Victorian premier Daniel Andrews in a mask: a triptych.
Daniel Andrews adjusts his face mask during a press conference in Melbourne on Tuesday. Photograph: James Ross/AAP
Daniel Andrews looks on during a press conference in Melbourne, on Tuesday. If you’re not talking, the mask remains on. Photograph: James Ross/AAP
See how easy it is to keep your facemask on and not, for argument’s sake, remove your mask when you have Covid-19 in order to wave from the White House balcony? Photograph: James Ross/AAP
A survey by political lobbyists Newgate has found that 67% of respondents want state borders reopened by Christmas.
Victorian and NSW respondents were most supportive of reopening state borders, while most respondents from Western Australia – no surprise – would prefer their borders remain shut.
More than two-thirds of Australians want state borders reopened by Christmas, as confidence in the public health response to coronavirus continues to increase.
Testing numbers are lower which is worrying health authorities. Photograph: James Ross/EPA
More from AAP:
Newgate’s survey continues to show a steady rise in community confidence about easing coronavirus restrictions.
There has been a significant increase in the proportion of people who agree governments are taking appropriate measures to protect people’s health.
But Victorians remain least likely to agree restrictions are fair and reasonable, with discontent becoming more obvious in the past week.
Economic recovery has firmed as the number one concern of Australians, with worries about the coronavirus tracking downward to its lowest level since May, before the second wave.
A growing majority of people believe the spread of the virus will get better in coming months.
Predictions for the economy continue to improve, while concerns about job security fall.
Control of community transmission is the key condition for NSW residents being able to enter Queensland from 1 November.
People in regional Victoria could be allowed to travel to the Northern Territory from 2 November if their case numbers remain low.
But while Australia continues to recorded very few new cases, low test numbers are a concern.
at 3.42am BST
Still at the Coalition joint party room meeting, Scott Morrison has welcomed the improved situation on the ground in Victoria.
“The light is getting a little brighter,” the prime minister said. He paid tribute to the resilience of Australians, particularly in Victoria.
Morrison pointed to a paper published by the Medical Journal of Australia this week showing Australia could have had more than 16,300 additional deaths during the first wave if the outbreak had been similar to that in England and Wales.
Let’s check back in on the US, which miraculously continues to exist.
The Guardian’s world affairs editor, Julian Borger, has written that US president Donald Trump’s decision to leave hospital prematurely and “theatrically pull off his mask on the White House balcony” shows Trump’s desperation and “gives some measure of how dangerous the next four weeks will be”.
US president Donald Trump ‘theatrically’ takes off his mask after returning to the White House. Photograph: Ken Cedeno/EPA
Many students of Trump’s life and career have warned that he would be prepared to sacrifice anyone – even those closest to him – to spare himself the humiliation of a one-term presidency, but even they surely could not have anticipated how literal that sacrifice would be.
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Scott Morrison says budget will bring ‘confidence, assurance and hope’
Scott Morrison has said he hopes tonight’s budget gives “confidence, assurance and hope to Australians” as the country seeks to rebuild from the current economic crisis.
Speaking to his Coalition colleagues at a party room meeting this morning, the prime minister also took pot shots at the former Labor government’s stimulus spending, even though the forthcoming budget is set to unveil much higher debt and deficit levels.
The government recently revamped its fiscal strategy to acknowledge the need for big spending to prop up the economy until unemployment is comfortably back below 6% – a big shift from the Coalition’s previous rhetoric about debt and deficit disaster under the former Labor government.
With some Coalition backbenchers likely to be uneasy about the budget outlook, Morrison conceded the measures to be announced tonight would be “extraordinary” but he insisted the government was sticking to its principles that any fiscal support be temporary, targeted and proportionate.
Morrison said the world had never seen a recession of this scale at a time when the economy had become so globally interconnected. He told his colleagues the world faced a 4.5% decline in the economy, compared with 0.1% at time of global financial crisis – an apparent attempt to play down the challenges faced by the Rudd government in 2008. Australia avoided a recession during the GFC.
Morrison took the opportunity to reprise staples of the Coalition’s criticisms of Labor-era stimulus, claiming that despite the scale of investment the current government had not seen “the type of waste” exemplified by programs such as school halls and cash for clunkers.
Morrison said he wanted to empower Australians to plan for the future. He said the cabinet’s expenditure review committee had met 50 times this year, compared with 25 last year, to tackle the current challenges.
