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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Coles and Woolworths stores in Melbourne are overrun with customers panic-buying ahead of lockdown

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Panic-buying customers have flocked to Coles and Woolworths supermarkets in Melbourne before lockdown measures come into play tomorrow night.

Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, north of the city, will return to stage three lockdown from 11.59pm on Wednesday. 

Shortly after the announcement, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt suggested Victoria’s horror second wave could have been avoided, while an infectious disease expert said the outbreak could ‘definitely’ spread to other parts of the country. 

Despite being allowed to shop during lockdown, large queues of customers were seen outside Melbourne’s supermarkets on Tuesday night as residents stocked up on supplies before six weeks of home confinement. 

‘If anyone in Melbourne is wondering, yes the supermarket is already a terrifying place to be,’ a Twitter post reads. 

Shoppers have been seen queuing outside Melbourne supermarkets (pictured) before lockdown measures come into play on Wednesday night

Shoppers have been seen queuing outside Melbourne supermarkets (pictured) before lockdown measures come into play on Wednesday night

Mounted police are pictured outside housing commission flats in Flemington on Tuesday

Mounted police are pictured outside housing commission flats in Flemington on Tuesday 

‘Melbourne, you remember how to panic shop, so useful,’ another tweet says. 

It comes after Coles and Woolworths removed nearly all buying restrictions at stores across Australia on Tuesday. 

‘We ask that customers continue to buy only what they need and observe all safety and physical distancing measures in our stores,’ a Coles spokesman said. 

Meanwhile, Mr Hunt told A Current Affair on Tuesday night the impact of the Victorian second wave is ‘more significant than anybody had anticipated’.

‘What we are facing now, the response we had planned for, unfortunately, is on a scale that is greater than was expected,’ he said.

Mr Hunt said the outbreak may have been avoided had it not been for significant quarantine breaches throughout the state.

‘A hotel quarantine breach is an avoidable breach,’ he said. ‘We have been able to successfully implement that in seven out of eight states and territories, they have done a remarkable job right around the country. 

Residents will still be able to shop for essentials under stage three restrictions, but that didn't stop keen shoppers queuing outside stores

Residents will still be able to shop for essentials under stage three restrictions, but that didn’t stop keen shoppers queuing outside stores

‘The Victorian government has acknowledged that this was a breach that could and should have been prevented.

‘There have been standards, and what we have seen is that they have been maintained and protected across the country. Unfortunately, there have been real and significant breaches within Victoria with major consequences, enormous consequences, and that is why there is a judicial enquiry.

‘Right across the country, the combination of border control, testing, tracing, and distancing has allowed us to fly to the curve.

‘In Victoria those breaches show how dangerous and deadly the disease is and how contagious it is, but we’re going to get there. We know how to do it.’

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the impact of the Victorian second wave is 'more significant than anybody had anticipated'

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the impact of the Victorian second wave is ‘more significant than anybody had anticipated’

Australian World Health Organisation adviser Professor Mary-Louise McLaws told The Project Victoria’s spike in cases was the result of a ‘perfect storm’ and said restrictions were lifted too soon.

‘Sadly it’s a coming together of a lot of issues that have caused this spike,’ she said.

‘And it’s something that the authorities could have been proactively identifying and working against, had they identified family clusterings earlier, to try to give them verbal instructions on how to prevent further infection.’

Professor McLaws said Victorians should wear face masks in public and argued the the outbreak could ‘definitely’ spread outside of Melbourne.

‘Everybody in Melbourne during the school holidays must not be travelling to regional areas,’ she said.

‘They must stay at home, because you don’t want it escaping, because then we will be in even worse trouble.’ 

Shoppers have been urged to only buy what they need to avoid the panic buying restrictions seen over the last few months. Pictured: a full trolley in a Melbourne supermarket on Tuesday

Shoppers have been urged to only buy what they need to avoid the panic buying restrictions seen over the last few months. Pictured: a full trolley in a Melbourne supermarket on Tuesday

The hard lockdown comes into effect from 11.59pm on Wednesday.

Residents will be only allowed to leave their homes for work and study, giving or receiving care, shopping for essentials and daily exercise near where they live.

Police will stop Victorians leaving or entering Melbourne with roadblocks and booze bus-style vehicle checks, effectively sealing 5million people inside the city.

Gatherings of more than two people who do not live together will be banned; beauty services and entertainment venues will shut; and cafes, restaurants and pubs will be able to offer takeaway only.

