State ‘essentially in stage 4’: Premier

Victoria is effectively moving into stage four restrictions, Premier Daniel Andrews announced as he outlined the state’s worst day since the start of the pandemic.

Face masks will be mandatory across the state from midnight on Sunday and residents in six local government areas in the Geelong region will be barred from having visitors in their homes or visiting the homes of others from midnight on Thursday. Previously, face masks and rules around visitor restriction were in effect only in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.

Victoria recorded 723 new coronavirus cases and 13 deaths overnight, the state’s highest single-day total since the start of the pandemic, the premier announced this morning, with frustration bubbling over on many fronts.

The resourcing of the state’s public health unit was described as one of the worst in the country and Victorian schools were complaining about a lack of information from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), with some saying they had been waiting more than a week for guidance after recording a positive case.

In other eastern states, the COVID infection rate was also moving in a disturbing direction. In New South Wales, 19 new cases were reported this morning and four Sydney schools have closed after being connected to coronavirus cases.

Sydney think tank, the Committee for Sydney, is urging the NSW government to make face masks mandatory in the city to limit the need for a second lockdown and more economic disruption.

“A requirement to wear masks could be an essential tool for reducing community transmission and allowing Sydney to avoid the fate of Melbourne,” said Committee for Sydney chief executive Gabriel Metcalf.

“No-one likes to wear masks, but we are all going to have to make some sacrifices to get through this pandemic. Wearing masks in public indoor spaces is annoying, but it does not ask much of us.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and chief health officer Kerry Chant have encouraged but not mandated the use of masks.

Queensland has six new cases and announced it would be closing its borders to all Sydneysiders from Saturday and there are health alerts for 11 sites in Brisbane after two women who travelled to Queensland from Melbourne via Sydney tested positive eight days after their return. A close contact of the pair has also tested positive.

It had been thought that infection numbers in Victoria were moving in the right direction, despite clusters in aged care facilities and meat works, but today’s figures were sobering.

Mr Andrews said the new mask rules would be challenging, but were necessary to curb the state’s second wave.

“It’s inconvenient, it’s challenging, but it’s essentially stage four for Melbourne, and it’s something we can do in regional Victoria without causing significant economic cost, but getting a really significant public health benefit,” he said.

He issued a blunt summation of people refusing to follow the rules around masks.

“Why give these people any more air time?” he said.

“Seriously, this is not about human rights, this is about human life.

“This is not about some obscure nonsense you’ve read on a website. There are rules, there are laws in place. And everyone should follow them.”

While metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire were past the halfway mark of six-week stay-at-home orders, Mr Andrews said it was impossible to say whether these would be extended.

“The timing for restrictions will be based on data,” he said. “These numbers are far too high. If it were next Sunday, this Sunday for instance, that we were due to open up again, the answer would be no.”

Referring to the latest figures, he said 312 people with infections were in hospital and 34 were in intensive care.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he supports the extension of coronavirus restrictions into regional Victoria, adding that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee was currently meeting to discuss the situation.

“We have now been in this lockdown for some weeks, and we are not getting the results we would hope for,” he said in Canberra this morning. “And as a result the further measures that are taken are certainly necessary.

“They will come at an impact to the economy, we understand that. But, equally, not containing these outbreaks will have that effect also.”

Are you on board with face masks? Would you like to see tougher penalties for those who don’t wear masks and don’t have a good medical reason?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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