During the discussion portion of the meeting, after several Coalition backbenchers raised concern over the pressures faced by travel agents, Morrison said the recession was devastating and causing a “distressing” time for many people. He is understood to have told the meeting that the government could “cushion the blow but can’t eliminate it” for all businesses.
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The federal education minister, Dan Tehan, has thanked the Centre Alliance for supporting the university legislation.
In a statement, he said:
The job-ready graduates legislation will provide more university places for Australian students, make it cheaper to study in areas of expected job growth and provide more funding and support to regional students and universities. I want to thank the Senate crossbench for their good faith negotiations. I look forward to continuing to work with the crossbench to secure passage of the legislation.
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Finally, reporters asked a number of questions about whether people who appeared to breach health directions would be fined.
The Butcher Club outbreak has been traced back to an employee who went to work when sick.
The Kilmore outbreak is linked to a person who had permission to travel to regional areas from Melbourne, but then dined in at a cafe – despite the rules being that people who travel from stage four restriction areas carry stage four restrictions with them. That means that if you can’t dine-in in Melbourne, you can’t travel from Melbourne and dine-in elsewhere, even if you have permission to be there.
Andrews reiterated that he did not want a fear of being fined to stand in the way of people being honest with contact tracers about their movements and when symptoms developed.
No fine could be worth as much as accurate information from anyone who has got this. That’s where the real gold is. That’s the fortune. That’s worth so much. That gets us open.
Andrews was asked if he had any update to make about the possible lifting of the 5km rule – there is a push to have it lifted by the AFL grand final weekend, which is 24 October.
I don’t want to put a downer on all of these things but I’ll say – look at the numbers today. This is by no means over. We’re very, very close. We’re very close. But I can’t, in any sense of certainty, I can’t tell people where we’re going to be on the 17th, 18th, 19th of October, let alone the 23rd.
That’s why we’ve all got to make the right choices. I don’t want to be focusing too much on any one person. But you know, we have a person who had symptoms and went to work. We don’t want that to happen.
He reiterated that there are government support payments available for people who do not have sick leave, to allow them to stay at home and get tested.
It’s not through a sense of blame, it’s just through a sense of– these are the challenges that we face.
Andrews said the public health decisions would be made not just on the daily case numbers but on where they are coming from – if they are connected outbreaks, for example.
It is a numbers game. But it’s also a qualitative thing. You’ve got to look at what sits behind those numbers and that’s why there’s such a big team of people doing that contact tracing, so we’ve got the most complete picture. I think that we have some graphics we’ll share with you later today about how it spread from the outer south-east of Melbourne all the way up to the north-east of Victoria, which gives you a sense of what we’re up against.
He then clarified that there are not actually any active cases reported in northeast Victoria, it is just that the person with the virus who travelled to Kilmore also travelled to Benella. Again, on a permit. Close contacts in Benella are now being tested.
Andrews said he was not considering instituting a local lockdown in Kilmore, and also suggested that it might not work because permitted workers like police and paramedics would still move around the region.
They might live there but work somewhere else. All of that permitted movement, because that the set of rules that we have, that would still happen. Unless you really were going to do a lockdown, which was no one leaves their home for any reason, or very, very limited reasons, and even then, the movement could only be within Kilmore, for instance. So that’s not on the cards.
I am slightly confused about how the above could not be applied to any lockdown.
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Daniel Andrews said that Victoria’s contact tracing team was calling 80% of positive cases within four hours – the national benchmark is 24 hours.
So I wouldn’t want anyone to think that the outbreak management response at Chadstone, Kilmore and Colac, in the Latrobe Valley, in Hallam, have been anything other than first rate, because they have been. They’ve been absolutely first rate and I want to thank every single person involved in that.
Twenty-eight seems a lot and it is. But 28 can easily be 280 and it isn’t. So the group to thank today, I think above all else, are all of those people in Kilmore who are going and getting tested. Thank you very much for doing that. And anybody in Kilmore who believes they’ve been anywhere near that site, or even if they don’t believe that they have, better safe than sorry. It’s asymptomatic testing for a reason and you can go and get tested and the results will be literally like gold for us.
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Sutton said anyone in Kilmore who wants to get a Covid test can get one, and anyone who has any form of symptoms, even quite mild, should get them. There is also asymptomatic testing available for all staff at Chadstone, and symptomatic testing in the carpark.
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Sutton has been asked a series of questions about the contact tracing methods used, and whether we should do what NSW did in outbreaks like the Crossroads Hotel, where anyone who was tangentially near the pub on specific days was told to preemptively self-isolate.
