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Victoria has recorded 216 new coronavirus cases overnight, while another Victorian has died due to the virus.
Alf Jordan, 90, died in hospital on Friday morning after falling ill at a Werribee nursing home.
He was diagnosed with coronavirus just three days before his death.
Thirty of the new cases are linked to known outbreaks, while the state’s chief health officer flagged that there had been more than 100 “cumulative outbreaks” since the pandemic began.
There are currently 49 Victorians in hospital due to coronavirus, with 15 in intensive care.
There are 1249 active cases of coronavirus in Victoria, with 535 of those acquired through community transmission.
The Melbourne local government area has 203 active cases, the most in the state.
The Hume area has 176, while Wyndham has 175.
The Premier said the effects of the lockdown wouldn’t be reflected in case numbers until next week and the following week.
“That’s the nature of how this virus moves,” Daniel Andrews said.
“Having driven in on the Monash Freeway from my home this morning, it is very, very noticeable that there is but a fraction of the traffic on the roads.”
The state’s chief health officer said data similarly showed a reduction in traffic.
“(Mobility data) is showing a very substantial decrease in people’s mobility,” Professor Brett Sutton said.
“We don’t know absolutely if people are meeting someone else, but you can get information from Google.
“In terms of driving and pedestrians, that gives you an idea of how much people are out and about and how much time in their home.
“That’s all looking good.”
Only 30 of today’s cases were linked to known outbreaks, with the other 186 under investigation.
“Essentially we’ve got over 100 cumulative outbreaks now, so it’s very difficult to speak to the 30 cases with each and every one of those outbreaks, but we are seeing single cases with staff members in aged care facilities,” Professor Sutton said.
Mr Andrews said there were still a large number of cases identified in hotspot suburbs.
“We’re seeing significant numbers out of the northwestern suburbs, but it’s in other parts of Melbourne,” he said.
“I wouldn’t want anyone in Melbourne to think this isn’t relevant to you.
“It is in every part of Melbourne, some at very low levels but it won’t be at low levels for long if people don’t follow the rules.”
Prof Sutton said residents of the Alfred Street tower would be locked down for another week in order to fulfil the 14-day quarantine period.
In tomorrow’s Sunday Herald Sun, get your COVID-19 pullout fact sheet to keep your family safe during the pandemic
FREE KINDER FOR FAMILIES IN LOCKDOWN
Kindergarten will be free for term 3 across locked down COVID-19 suburbs and half price in regional Victoria.
The State Government will foot the bill for Melbourne and Mitchell Shire parents, meaning 15-hours of four year old kinder free — saving families up to $550 for the term.
Families in all other areas will also get heavily discounted access to programs.
The announcement aims to cut costs for families during the second lockdown of the coronavirus crisis, ensure children continue their early education and keep childhood workers in jobs.
It comes after attendance at some Victorian kindergartens plummeted to as little as 10 per cent during the first wave of the pandemic.
Community Child Care Association executive director Julie Price said the funding would ensure cost did not become a barrier to children’s attendance.
“The offer of free kinder is to support families to continue to send their children and to support those services to continue to employ teachers and educators who offer high quality care,” she said.
The funding — targeted at sessional kindergartens, not long daycare providers — comes as the Federal Government turned the tap off the childcare subsidy on Friday.
Kindergartens are joint-funded by State and Federal governments and families.
However, the Andrews Government will up its contribution to $460 for every eligible child across locked down Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, and $230 for unrestricted areas, meaning parents will be free from charges.
Education Minister James Merlino said the funding would ensure sessional kindergartens “stay financially viable”.
“We are making sure kindergartens across metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire can support children to continue attending kinder and receive a vital early childhood education during this difficult period, without parents worrying about fees,” he said.
“Our kinder teachers, educators and other staff are doing an outstanding job ensuring all Victorian children continue to get early childhood education during this challenging period.”
Only eligible not-for-profit providers would be funded.
Any kindergartens that receive Jobkeeper payments for their staff would be asked to contribute the parents’ fee.
AGED CARE STAFF MEMBERS AMONG OUTBREAKS
While a full breakdown of cases is expected later today, Prof Sutton said there has been a total of more than 100 outbreaks in Victoria since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s very difficult to speak to the 30 cases with each and every one of those outbreaks, but we are seeing single cases with staff members in aged care facilities,” he said.
“That’s the workforce that we have to be really mindful of.
“The response in each and every aged care facility is to go into lockdown for those residents and all staff to be tested and for them to go into quarantine period of 14 days and to have that testing before that quarantine is lifted for all residents and staff members.
