Victoria records 273 new Covid-19 cases and flags return to remote schooling in lockdown areas

Ben Smee and Paul Karp
·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Daniel Pockett/AAP</span>
Photograph: Daniel Pockett/AAP

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews has warned residents to prepare for an extraordinary six winter weeks after the state announced another 273 coronavirus cases on Sunday.

Andrews said schools in lockdown areas would remain closed to most students after revealing the latest case numbers, which represent another single-day high for the state.

One man in his 70s has died from the virus in Victoria. Meanwhile, eight healthcare workers at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital have tested positive to Covid-19.

Infections diseases expert Peter Collingnon said on Twitter the renewed outbreak of coronavirus in Victoria represented a second wave.

There are now 1,484 active cases in Victoria. Of those, 57 people are in hospital and 16 in intensive care.

Health authorities said 562 of those cases may indicate community transmission.

Residents of public housing towers in North Melbourne and Flemington comprise 237 cases; another 28 are residents of public housing towers at Carlton. Investigations continue into how these cases are linked.

In announcing students from prep to Year 10 in lockdown areas would return to remote learning when school resumes on July 20, Andrews said the state’s restrictions would be in place “until further notice” and that changes could be considered when case numbers had been driven down.

Related: As Covid-19 cases rise in Victoria, Daniel Andrews is fighting to keep the trust of the people

“This is not an ordinary Sunday,” Andrews said.

“These next six weeks are not an ordinary winter.

“We’ve got to find a new normal, I know that’s unpleasant and there will be many, many parents who will be very upset to hear this news [of school closures], but it’s what must be done and the job here [is] to … make tough calls to make the strategy work.

“There is simply no alternative but to go to this. We can’t have the best part of 700,000 students, as well as parents, moving to and from school, moving around the community, as if there wasn’t a stay-at-home order [and] as if there wasn’t a lockdown.

“That will put at direct risk us achieving our aim. And that, of course, is to drive these numbers down at the end of the six-week period and get it into a position where we have control.”

Andrews announced that from tomorrow, students in years 11 and 12 would return to face-to-face learning. Year 10 students undertaking VCal courses and those at specialist schools would also return to the classroom.

All other students in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire would return to remote learning.

The changes do not affect students in most regional areas, who will return to school from 20 July, when the extended school holidays end.

Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said child-to-child transmission “had become more apparent” as the state embarked on its strategy of broadscale testing to contain the latest oubreaks.

“It is still not a significant risk, but some of the earlier evidence was clearly biased by the fact that kids have mild symptoms and they were not being tested,” Sutton said.

“We have done much more extensive testing, we have found there are probably more kids that get infected, not necessarily propagating an outbreak, but certainly kids are getting infected when you have high community levels of transmission.”

The Independent Education Union said it supported the announcement and recognised the need for senior students to continue face-to-face studies; but said that reports of transmission between students highlighted the need for “the space, support, encouragement and resources for students and staff to maintain safe distancing and hygiene”.

“Particular consideration should be given to staff who have health or family reasons for not attending the workplace,” IEU general secretary Debra James said.

Alfred Health confirmed on Sunday that five of eight health workers detected with coronavirus were believed to have been acquired through the community.

Three colleagues deemed close contacts at the hospital also tested positive.

Its chief executive, Andrew Way, said the hospital was taking “every measure” to keep staff members safe.

“We cannot afford to become complacent,” Way said.

Related: 'It was paternalism': how government support for Melbourne's locked down public housing blocks fell short

In New South Wales, the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced the state would begin to charge returning international travellers for their hotel quarantine accommodation from next Saturday.

“Australian residents have been given plenty of time to return home, and we feel it is only fair that they cover some of the costs of their hotel accommodation,” Berejiklian said.

Travellers will be charged $3,000. Additional adults in the same party will be charged $1,000, and additional children (aged three and older) charged $500.

On Sunday the federal Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, responded to the national cabinet’s decision to reduce the number of Australians who can return home each week by more than 4,000 – a decision that has angered expats who argue it was not always possible to return when advice to do so was issued in March.

Albanese told Sky News that Labor had “chosen very deliberately … not to play politics for the sake of it”, acknowledging it was a “very difficult decision”.

“People do need to return over time but it’s been a considerable period now since they were given that advice and we need to keep other Australians safe as well,” he said.

In Sydney, an 18-year-old staff member at the Crossroads Hotel at Casula has tested positive – the sixth case linked to the hotel. Every person who visited the pub from July 3 to July 10 has been asked to self-isolate for 14 days, regardless of whether they test negative to coronavirus.

The federal deputy chief medical officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, said the venue was of particular concern because it is frequented by transnational freight drivers.

“It is critically important … that you get yourself tested, once again, in this case, regardless of symptoms, so whether you have symptoms for a cold or not but you were at that pub, do get yourself tested.”