Australia

Victoria records its first coronavirus death in a month as workers return to city offices

People are seen in Centre Place in Melbourne. Source: AAP

Victoria has recorded Australia's first coronavirus death in a month, taking the state's toll to 820, and the national figure to 908.

Victoria has ended its 31-day streak of "double donut" days after a woman in her 70s died from coronavirus-linked complications.

Double donut days are those with zero new coronavirus cases and zero deaths. 

While there have been no new cases recorded, the woman's death takes the state's toll from the virus to 820 and the national figure to 908.

The Department of Health and Human Services reported that she was a previously-cleared case who died from complications relating to her original diagnosis.

"Our advice is that she passed away very recently, they believe that coronavirus-induced damage to her lungs has caused her to pass away, and therefore she is counted as a coronavirus death," Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday morning. 

"We send our best wishes and a sincere condolences to her family, this will be a difficult time, hopefully they take some small comfort knowing they are in our thoughts and prayers."

The most recent Australian virus deaths were two Victorians on 28 October.

The latest death comes as thousands of Victorian workers are returning to the office for the first time in nine months.

Since the first wave of COVID-19 hit in March, Victorians able to carry out their duties from home were told to steer clear of offices including Melbourne's CBD.

That will change from Monday, with workplaces welcoming 25 per cent of their staff back on site.

It means businesses with fewer than 40 staff can have 10 on-site, as long as they comply with prescribed density limits.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced the change more than a week ago, with Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton confirming it would come into effect just before midnight on Sunday.

The state's public service is not incorporated in the new edict and Professor Sutton clarified office workers must wear face masks when indoors.

New hotel quarantine program revealed

Mr Andrews on Monday also announced a new government agency would be established to run Victoria's hotel quarantine program. 

Victoria will start welcoming returned overseas travellers into hotel quarantine from 7 December. 

The state's hotel quarantine program has been suspended since June, after workers at the Rydges on Swanston and Stamford Plaza hotels contracted COVID-19.

The subsequent outbreak resulted in 18,000 infections and some 800 deaths. 

All staff working in the reset program will be employed or directly contracted by COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) with the exception of cleaning staff who are on fixed-term contracts with Alfred Health.

About 300 Victoria Police officers and 220 Australian Defence Force personnel will be embedded in the hotels each day.

All staff involved in the program will be tested daily and they will work in "bubbles" to ensure they only have contact with a limited number of other people.

The premier said no private security guards will be involved in the program.

"There are no private security engaged, only Victoria Police performing those roles as well as ADF," Mr Andrews said.

"No moonlighting, no second jobs, no subcontracting, because there are no subcontracts, it is all direct and obvious and clear."

Returned travellers will no longer be able to leave their rooms for fresh air or exercise breaks, while food and care packages from family and friends will no longer be permitted, in an effort to reduce movement.

They will likely have to pay around $3,500 per adult for the mandatory two-week stay.

States welcoming Victorians

With Victoria officially virus-free, other states have started welcoming travellers from the state again.

NSW lifted restrictions for Victorian travellers last Monday, while Queensland and South Australia will reopen their borders from Tuesday.

The Northern Territory has now lifted the coronavirus hotspot declaration for greater Melbourne, while those already in quarantine will also be allowed to leave.

Western Australia is now the only state or territory with closed borders to Victoria, but Premier Mark McGowan expects to give an update this week.

Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services, meanwhile, has detected coronavirus fragments in sewage at a treatment plant in Corio.

Those who live in or visited Geelong's northern suburbs and Lara between November 21 and 23 should seek testing if they experience any respiratory symptoms.

With AAP.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction'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.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania

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