A resident from one of the public housing towers in North Melbourne is anxiously awaiting the press conference from premier Daniel Andrews at 4.30pm today, because he said he has no information of when the hard lockdown the towers are subject to will officially end. Residents were told they would move to a similar lockdown as Metro Melbourne once the residents had all been tested and results collected.
He came to Australia from Columbia a few months ago to care for his mother who also lives in the tower, because she has cancer and has undergone chemotherapy. He told me he got a job in a warehouse at Woolworths to support his mother, but he hasn’t been able to go to work due to the lockdown. He said he has had no luck accessing the relief payment offered by the state government to those in the forced lockdown who can’t go to work because of it. He said he is “relaxed” about the need for lockdown but anxious about how to access the payment and other relief offered by the state government.
He said his mother is recovering from her cancer surgery and only able to eat certain foods, but until late on Wednesday all she had been delivered were sugary foods. She finally received meals appropriate for her condition yesterday. He said they would wait by the television for the premier’s announcement.
“We haven’t been told anything about what’s happening to us,” he said. “I ask the police every day, they know nothing. My family and I have tested negative, yet we are told being locked in here is for our own safety. But we now feel like we are at more risk of the virus because we can’t go out and we know there are infected people here.”
Nick Coatsworth says mask use in Melbourne and the Mitchell shire is recommended in situations where you cannot maintain 1.5 metres distance from people.
Masks do not replace social distancing, he says.
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The deputy chief medical officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, is providing a national update. He comments on the letter signed by 200 scientists to the WHO about the potential for Covid-19 to be airborne (that is spread through the air, not through contact or droplets from coughing and sneezing).
He says the primary transmission is through droplet or contact, but it is still being researched.
“The evidence suggests the majority of transmission, the vast majority of transmission, is contact and droplet.”
He says the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee position remains the same, but they will continue to look at the evidence, but the overwhelming evidence for now points to contact and droplet spread.
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The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, will hold a press conference at 4.30pm.
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Calls from Victorians to mental health support services have doubled in the past fortnight as Melburnians re-enter a six-week lockdown, the chief executive of Beyond Blue has said. Victorians now make up half of all calls to the organisation, evidence that residents are under increased strain as Covid-19 case numbers rise.
“What people are contacting us talking about is this sense of frustration and exhaustion,” the chief executive, Georgie Harman, said. “People are feeling incredibly worried and anxious, they’re feeling very overwhelmed.”
Mental health services had already been experiencing extremely high demand during the pandemic. “[These numbers] come off the back of contacts to our support services being 60% higher in April and May compared to the same period in 2019 and then 47% higher in June … so we’re building off a really high basis,” Harman said.
“The reintroduction of stage three restrictions in Victoria [is] just really exacerbating this and I think there is a really low mood and a sense of real uncertainty … There’s a lot of concern, stress, worry, anxiety, and that’s really having a toll on people’s mental health and wellbeing.”
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Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Penny Wong, earlier responded to the government’s announcement on Hong Kong.
Wong said no Hong Kong citizen in Australia should be involuntarily deported, and “all Australians have been deeply disturbed by the developments in Hong Kong, and we want to make sure that we have appropriate arrangements in place”.
She said the government’s visa moves for Hong Kong citizens were far less than what the former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke offered Chinese students after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
“[Scott Morrison] is no Bob Hawke and we confirm that today,” she said.
“It is not clear from the government’s announcement the extent to which these arrangements will be more broadly available to the people of Hong Kong. Family reunion is not clear, there are many people ineligible for the pathways proposed and I would urge the government to clarify this urgently.
“Nevertheless Labor does support what the government has announced today.”
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Victoria ‘much worse’ now than in March, expert says
Prof Rinaldo Bellomo is the director of intensive care research at Austin Health and said because his hospital is outside of hotspot zones, staff there feel prepared and equipped. But he said there was a significant difference between increasing cases at the beginning of the pandemic compared to the increasing cases now, namely that a higher proportion of cases previously came from returned travellers. That meant levels of community transmission were lower previously than they are now.
