Dip in cases expected as Vic braces for harsher lockdown

 

This coronavirus article is unlocked and free to read in the interest of community health and safety. 

Victoria's coronavirus increase is tipped to fall for the second consecutive day.

Sources have told the Herald Sun about 390 new cases have been detected over the past 24 hours.

The figure is the second consecutive drop in numbers since a shocking record high of 723 new cases was recorded Thursday.

Data analysts are currently reviewing the state's cases to determine what, if any, new restrictions need to be introduced.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Police Minister Lisa Neville will provide an update and address the media at 11.30am.

It comes as Victorians brace for more economic pain with tighter restrictions and even a full lockdown on the horizon.

People wearing masks at the Tan on Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Crosling
People wearing masks at the Tan on Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Crosling


Premier Daniel Andrews has set a deadline of Sunday, at which data being crunched by health authorities could ­result in tougher rules or an extension of the six-week stage three period.

The potential for further restrictions has raised concerns among business figures.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief Paul Guerra warned more jobs could be lost under a tougher regimen.

"The current restrictions, coupled with the border closures imposed by other jurisdictions, have all but brought the Victorian economy to a standstill," Mr Guerra said.

"With the state's unemployment levels forecast to peak at 9 per cent by the end of the year, there is no doubt that more businesses and jobs will be lost if infections are not brought under control and the lockdown is extended."

Victoria is bracing for tighter restrictions. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Geraghty
Victoria is bracing for tighter restrictions. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Geraghty

Australian Industry Group Victorian director Tim Piper warned any move toward a full-scale lockdown would be devastating and urged the government to proceed with care.

"I hope that we make restrictions based on areas, and sectors and specific circumstances rather than having an across the board ready-aim-fire position because that would have a terrible toll on the economy in Victoria and Australia," Mr Piper said.

Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said further restrictions in Victoria would "have a negative effect" on the national economy.

Melbourne's existing six-week lockdown was tipped to cost the economy $3.3bn, according to last week's budget update. Treasurer Tim Pallas forecast a $7.5bn deficit but the modelling did not factor in further restrictions.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Friday other factors would also play a role in the government's decision.


FRESH CEDAR MEATS EMPLOYEE TESTS POSITIVE

A staff member at Cedar Meats has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Brooklyn based meat plant said the worker was at the site on 22 July, with all other close contacts undergoing testing.

Affected staff have been asked to self-isolate until further notice.

"We will continue to follow the advice of DHHS as we await the results of the testing

undertaken today," a spokesperson said in a statement.

The meat processing plant was at the centre of a major coronavirus cluster during the first wave of the virus, which peaked at over 100 cases.

-Rhiannon Down

VENTILATORS SET FOR DELIVERY

The first of 2000 ventilators ordered just three months ago have now been added to the national medical stockpile, shoring up hospital capacity amid an influx of COVID-19 patients.

The Herald Sun can reveal Melbourne-based company Grey Innovation has started to deliver the ventilators purchased in a $31m agreement with the federal government.

Grey Innovation executive chairman Jefferson Harcourt said the company was "manufacturing at full speed".

He said assembly lines in Box Hill and Nunawading were up and running as part of a network of manufacturers and suppliers.

The ventilators were ordered as the first wave of the pandemic unfolded.

As of Friday, 36 COVID-19 patients in Victoria were in intensive care.

Federal Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said the agreement had helped Grey Innovation employ 22 new engineers, with another 250 jobs created or retained across their supplies.

Ventilators at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, ready the next outbreak of COVID-19. Picture: Alex Coppel
Ventilators at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, ready the next outbreak of COVID-19. Picture: Alex Coppel

"The local production of these ventilators is an outstanding example of what can be achieved when industry and government work together and draw on our highly advanced manufacturing capability," she said.

"These ventilators are available to be sent anywhere they are needed in Australia and give us an impressive reserve capacity.

"Hopefully they won't all be needed, but these machines will ensure that our hospitals are well equipped to withstand future surges in intensive care cases."

Federal Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy said this week authorities were "very comfortable" with the capacity of intensive care units in Victorian hospitals.

"ICU occupancy is still well within its base and we have already substantial plans to expand ICU capacity in the public and private hospital system in Victoria," Prof Murphy said.

"I don't think there would be any foreseeable need … unless we had a very significant increase in the number of severe cases, to do that."


RESHUFFLE FOR VICTORIA'S CORONAVIRUS TEAM

The Victorian government has undergone a re-shuffle of its COVID-response team, as the state reels from a week of high case numbers.

The Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police and the Chief Health Officer have joined the State Control Meeting, chaired by the Emergency Management Commissioner.

The DHHS Secretary has also been appointed as State Controller - Health, and will be leading the state's response to stop the spread of coronavirus.

"Every crisis is different, and these changes will ensure the Chief Commissioner, the Chief Health Officer and Emergency Management Commissioner has every tool they need, as we continue to slow the spread," a government spokesperson said.

In further changes three new Deputy Chief Health Officers have joined the DHHS, with current deputy Annaliese Van Diemen returning to her former duties focusing on other communicated diseases.

Prof Allen Cheng from the Alfred Hospital, Prof Rhonda Stuart from Monash Health and Prof Paul Johnson from Austin Health have stepped in to fill the roles.

AGED CARE HOMES UNDER INVESTIGATION

At least 10 aged care homes are under investigation over concerns they may have endangered their staff during horrific COVID-19 outbreaks.

The Herald Sun can reveal WorkSafe is examining whether the facilities have complied with occupational health and safety laws after at least 17 coronavirus-related claims were reported.

It is understood the watchdog is looking at the circumstances of Victoria's biggest outbreaks including at Epping Gardens, Essendon's Menarock Life Aged Care and St Basil's in Fawkner, where all residents were transferred to hospital on Friday after six staff tested positive.

There are now 928 coronavirus cases linked to 103 aged care facilities - after an extra 23 homes with cases were identified on Friday - and 46 people have died.

In distressing scenes this past week, residents have been left unwashed and malnourished for days, families have been unable to find their loved ones, and staff at Epping Gardens even had to call triple-0.

Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner Janet Anderson said facilities that breached quality standards could face hefty financial penalties or have their accreditation revoked.

She said the industry watchdog was monitoring complaints received about Victorian aged care services and would speak to staff and residents and review documents in its investigations.

It is understood WorkSafe is also looking at Estia Aged Care Facility Ardeer, Glendale Aged Care Facility, Estia Aged Care Heidelberg, Arcare Aged Care Craigieburn, Baptcare Wyndham Lodge Community Werribee, Regis Brighton Aged Care and Embracia Moonee Valley Aged Care.

It comes after it was revealed that Victorian employers could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined $16.5m if their staff contracted coronavirus at work and died as a result.

A WorkSafe spokesman said the authority was tackling health and safety risks in aged care with inspections, inquiries and tailored advice developed with unions, providers and industry groups. "WorkSafe is making inquiries as part of a standard coronavirus response process," he said.

Ms Anderson said the commission's role was "to hold providers to account for the quality and safety of the care they provide to older ­Australians".

"The commission is closely monitoring the situation in Victoria and providing support to aged care services in managing the increased risks of a COVID-19 outbreak," she said.

Originally published as Dip in cases expected as Victoria braces for harsher lockdown