“But it flags the dangers in aged care facilities.
“Victoria had more outbreaks there than any jurisdiction, but we haven’t had an aged care facility that has had a substantial outbreak.
“I think that’s in large part because we had the early robust response in terms of testing everyone and going into lockdown.
“We are more cases in aged care facilities and we need to keep up with that in terms of making sure we’re doing all the testing and quarantining everyone and transferring residents who are positive to hospital as required.”
VICTORIANS ALREADY EMBRACING FACE MASKS
Mr Andrews said it appeared Victorians were already embracing the suggestion they should wear face masks in public.
“It’s quite noticeable that many more people are wearing masks now, and I’m grateful to them,” he said.
“We got to be clear about this. It’s not compulsory, but where you are out for a lawful purpose and you believe you may not be able to maintain that 1.5 metre distance from other people, then through an abundance of caution, and it’s a low-cost, high reward.
“No mask is foolproof, but every contribution helps, and I’m very grateful to think that many more Victorians are wearing masks.
“This is going to be a feature of our response for a very long time.
“Part of opening may well be, it’s almost certain, that the wearing of masks again where you can’t distance could well be a really important feature of the next part of that pandemic response.”
The Premier said every resident in the Alfred Street public housing block in North Melbourne was being treated as if they had coronavirus.
“Everyone in the tower is essentially being treated for the purposes of the public health response as if they have the virus,” he said.
“There are a number of people who do in fact have it, and there’s been a massive testing program to get us to that point.
“But then, because of shared surfaces, and because for instance we got cases on different floors that seemingly had no contact with each other – they are not part of a friendship group or family – that’s where the public health team came back to us really clearly and said, look, we have to treat the entire tower as if everybody is a close contact of someone who has got it and therefore at risk of not only symptoms now but later on developing this virus.
“There will be some additional cases.”
Prof Sutton said residents in hot spot areas were encouraged to wear masks.
“Certainly we would make an emphasis in those hot spots areas for the most vulnerable individuals,” he said.
“The very elderly, those with pre-existing chronic conditions. They are the ones that are very strong recommending.
“But it’s a recommendation for everyone in Metro Melbourne and Mitchell Shire at the moment.”
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the government was aiming to make testing as accessible as possible for locked down residents.
“Ultimately our ambition here is to provide a testing site to everyone within 10km of their home within metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire,” she said.
RETURN TO SCHOOL PLANNED FOR VCE STUDENTS
While the outbreak at Al-Taqwa College in Truganina remains the largest cluster in the state, Prof Sutton confirmed VCE students across the state would be returning to the classroom when the school term resumes.
“Certainly the Al-Taqwa outbreak had a number of schoolchildren,” he said.
“The risks there were both in school and out of school, and the physical distancing that was occurring at school was not ideal.
“So I’m absolutely mindful of the risk with kids in school.
“In a school setting we know that young children are much less likely to transmit.
“But as there is a return for Year 11 and 12 students, that will be reinforced very, very strongly by the Department of Education, the exclusion of unwell children, the temperature testing of kids and, to the extent that it is feasible, the distancing of kids within the classroom.”
Mr Andrews said families would not be penalised if they chose not to return to face-to-face learning.
“There will be a number of year 11 and 12s because of underlying health issues or the vulnerability of someone in their house, for instance, they won’t be going to school,” he said,
“It will be a small number. We will look to support them as best we possibly can.”
Mr Andrews said feedback from parents whose children attended special schools was key in deciding to keep them open.
“On specialist schools, it’s deemed to be of a lower risk and it’s also deemed to be from listening to parents, it’s really tough, bordering on completely impractical, to be trying to run homeschooling for those kids, so it’s about listening and trying to have a policy response that meets the needs of the people who know and understand those challenges best,” he said.
WERRIBEE AGED CARE FACILITY ON HIGH ALERT AFTER FOUR CASES
Concerns are mounting for residents of an aged care home in Werribee after four staff at the facility were diagnosed with coronavirus this week.
Glendale Aged Care is on high alert as it awaits more test results from residents and staff.
Earlier this week, a 90-year-old resident at the facility was infected with the virus but they are not believed to have been a close contact of the four staff who have now tested positive.
Authorities are investigating whether the virus was spread to workers while they were at the aged care home or if it is linked to other sources.
All residents are self-isolating in their rooms and the facility is undergoing a deep clean as officials work to limit any further spread.
POLICE STATION CLOSED AFTER OFFICER TESTS POSITIVE
Frankston police station has been closed and several officers are self-isolating after a police officer tested positive to coronavirus.
The constable was on-duty when he became unwell on Tuesday.
