Australia

Victoria records 33 new coronavirus cases, Daniel Andrews declares 'testing blitz'

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Source: AAP

Thirty-three new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Victoria as more than 1,000 troops are deployed to help the state cope.

Victoria has recorded another 33 coronavirus cases, as the defence force is brought in to bolster efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Seven of the new cases are locked  are locked away in hotel quarantine, nine are linked to known and contained outbreaks, six are as a result of routine testing and 11 cases are under investigation, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said at a press conference on Thursday. 

Seven Victorians are in hospital and two of those seven are in intensive care.

Mr Andrews said 20,304 tests had been conducted in the last 24 hours, a record for the state.

'Testing blitz'

The premier announced a 'testing blitz' in Melbourne's suburbs with the highest number of community transmission cases, Keilor Downs and Broadmeadows, with the blitz to then extend to other suburbs Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Hallam, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir, and Pakenham. 

"The first three days are solely focused on Keilor Downs and Broadmeadows, but we will move to the balance of those suburbs over the course of a 10-day period," Mr Andrews said.

"There will literally be hundreds and hundreds - indeed, the entire team is a thousand-strong - doorknockers out there, talking to the community, inviting them to come and get a free test, whether they be symptomatic or asymptomatic."

He said the testing blitz was key to containing the virus.

"If we can find all the positives in those suburbs, then they can be home quarantined, they can be given the support that they need, and we can, despite the fact that numbers would likely go up as a result of that very focused, very targeted testing, we'll then be in a position to be confident that we have, in fact, contained it, and, again, we're back consistent with the suppression strategy that we are all pursuing."

Traffic management is seen outside a COVID-19  testing facility at Northland shopping centre in Melbourne.
Traffic management is seen outside a COVID-19 testing facility at Northland shopping centre in Melbourne.
AAP

'Do not come to NSW'

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Thursday called on Melbourne residents from the COVID hot spots to refrain from attending major events in NSW including AFL and NRL games until the recent spike in COVID-19 cases ends.

Mr Hazzard said while health authorities battle to trace a growing number of community COVID transmissions across Melbourne’s northwest and southeast, vigilance and caution was needed.

“COVID-19 spreads rapidly, particularly in large gatherings. The NSW Government is calling on Melbourne hot spot residents to not come to NSW and particularly not attend sporting and other major events,” Mr Hazzard said.

“A COVID-19 outbreak like the one we’re seeing in parts of Melbourne could occur in NSW. We have to prevent the virus from transmitting from the current hot spots in Melbourne to NSW residents.

NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant asked NSW residents to avoid visiting Melbourne, particularly the hot spots, and warned that residents returning from these areas need to take special precautions.

“If you must go to Melbourne it’s essential that on return to Sydney you monitor yourself carefully for COVID symptoms and, if even mild symptoms develop, present promptly for testing and stay home pending results,” Dr Chant said.

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“Anyone who has come from Melbourne hot spots, including NSW residents, should not attend aged care facilities, hospitals or other settings with vulnerable people and should avoid gatherings outside their immediate family for a period of 14 days.

“After the great work that residents of NSW have done to limit the transmission of this very dangerous virus it is critical that we take these precautionary steps to keep NSW residents safe.”

Four new cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in NSW between 8pm on Tuesday and 8pm on Wednesday.

One new case is a student of Lane Cove West Public School. The case is under investigation, and all close contacts are being contacted and isolated. The school was closed on Thursday for a deep clean. 

Three other new cases are those of returned travellers, who are in hotel quarantine.

Military assistance

More than 1,000 troops are coming to Victoria to help the state fight the growing coronavirus problem.

Aside from Australian Defence Force personnel, the state will also get assistance from NSW, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland to process tests for the virus.

A handful of ADF staff have been helping in Victoria for several months, but the contingent will now drastically ramp up.

"Defence has been providing support to Victoria since April and I'm pleased we're able to rapidly increase our assistance to help Victoria respond to its current COVID-19 circumstances," Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said in a statement.

Up to 850 ADF members will provide support to hotel quarantine monitoring and about 200 personnel will provide logistical and medical support for coronavirus testing.

The agreement will be in place until the end of July.

Victoria has recorded 128 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, with 20 cases and a death logged on Wednesday.

Victoria's active cases have jumped from 58 to 143 in the past eight days, while the rest of the country combined has had only 20.

At least 33 staff working at quarantine hotels have been infected with COVID-19 and health officials are investigating links between the workers and other outbreaks.

Currently, 30 people in hotel quarantine have the virus.

It comes as community engagement in the local government areas of Brimbank, Casey, Cardinia, Darebin, Hume and Moreland has ramped up after they were identified as coronavirus hotspots.

The areas have large migrant populations, with many speaking languages other than English at home.

Information about the virus has been translated into 55 languages but state Health Minister Jenny Mikakos conceded the government has to "work harder to reach these people".

A Victorian man in his 80s became Australia's first coronavirus-related death in more than a month, bringing the state's death toll to 20 and the national toll to 104.

The number was revised up from 103 after the death of an elderly man at a Sydney aged care facility in April was attributed to coronavirus on Thursday.

Of the state's 20 new cases on Wednesday, nine were identified through routine testing, seven were linked to known outbreaks and one was a returned traveller in hotel quarantine. Three other cases remain under investigation.

Three people have been linked to a Keilor Downs family cluster, two are staff members at Hampstead Dental in Maidstone, one case has been linked to Northland H&M and another has been linked to St Monica's college at Epping.

Since the spike in new cases, drive-through testing sites have experienced extremely high demand while panic buying has also returned, with Coles and Woolworths reinstating purchase limits.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits. Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store. SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

 

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