Year 11 and 12 pupils and special schools will go back to class but holidays will be extended by a week for students up to year 10, with remote learning a possibility after that.

Restrictions for the rest of Victoria remain the same – but residents can only enter Melbourne for caregiving, essential shopping and work or study.

Under-pressure premier Daniel Andrews said the new lockdown was essential to avoid ‘thousands and thousands’ of cases and ‘many, many people in hospital.’

‘This is a pandemic and it will kill thousands of people if it gets completely away from us,’ he said.

The whole of Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire north of the city will be placed back into lock down for six weeks from 11.59pm on Wednesday after Victoria recorded 191 new cases of coronavirus – its worst figure yet. Pictured: A map showing the suburbs in lockdown

Mr Andrews said case numbers will ‘get worse before they get better’. He has told Prime Minster Scott Morrison about the new lockdown and requested hundreds of ADF troops to help with enforcement.

The Premier also said he has spoken to Mr Morrison about the possibility of extending JobKeeper and the increased JobSeeker payment, which are due to expire in September, for Victorians who are locked down until 19 August.

‘I am confident that the Prime Minister knows and understands that there will be different forms of hardship in different parts of the country, different industry, different sectors,’ he said. 

After Mr Andrews announced the new lockdown, Victorian Opposition leader Michael O’Brien savaged him for ‘failing to accept responsibility for his own mistakes’. 

Dozens of cases from the Melbourne outbreak have been traced back to breaches in the hotel quarantine system after private security guards used by the government instead of the police interacted with patients and took the virus home to their families. 

New lockdown: Victoria has recorded 191 new cases of coronavirus - its worst figure yet. Pictured: Police and nurses wearing protective equipment outside tower blocks in north Melbourne

New lockdown: Victoria has recorded 191 new cases of coronavirus – its worst figure yet. Pictured: Police and nurses wearing protective equipment outside tower blocks in north Melbourne

Enforcement: Police will stop people leaving Melbourne with roadblocks and booze bus-style vehicle checks, effectively sealing 5million people inside the city. Pictured: Officers outside public housing estates in Melbourne

Enforcement: Police will stop people leaving Melbourne with roadblocks and booze bus-style vehicle checks, effectively sealing 5million people inside the city. Pictured: Officers outside public housing estates in Melbourne

Workers carrying boxes of protection supplies help keen key workers safe outside locked-down tower blocks in north Melbourne. Premier Daniel Andrews said the new lockdown was essential to avoid 'thousands and thousands' of cases and 'many, many people in hospital.'

Workers carrying boxes of protection supplies help keen key workers safe outside locked-down tower blocks in north Melbourne. Premier Daniel Andrews said the new lockdown was essential to avoid ‘thousands and thousands’ of cases and ‘many, many people in hospital.’

He said: ‘Daniel Andrews let the Covid-19 genie out of the bottle with hotel quarantine bungles and now everyone’s paying the price for it. This is going to be devastating for so many families, so many small businesses, so many jobs that just may not be there in six weeks’ time.’

Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton confirmed 37 new cases are linked to outbreaks and 154 are under investigation, bringing the state’s total to 2,824 cases. 

Thirteen new cases are linked to nine Melbourne tower blocks which have suffered 69 cases and been placed under hard lockdown since Saturday, meaning residents cannot leave for any reason without special approval. 

Pictures from the housing commission blocks today show firefighters dressed in hazmat suits preparing to enter the buildings to deliver milk and bread while dozens of police stand guard outside.

Victoria’s new case total is the second-highest of any state after New South Wales recorded 212 new cases on 28 March during the peak of the pandemic in Australia.

Volunteers have been delivering food to public housing residents. Pictured: A stack of food and supplies stored before distribution

Volunteers have been delivering food to public housing residents. Pictured: A stack of food and supplies stored before distribution

One carpet-cleaner described the conditions in the towers as 'worse than prison' because residents are not allowed outside. Pictured: Workers help deliver food to residents

One carpet-cleaner described the conditions in the towers as ‘worse than prison’ because residents are not allowed outside. Pictured: Workers help deliver food to residents

But many of those were returned travellers and their close contacts, meaning the Victoria outbreak is far more dangerous and a ‘threat to the nation’ because the cases are transmitting rapidly among the local community.  

Earlier on Tuesday 650 police and 350 soldiers set up road blocks and drones along the 1,000km-long New South Wales-Victoria border before it is shut down at midnight tonight for the first time since Spanish Flu struck in 1919.