He underwent a COVID-19 test and was self-isolating when the results came back positive.
Authorities are working to determine if the officer had contact with members of the public while contagious.
Several police officers who had spent time with him are self-isolating as they await COVID-19 test results.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the station was immediately closed and will undergo a professional deep cleaning before reopening.
“Contact tracing is currently underway to establish how many Victoria Police officers had contact with the infected officer during the past 14 days,” she said.
“The member had been on leave and only returned to work on July 6.”
The Herald Sun has been told the officer had been patrolling the Frankston area in a car on Monday and Tuesday.
Infection investigators are working to determine how he contracted the virus and will notify members of the public who need to be tested.
“While the station is closed, local area service delivery will not be impacted,” the police spokeswoman said.
“Victoria Police’s priority first and foremost is to ensure the safety of its people and the community.”
– Aneeka Simonis
SCHOOLS PREPARE FOR RETURN TO REMOTE LEARNING
It comes as most Melbourne students look set to resume remote learning even after extended school holidays due to this week’s coronavirus case spike.
Preparations are being made to return to online teaching from July 20, with discussions around whether teachers would work from home or schools under a second wave of lockdowns.
While there is still a chance that metropolitan and Mitchell Shire students — other than those in year 11 and 12 — will return to classrooms on July 20, the news that there were 288 extra COVID-19 cases yesterday makes that scenario more unlikely.
Authorities have said schools are relatively safe environments for young people due to the fact few have had serious health concerns from COVID-19.
However, the spread of the virus through community transmission has raised the alarm about people moving around suburbs to get to school, including via public transport.
And the Herald Sun can reveal that children and teens accounted for more than a quarter of new coronavirus cases in the past fortnight, placing more pressure on back-to-school plans.
The alarming surge in children with COVID-19 has been uncovered via an exclusive analysis of Department of Health and Human Services data, which revealed that 305 Victorian kids aged 0-19 have been diagnosed since June 24.
The group represents 25.1 per cent of the 1214 new cases recorded in the 15-day period.
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute epidemiologist George Patton said the “pattern of findings is absolutely consistent with what you would expect to see if there were school-based spread”.
Professor Patton said the six-week lockdown is an opportunity to review how transmission has been happening and “why we are seeing this rise in the adolescent years”.
Authorities are also looking closely at one of the state’s biggest clusters — connected to Al-Taqwa College in Melbourne’s west — given that 58 students are among the 158 people in that cohort.
It is unclear how many students may have contracted the virus at school, but the Department of Health advised anyone who had been at the school between June 19 and June 26 to quarantine.
That school, which is Islamic and run independently, won’t open its doors at the beginning of Term 3.
Victoria’s chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton said for all other Melbourne schools to return to face-to-face learning on schedule the state would “need to see a turnaround” in COVID-19 numbers.
Premier Daniel Andrews has already announced an extra week of holidays, meaning schools can prepare for what is now a likely return to online learning.
Prof Sutton said a return to face-to-face learning was not “unthinkable”, but there would need to be “a sufficient suppression of community transmission” for all students to head back.
Private schools are coming up with their own plans, with some returning to distance education for younger pupils next week while having VCE students on-site.
Regional schools will return for term 3 as usual on Monday.
Princes Hill Secondary College year 7 student, Isobel, 12, said she didn’t want to learning from home again but “Dan Andrews must have a good reason for closing schools”.
“The first time around learning at home just got boring, because it was the same thing over and over again,” she said.
“I think the teachers are doing the best they can – it’s not easy for them or for us.”
Prof Sutton said any student or staff member with “the mildest of illness” should not attend schools, while new mandatory temperature checks will weed out anyone who was sick.
“That temperature screening is not just checking for temperatures, it is a prompt for all students that they shouldn’t be turning up if they have symptoms — they will be sent home,” Prof Sutton said.
Professor Patton said that a speedy return to classroom learning was crucial for students’ educational outcomes and the mental health of young people and parents, but only when safe to do so.
“WHO health experts have been talking not just about droplet spread, but about airborne spread, which has huge implications if that is proving to be the case for even things like ventilation systems within schools,” he said.
“All this has got to be thought through carefully so kids, teachers and administrators understand and I just don’t know the extent to which those guidelines have been put in place.”
“If you look at Finland – and they have done really well – they had a dedicated communication strategy with young people.
“It is thinking about the messages that are likely to be effective with young people. It is not about protecting Grandma; it is about understanding the devastating effect that this pandemic is going to have on their lives.
“If we don’t get this under control, they will be the ones that will be the biggest losers in the long term.”