching a potential champion in the flesh for the first time.

A young AFL player with his arm in a sling stands next to a teammate after a game.
A shoulder injury to young gun Matt Rowell robbed the AFL of one of its few good-news stories this season.(AAP: Dylan Burns)

The hype surrounding Matt Rowell’s AFL arrival has been almost unprecedented.

In his first few games, he’d beaten some of the best midfielders in the competition and helped the perennially struggling Gold Coast Suns to three early wins in the feel-good story of the season.

Sadly, 2020 is not the feel-good year. 2020 is a year when the things we enjoy have been all too often taken away.

In a football sense, Saturday was particularly nasty — even by the lofty standards of 2020. When Rowell’s day at Kardinia Park ended prematurely due to a dislocated shoulder, the year from hell had delivered yet another uppercut.

Rowell’s competitive instincts and desire to continue playing were obvious, but the grimace and drooping right arm said otherwise.

Gold Coast played admirably despite the loss of their rising star and although they faded in the final term, the Suns lost few admirers with their performance.

A grimacing AFL player holds his shoulder in pain as he is helped from the ground after an injury.
Matt Rowell’s shoulder injury raised bad memories for Suns fans who recall Gary Ablett’s season-ender in 2014.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

I loved the grace of Gary Ablett to seek out Rowell in the aftermath of the contest. Ablett’s own shoulder injury in 2014 was a fork in the road moment for the Suns and almost certainly cost them a spot in the finals.

Like his on-field antics over a decorated 19-season career, consoling Rowell was all class.

Lions running free in top form

An AFL player handballs the ball as a defender tries to grab him from behind.
Hugh McCluggage (L) is emerging as an important player for the Lions.(AAP: Darren England)

Hours after the Suns’ 37-point loss to Geelong, Brisbane made a statement beating Port Adelaide by the same margin.

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The Lions inflicted a first loss on the Power and continue to deliver some of the most appealing football of any side in the competition. Chris Fagan’s side plays with a pure and entertaining style providing maximum enjoyment for their fans and the neutral as well.

Critically, the players enjoy it too. They approach the game with a move-it-fast mentality, bring controlled aggression and play with a freedom that’s been sadly strangled out of some other sides.

It’s likely after five rounds Lachie Neale is leading the Brownlow Medal but Brisbane’s midfield is the sum of all its parts.

Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry are emerging stars in their own right, while Jarryd Lyons and Mitch Robinson bring both experience and unflinching commitment to the contest.

The Lions also benefit from a diverse range of goal-kicking options easing the pressure on their two most prominent forwards Charlie Cameron and Eric Hipwood, whose inaccurate set-shot kicking remains his Achilles heel.

While Brisbane has clearly enjoyed a bit of home-cooking since football resumed, this is a tight and happy group — one I’d expect to relish the challenge beyond the Queensland border as they head to New South Wales to face the Cats and Giants.

Magpies in real mess after horror week

Collingwood will also play in Sydney this round before taking up a temporary residence in Western Australia. The Magpies had established their credentials as a premiership contender but recent events, on and off the field, threaten to place their season in jeopardy.

Jeremy Howe’s knee injury was an awful accompaniment to the club’s narrow round-four loss to Greater Western Sydney, while Steele Sidebottom will miss another three games due to his mind-boggling breach of player protocols.

As Collingwood fans digested a disappointing loss to arch-rival Essendon on Friday night, news came through on Saturday that star player Jordan De Goey had been charged with indecent assault.

The club has confirmed De Goey will miss this week’s match with Hawthorn before joining his teammates in Perth.

This convergence of negative streams comes as the club announces an independent investigation into claims Heritier Lumumba was racially vilified during his playing days with the Magpies.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley has a huge task ahead of him to channel his players’ focus. Maybe life in a hub will come as a blessing and help block out the noise. As the children’s author Frank Muir wrote, What a Mess.



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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.