On 22 March, just before Australia’s national lockdown, there were 67 new cases of Covid-19 cases in Victoria and a total number of 296 cases. Three cases were thought to have been acquired through community transmission. However, 191 cases were announced in Victoria on Tuesday 7 July, the highest increase throughout the pandemic, and all of those were a result of community transmission.
“This is bad,” Bellomo said. “In case someone hasn’t appreciated that, this is serious stuff. I just don’t know how to put it aside from that. Now, hopefully because we’ve locked down that will come down rapidly. But this is much worse, this is not just simply a return to what we had in March.”
He added that he was concerned given the level of community transmission there would be cases among Victoria police, who on Saturday surrounded nine public housing towers in Flemington and North Melbourne en masse without wearing masks. However, police at the scene have been wearing personal protective gear since then.
“I was watching the police surrounding these areas of high viral presence and I just thought about how much they are at risk of becoming infected,” he said. “When they went to those buildings, they were spectacularly exposed with no defences. The risk for Joe Bloggs and Mary Jane walking down the street is much, much greater now than before the previous 22 March lockdown.”
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The state of emergency in WA is extended for another 14 days, but it’s probably going to be extended again after that.
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Western Australia hardens border for Victorians
Western Australia’s health minister, Roger Cook, has announced WA will prevent people who have been in Victoria for the past 14 days from entering the state, except for a very limited number of reasons.
He says there is a 98% reduction in people from eastern states coming to WA already but they’ve decided to go further now.
From midnight tonight, only specific transport workers, and those approved by the chief health officer will be permitted into WA if they’ve been in Victoria for the past 14 days.
Those who have will be required to take a Covid-19 test on day 11 of their entry into WA, or at any time when they have symptoms.
Failure to comply with a test will result in a $5,000 fine.
WA also reported three new cases of coronavirus, all returned travellers.
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Victoria’s public hospitals have been advised to remain at 75% levels of elective surgery as senior doctors warn that there are not enough hospital beds to meet a surge in demand, and that conditions are placing health workers at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19.
Guardian Australia understands work is under way to deliver equipment needed to treat extra coronavirus patients in hospitals, and it is hoped a further 400 ICU and critical care beds can be added throughout the state.
Almost two dozen healthcare workers and patients have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in recent weeks in Victoria, including doctors, nurses and paramedics. During the “first wave” of the virus that prompted a national lockdown in March, non-urgent elective surgery was put on hold to make room for suspected and known Covid-19 patients.
Now, a senior doctor working in one Victorian hospital has told Guardian Australia that “there is no free, or surge bed capacity, at the moment”.
Just yesterday on my shift we had no cubicles in the emergency department and we had patients waiting for 24 hours to go to the ward and doctors were having to see people in waiting rooms again, which is where we were six months ago in the first few weeks in the pandemic,” said the doctor. “We only had three beds available for Covid or suspected Covid patients. That’s scary. The Australian hospital system is always at 100% capacity. There aren’t a lot of spare beds.”
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And on that note, I am going to hand you over to Josh Taylor for the rest of the afternoon.
You have the national Covid-19 update coming in about 30 minutes and, of course, national cabinet is being held tomorrow where you can expect changes to how Australia is accepting Australians returning home. That is going to be challenging – if we stagger flights, put caps on arrivals and charge returning Australians for their own quarantine, we are making it very difficult for our citizens to return to their country. That’s not a change for the better.
I’m taking a few weeks off – my first break since the bushfires – so you’ll be in the exceptionally capable hands of Calla Wahlquist and co for the coming weeks. I’ll be thinking of you, particularly if you are in lockdown, and really hoping we manage to get through these next couple of months with being as least shit as possible.
