Return to remote learning in Victoria amid new coronavirus death and 273 fresh cases

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews holds a press conference in Melbourne to discuss the latest covid-19 figures. Source: AAP

The national COVID-19 toll is now 108, after Victoria reported another death and 273 new cases.

More than 700,000 students will return to online learning in Victoria after the state reported a week of triple-digit daily increases in cases.

A Victorian man in his seventies has become Australia’s 108th coronavirus fatality, as the state recorded an increase of 273 coronavirus cases on Sunday, from 30,195 tests.

Fifty-seven Victorians are in hospital, 16 of those in intensive care.

Yesterday, authorities confirmed the death of another elderly resident in hospital.

“If we don't follow the rules, if we don't play our part, then we will simply see this virus continue to spread, and it will be a longer second wave, a more pronounced, a more tragic second wave than it ought to be,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Lockdown students to learn from home

Prep to year 10 students in locked-down parts of Victoria will return to online learning for Term 3.

Premier Andrews on Sunday confirmed students in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, north of the city, will learn from home from 20 July until at least 19 August.

Onsite learning will be available for students whose parents cannot work from home and for students with special needs who attend mainstream schools.

Mr Andrews said reducing the movement of students and their parents will help drive community transmission of the virus down.

"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 lockdown," he told reporters.

"That will put at direct risk us achieving our aim and that, of course, is to drive the numbers down at the end of the six-week period and get to a position where we will have control and where we can begin a very cautious program of easing."

Mr Andrews recognised the return to home learning would be challenging, particularly for parents of young children.

"It is not a decision that we take easily. It is going to be very challenging, but it is what must be done, given the circumstances that we face and given the fact that we just don't have the luxury of pretending that this is not real," he said.

School holidays have been extended for a week while teachers prepare to return to online learning.

But senior secondary students, year 10 students who study VCE subjects and those who attend specialist schools, will head back to the classroom for face-to-face learning on Monday.

All students in regional and rural Victoria, except the Mitchell Shire, will also return to onsite learning as normal from Monday.

Victorian chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton said reducing the movement of students is the right call. 

"It would have been irresponsible of me to have gone in to a phase where we might even have increasing numbers day on day ... to have kids going back to school," he said.

Cases rise among frontline workers

Professor Sutton said outbreaks in health and aged care settings were of particular concern.

There are 11 coronavirus cases linked to Brunswick Private Hospital, eight to the Alfred Hospital and two to Box Hill Hospital.

Eleven people have also tested positive at a single aged-care facility.

"The workforces know what to do, but it is a risk that can't be mitigated down to zero, and my thoughts go to those front-line workers," Professor Sutton said.

"I have been an emergency department doctor for years and they are brave and they are brilliant in responding to the challenges of positive cases that need to be managed there."


The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy) NO ARCHIVING
Eight coronavirus cases have been detected among staff at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.

There are also 145 cases linked to the Flemington and North Melbourne estates and 22 cases linked to public housing in Carlton.

The Flemington building was one of nine public housing towers to be put into a strict lockdown from 4 to 9 July.

Eight of the towers reverted to stage three restrictions on Thursday, while residents of Alfred Street North Melbourne remain in self-quarantine.

Professor Sutton said the pandemic had not yet reached its peak and authorities were throwing "absolutely everything at it".

The premier said he was grateful to the almost 32,000 people who were tested for the virus on Saturday.

"Arguably there is nothing more important than coming forward if you've got even mild symptoms," Mr Andrews said.

The state has recorded a week of triple-digit increases in new cases, including a record 288 infections on Friday.

Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire are again under stage three restriction until 19 August because of the spike in new cases.

People in those areas are only allowed to leave home for four reasons: to shop for food and supplies; to receive or provide care; to exercise; and study or work if they can't do so from home.

"These next six weeks are not an ordinary winter. We all have to play our part, we cannot ignore the circumstances we face," Mr Andrews said.

"Nobody wanted to be in this position, but this is where we find ourselves."

Residents in metropolitan Melbourne are subject to stay-at-home orders and can only leave home for essential work, study, exercise or care responsibilities. People are also advised to wear masks in public.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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