NSW Police Minister David Elliott said Victoria should help pay for border closure because it was ’caused by a situation in Melbourne’ as he called the shutdown a ‘sad situation for Australia’.  

This graph shows how community transmission has soared

This graph shows how community transmission has soared

The border shut-down comes as:

  • New South Wales recorded seven new virus cases, including a Newcastle man released from quarantine
  • Queensland reported its first case in more than two weeks, a returned solider in hotel quarantine
  • The federal government agreed to cap numbers flying into Western Australia at 525 a week
  • WA, the ACT and the NT recorded zero new cases
  • SA increased border measures to ban Victorians by removing the two-week quarantine option  

Four of Victoria’s new cases related to an outbreak among emergency department staff at Northern Hospital Epping, which now totals eight staff and one household contact.

The emergency department remains open with a temporary reduction in non-urgent elective surgery and outpatient appointments.

A new case has also been confirmed in a staff member at the Assisi aged care facility in Rosanna, in Melbourne’s northeast.

Testing: Residents wait in line to be tested for COVID-19 at a pop-up clinic in Albury on the border with Victoria in southern NSW. In Melbourne Gatherings of more than two people who not not live together will be banned; beauty services and entertainment venues will shut

Testing: Residents wait in line to be tested for COVID-19 at a pop-up clinic in Albury on the border with Victoria in southern NSW. In Melbourne Gatherings of more than two people who not not live together will be banned; beauty services and entertainment venues will shut

Preparing for duty: Police Officers congregate outside Sydney Domestic Terminal before being transported to various parts of the NSW border where they will stop Victorians entering the state

Preparing for duty: Police Officers congregate outside Sydney Domestic Terminal before being transported to various parts of the NSW border where they will stop Victorians entering the state

The staff member did not work while infectious and widespread testing of staff and residents at the facility will begin on Tuesday.

Staff undertaking contact tracing in north Melbourne are finding that some patients are reluctant to share their close contacts, according to the Herald-Sun.

The newspaper reports that in some cases residents have been told by officials they are a close contact as long as five days after they met a confirmed patient. 

Meanwhile, residents of the nine locked-down towers said they feel let down by a lack of communication, food and supplies. Some have complained they have had to go hungry because officials have not brought them enough to eat.

The Melbourne Public Tenants Association, on behalf of the residents in the Flemington and North Melbourne estates, say residents have been left in the dark since the state government’s hard lockdown was enforced on Saturday.

In a letter to the federal Acting Chief Medical Officer, Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services, Premier Andrews and Victoria Police, the association describes how residents were forced to wait 24 hours for food and other essentials like baby formula, nappies and medication. 

Delivery: The Melbourne Public Tenants Association, on behalf of the 3000 residents in the Flemington and North Melbourne estates, say residents have been left in the dark over enforced hard lockdown. Pictured: Firemen deliver bread

Delivery: The Melbourne Public Tenants Association, on behalf of the 3000 residents in the Flemington and North Melbourne estates, say residents have been left in the dark over enforced hard lockdown. Pictured: Firemen deliver bread

When the food arrived it was ‘at best, questionable pre-packaged meat-like food items that do not look suitable for human consumption’.

‘Furthermore, the delivery of the food was tossed to the floor on a single piece of paper in front of the residents’ apartment doors in small portions of one food item per household,’ the letter said. 

One carpet-cleaner described the conditions as ‘worse than prison’ because residents are not allowed outside.

As Victoria battles a snowballing outbreak, NSW reported seven new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday from 9,746 tests, including a man who tested negative in hotel quarantine before returning home to Newcastle on Sunday and developing respiratory symptoms. He and his close contacts have been placed into isolation.

The other six cases were in travellers in hotel quarantine. Two probable coronavirus cases are being investigated in the Albury area after returning positive results on preliminary testing in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District.

Health officials said the two cases were undergoing further testing but had not yet been included in the state’s confirmed case load.

Locked down: A resident of a housing commission block in north Melbourne presses against the window as police patrol outside

Locked down: A resident of a housing commission block in north Melbourne presses against the window as police patrol outside

Under presser: Premier Daniel Andrews announced a fresh lock down for Melbourne today. Residents were only allowed out of their homes for five weeks before being told to stay inside once more

Under presser: Premier Daniel Andrews announced a fresh lock down for Melbourne today. Residents were only allowed out of their homes for five weeks before being told to stay inside once more

Victoria's new case total is the second-highest of any state after New South Wales recorded 212 new cases on 28 March. Pictured: Firefighters distribute milk and bread to tower block residents

Victoria’s new case total is the second-highest of any state after New South Wales recorded 212 new cases on 28 March. Pictured: Firefighters distribute milk and bread to tower block residents

One suspected case had recently been to Melbourne but returned before hotspot travel restrictions came into force.