Thank you for joining me over these past few months (and before), I hope you get some time to yourself in the coming weeks and remember to be gentle to yourself. And as gentle as you can be with others. These are not normal times and we’re all going through it in our own ways.
See you in a few weeks. As always – take care of you.
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The Independent National Security Legislation Monitor has had a look at Australia’s encryption legislation and given his recommendations to the government. The unclassified report makes for interesting reading:
Christian Porter sent out this release:
Attorney general and acting home affairs minister Christian Porter thanked the former Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM), Dr James Renwick CSC SC for the report and his work over the past three years as INSLM.
Dr Renwick completed his term on 30 June.
“This review’s recommendations will be an important consideration for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) which referred the matter to the INSLM in March 2019 as part of its own review of the Assistance and Access Act, due to be completed in September 2020,” the attorney general said.
“Given the PJCIS review, it would be sensible for the government to await the PJCIS findings before responding to the INSLM’s report.
“What is clear however, is that the counter-encryption laws have been critical to helping protect Australia’s national security.
“As the director general of security, Mike Burgess, said in February, these laws were used within 10 days of them coming into effect, helping ASIO “prevent a real risk of injury to Australians”.
“The government will carefully review the report’s recommendations along with the findings from the PJCIS review later this year to ensure our agencies continue to have the most effective and proportionate laws available to them.”
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Not sure who puts mustard on a Bunnings sausage sizzle, but here we are:
BREAKING NEWS – Bunnings sausage sizzles are BACK this weekend in NT & Tasmania!
QLD, NSW, ACT, SA and WA stores will ignite the BBQ later this month. https://t.co/OOXaPGrjFY
July 9, 2020
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Given the Victorian announcement on temperature tests for school students, this article from The Conversation is worth a read:
Recent research indicates that many people who test positive for Covid-19, and especially children, never have any detectable sign of illness, including fever.
… not all patients with symptoms will have a fever, at least on the basis of once-off measurement. Only 31% of patients presenting at New York state hospitals with Covid-19 had fevers.
… Apart from fever screening being unreliable, infrared thermometry poses a risk to thermometer operators who are required to come up close to potentially infected persons. Successfully passing a fever screen can create a false sense of security. And the thermal cameras used for mass screening are costly. So are the personnel required for any fever screening.
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The official announcement, regarding the Hong Kong visas, is out:
Australia and Hong Kong have always shared a close relationship.
Our people-to-people links include close family connections, business ties and shared values. Australia is a favoured destination for people from Hong Kong, and has been for many years.
Australia has a long history of attracting Hong Kong’s best and brightest who have contributed significantly to our economic growth and job creation, and we are committed to ensuring this is further strengthened. That’s why Australia will introduce new measures for students, temporary graduates and skilled workers from Hong Kong who want to live, work and study in Australia.
New visa arrangements will provide further opportunities for Hong Kong passport holders to remain in Australia, with pathways to permanent residency.
They will also attract talent and companies to our nation in order to boost productivity and create further job opportunities for Australians.
Temporary graduate and skilled workers will be offered an additional five years of work rights in Australia on top of the time they’ve already been in Australia, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period.
Students will be eligible for a five-year graduate visa from the conclusion of their studies, with a pathway to permanent residency at the end of that period.
Future Hong Kong applicants for temporary skilled visas will be provided with a five-year visa, based on meeting the updated skills lists and labour market testing requirements.
Existing arrangements will continue to apply for those applicants who study and work in regional areas to help address skills shortages in those areas, with pathways to permanent residency after three years.
There are almost 10,000 existing temporary skilled, temporary graduate and student visa holders in Australia who will be eligible for these special arrangements, with a further 2,500 outside Australia and 1,250 applications on hand.
The government will also enhance efforts to attract businesses from Hong Kong. There are more than 1,000 international companies that have their regional headquarters based in Hong Kong which might consider relocating to Australia. Our government will develop further incentives to attract these companies, particularly where they have a strong potential for future growth and employment of Australians.
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