Sutton says people should keep apart from others and get a test if needed, but says it is not the a mirror case.
But it is not a Crossroads Hotel, prospectively following close contacts in the same way. If we had a Crossroads Hotel, I’m sure that weed we’d manage it in much the same way as New South Wales.
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Sutton ‘really can’t say’ if Melbourne will open on 19 October
Sutton then expressed a bit more trepidation about the ability of Melbourne to get to the next stage of eased restrictions on the schedule set out 10 days ago.
I never know what tomorrow will bring, you know. We can get to a point where there are significant numbers of cases every day, and it drops off dramatically because they’re all being chased up. Those other close contacts have been contained and then you suddenly see a decrease in numbers. So you know, I really can’t say.
Q: Should people in Melbourne prepare for the possibility that things will not open up further on 19 October as previously indicated?
We all have to be prepared for whatever may come. And it’s not easy. No question. As I say, I watch these numbers as closely as anyone in the state. And we all want to get to a point where we’re satisfied that we know we’ll go to the next step, but absolutely no one wants us to fail in this space. Me more than anyone. So we just have to bear that in mind, and we have to take that next step at an appropriate time when it is safe and when it’s steady.
That’s probably the only answer Sutton could give but it’s a bit of a deflated balloon.
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Seven of the 15 cases reported yesterday are listed as still being under investigation, but Sutton said that’s not a concern.
They come in right up until midnight and beyond. So the information that we can give in the morning are the ones that is can be investigated and linked without necessarily the phone call from 5am when the team is on to it.
In terms of linking one to an existing outbreak, that’s done through your database. But then it is through today that the interviews will happen and they get resolved within the working day.
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Melbourne ‘may still’ meet its target to open up in mid-October, says Sutton
Asked if this cluster could delay the planned next step in easing restrictions in Melbourne, Sutton said Victoria “may still” meet the target of an average of five cases a day by mid-October.
We’re throwing absolutely everything at it. We can get on top of the outbreaks. We’ve had complex outbreaks before. Every outbreak had its complexities and we do get on top of them. These may well be the very last outbreaks that Victoria sees. I hope that that is the case. And we can get on top of them. The same principles of isolation and quarantine can manage them.
And even though this has gotten to a point where it spread very widely, the recent Frankston outbreak now has control in terms of new cases not emerging. The Hallam outbreak the same. Complex, large, across multiple sites, but ultimately, completely controllable. So as these numbers drive down further and further and they’re going down in aged care in terms of the staff who work there as well, then you’re not getting that new seeding, you’re not having to deal with another outbreak. That’s a point that we’ll absolutely get to five, and it may still well be mid-October.
What about the impact of mystery cases on Melbourne’s ability to reach those targets? One of the requirements is no more than five mystery cases over 14 days.
We’ve had four days in a row with no mystery cases at various times. If we were to have the next four days with no mystery case, we would get to five over a 14-day period, essentially. So it’s not impossible to get to that five over 14 days, but we watch these cases very closely.
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To clarify: Andrews mentioned the virus was travelling to north-east Victoria, but Sutton said there was only one new case in regional Victoria and that was the person in Kilmore.
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There are close contacts at Kilmore because a cafe was identified as a possible transmission site. Asked if there should be a requirement for businesses in regional areas to check licences to make sure people aren’t from Melbourne, Sutton said:
I think that that is a worthy consideration. We don’t want huge administrative burdens for hospitality. But it is … you know, it is an area to explore. But the obligation is absolutely on those who are coming from metropolitan Melbourne not to attend.
The person who went to the cafe in Kilmore was a close contact of someone in the Butcher Club/Chadstone cluster, Sutton says, but did not know they were a close contact when they left the city. They had a permit to travel to Kilmore.
Anyone who is identified as a close contact and is aware of it, needs to quarantine. But I don’t think that that was the case for this individual.
He added, under further questioning:
So that individual, as far as I know, was not aware that they were a close contact at the point of time that they were travelling. So it wasn’t that they were breaking quarantine, it was that they weren’t aware that they were a close contact of a positive case.
There are now two cases linked to Kilmore: a worker at a cafe, and another person. Both are close contacts of the person who travelled to Kilmore, who was a close contact of the Chadstone case.
Sutton said 96% of people tested in connection with both clusters got their test result within 24 hours, and 95% were contacted in that 24 hours.
I think with the small numbers, it’s absolutely everyone, except in those circumstances where they’re literally not picking up the phone.
They are sending out police and ADF to do doorknocks on the same day.
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