NSW Health is setting up a pop-up clinic in Albury from Tuesday and is urging residents in the area with even mild symptoms to get tested.

Queensland recorded its first case of the virus in two weeks on Tuesday, a soldier who returned from overseas and tested positive in hotel quarantine.

South Australia recorded zero new cases and announced that it was ramping up border measures to completely ban Victorians by removing the option for them to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival from midnight tomorrow. 

Since last Monday Victoria has detected 823 new infections, only 14 of whom are returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

Where are Victoria’s new coronavirus cases? 

* 13 infections relate to the North Melbourne and Flemington public housing towers, with the total now 69

* 12 new cases are linked to the Al-Taqwa College outbreak, bringing that total to 90

* Four new cases have been linked to the Northern Hospital in Epping, with the total now nine.

* One case linked to Aitken Hill Primary School in Craigieburn with that outbreak now at 10

* The remaining new cases are linked to existing family clusters in Truganina, Patterson Lakes/Lysterfield, Fawkner and Sunshine West

* One new case has also been confirmed in a staff member at the Assisi Aged Care facility in Rosanna, who did not work while infectious 

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This is radically different from the spike in cases across several states in late March and early April which saw large numbers of returning Australians test positive.  

Locally acquired cases are more dangerous because the patients are not in quarantine and can more easily transmit the virus around the community.

Paul Komesaroff, Professor of Medicine at Monash University, told Daily Mail Australia the situation in Victoria, where 12 postcodes have been put back into lockdown, is alarming.

‘It is an extremely dangerous situation and the safety of the entire country is at stake,’ he said.

‘Clearly there is a major problem that has required draconian measures which should be supported by Victorians to protect their safety. 

Professor Komesaroff said he supported the border shut downs and localised lockdown measures which have proved successful in other countries such as South Korea and Singapore. 

Helpers arrive with food in shopping trollies which will be distributed by firefighters throughout a public housing tower in North Melbourne

Helpers arrive with food in shopping trollies which will be distributed by firefighters throughout a public housing tower in North Melbourne

‘This a very different situation that we haven’t seen previously and we have to do what he have to do,’ he said.  

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the situation was ‘very different’ to the previous spike earlier this year.   

‘The vast majority of cases that New South Wales and other states were experiencing were from overseas travellers or the direct contacts,’ she said.

‘All of the cases that the Premier Andrews announced today are from community transmission.

‘This is unprecedented in Australia. That is why the decision of the New South Wales Government [to shut the border] is unprecedented. We have not seen anything like this.’ 

There are 55 NSW-Victoria border crossings over more than 1,000 kilometres and they will be manned by police and soldiers with drones and road blocks when the border is shut from 12.01am tonight.

Anyone entering NSW from Victoria without a permit will be fined $11,000 and could face six months in jail.

‘There is no excuse’: Gladys Berejiklian demands open borders with all states except Victoria 

After closing the border to Victoria. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who has consistently argued against border closures, said other states have ‘no excuse’ for excluding residents of NSW, which recorded only 10 new cases on Monday, all from hotel quarantine. 

‘I also stress to the other states, now that New South Wales has taken this decision and given where we are, there is really no excuse for any other state, apart from Victoria, to have any border closures with New South Wales,’ she said.

‘I urge all the other states of Australia, in our national interest, to think about that.

Premier Gladys Berejikian has demanded that all states and territories except Victoria open their borders with New South Wales

Premier Gladys Berejikian has demanded that all states and territories except Victoria open their borders with New South Wales

‘Given this move by the New South Wales Government, we now anticipate that the rest of the nation will be able to deal with each other directly without any hard border closures.’

Queensland is due to remove its hard border on 10 July except to Victorians while the Northern Territory is due to open up on the 17 July, except to residents from Melbourne hotspots.

South Australia said it would open up to NSW and the ACT but not Victoria on 20 July.

Tasmania is targeting the 24 July but said it will ‘keep an eye’ on developments, while WA is yet to announce any relaxation of border measures. 

Last month Ms Berejiklian slammed the Queensland government for refusing to open its borders to boost the economy.

Asked if she felt ‘silly’ because she was now herself shutting the NSW-VIC border she said ‘not at all’ because the situation in Victoria is ‘very different’ as it involves widespread community transmission.  

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