RELATED

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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Australian News

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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Local News - Victoria

More suburbs in lockdown, large cluster in public housing towers as Victoria records 108 new coronavirus cases


The “hard lockdown” – the most severe restriction imposed so far – will mean that all residents in the towers will be confined to their apartments and will be tested for the virus.

“There will be no one going in. And no one will be allowed out,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

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“This represents a challenge we’ve not yet encountered. This is not like an outbreak spread across multiple homes or multiple suburbs.

“The close confines and the shared community spaces within these large apartment blocks means this virus can spread like wildfire.”

The increase of 108 cases is close to Victoria’s highest-ever daily total, when 111 were recorded on March 28 and comes after the state recorded 66 new infections on Friday, 77 on Thursday and 73 on Wednesday.

Dr Annaliese van Diemen, Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer, said more cases were being linked to the public housing cluster.

“I expect it will be up to 30 by the end of the day,” she said.

Police outside the Flemington public housing towers which were placed under 'hard lockdown' at 4pm on Saturday.

Police outside the Flemington public housing towers which were placed under ‘hard lockdown’ at 4pm on Saturday.Credit:Ashleigh McMillan

Some of Victoria’s most vulnerable people live in the nine towers, and Housing Minister Richard Wynne said they would be offered mental health and drug and alcohol support. Food and care packages will also be delivered to residents.

“They [the towers] are characterised by having common lifts and common walkways. We believe they present an acute challenge going forward,” Minister Wynne said.

Mr Andrews said he did not expect the entire state to have to return to lockdown, if residents followed social distancing guidelines and existing restrictions.

“We cannot do it on our own. We need people to take this seriously. We need people to do the right thing,” he said.

“All it takes is one, one person doing the wrong thing, and this can potentially get away from you.

The concerns were raised by senior players in the hotel quarantine system, who spoke to The Age on the condition of anonymity as they did not have authorisation to speak publicly about the program and their employment could be jeopardised if their identities were revealed.

Two Kmart stores were closed on Saturday for deep cleaning after staff members tested positive for the virus.

A sign outside Kmart’s Brunswick store at Barkly Square shopping centre thanked customers for their understanding and cooperation, while the Footscray store was also closed.

A spokesman said the two cases were unrelated.

A notice posted on the security shutters at Kmart, Barkly Square in Brunswick on Saturday morning.

A notice posted on the security shutters at Kmart, Barkly Square in Brunswick on Saturday morning.

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Overseas arrivals capped as cases spike in Victoria


No more than 450 people will be allowed to enter Sydney after landing from an overseas flight each day under new caps that come into effect at midnight on Saturday.

The new caps, granted by the Federal Government, will limit incoming overseas flights to no more than 50 people per plane, and a maximum of 450 each day.

They were brought into effect after Victoria and Queensland announced they would be charging passengers for their hotel stay, causing many would-be travellers to redirect themselves to NSW for their mandatory two-week quarantine.

“It is crucial that the volume of returning passengers not overrun the capacity of NSW Health to meet and assess every international passenger at Sydney Airport and not exhaust Health, Police and ADF resources to manage our quarantine hotels,” NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

Travellers planning to return to Australia via Sydney have been encouraged to check their flights with the airline, signalling potential flight changes or cancellations for some passengers.

NSW Health have ramped up testing during hotel quarantine stays, with returned travellers now undergoing a coronavirus swab on Day 2 and Day 10 of their 14-day quarantine.

Virus numbers have remained low in NSW, but have spiked in Victoria as a result of mismanaged quarantine, forcing some Melbourne suburbs to return to lockdown.

On Saturday, the state announced 108 new cases, the second-highest level since the pandemic began.

Travellers from those postcodes have been banned from NSW, and face an $11,000 fine or six months jail if they try to enter the state.

Checkpoints have been established at airports, train stations and police on highways and byways have been encouraged to check the origin of Victorian number plates to ensure they are not from the locked-down communities.

Screening is also operating on domestic flights and interstate trains originating in Melbourne.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has requested no more flights from overseas land at Melbourne until the outbreak is under control, and has been granted an exemption until July 14.



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