Grappling with a second wave, Victoria recorded its biggest single day increase of coronavirus cases on Friday of any state or territory in Australia since the beginning of the pandemic.
The the state’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said the “ugly number” of 288 was recorded as the number of people hospitalised from the virus rose to 47, while Victoria's Premier Dan Andrews said:“It was always going to get worse before it was going to get better."
The state is also bracing itself for the economic impacts of a six-week lockdown for all of metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.
The Victorian government announced a $534 million support package to help businesses over coming weeks. It will include $5000 cash grants, mental health support for business owners, relief for the hospitality and tourism sectors, and extended and expanded payroll tax deferral.
Victoria's treasurer, Tim Pallas, delivered a dire warning that the state could take up to three years to recover from the pandemic with "literally billions of dollars written off the expected size of the Victorian economy".
The state government has also urged people in Melbourne to don a mask in public and will distribute two million reusable masks throughout the community.
However, Friday saw restrictions eased for most of the 3000 people under lockdown in public housing towers in the city.
Residents in eight of the towers now follow the same restrictions as metropolitan Melbourne, while those living in one tower in North Melbourne will remain in self-isolation for nine days after the building yielded 53 positive tests.
The Greens are calling for an independent inquiry into the hard lockdown process of the towers.
Concerns about aged care homes and services are emerging after seven of Victoria's 165 new cases on Thursday were identified as workers in facilities across Melbourne.
Aged and Community Services Australia are calling for better efforts to protect residents and staff at the affected facilities.
Fears rise in NSW while borders harden around VIC
Melbourne’s "second wave" this week is said to have forced NSW to establish a hard border closure with Victoria on Tuesday, with the public now needing special permission to travel interstate, but deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack urged state governments to ease "choke points" for the benefit of the agriculture sector.
Farmers reported being forced to detour more than 100km to find open border crossings, according to Minister for Transport and Roads Andrew Constance.
NSW recorded 14 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, 13 of which are among return travellers in hotel quarantine, according to NSW Health.
The other case was from Albury, a border town close to Victoria, and linked to two family members who tested positive earlier in the week.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned everyone should be “in a state of high alert” regarding Victoria's widespread community transmission.
Not on high alert were authorities that failed to screen 137 passengers arriving at Sydney from Melbourne on Jetstar flight JQ250 in a major breach of health protocols on Tuesday.
The Sunshine State relaxes its border
Queensland opened its borders at midday on Friday to everyone who hasn’t been in Victoria in the past two weeks.
Virgin Australia slashed its prices of flights to Queensland to as little as $85 in a sales pitch in partnership with Tourism Events Queensland.
The "Good to Go" sale will run until July 14, offering over half a million discount fares to Brisbane, Cairns, Gold Coast, Hamilton Island and Townsville.
The sale wont be available to Victorians.
Around the country
South Australia joined QLD and NSW in enforcing hard border closures with Victoria.
The state will also be increasing its use of mobile testing vents to check for cases of coronavirus.
Because of the situation in Victoria and the number of people in hotel quarantine, Western Australia is putting a pin on relaxing its restrictions until August 1. It will also be banning all Victorians from entering for the foreseeable future.
Victoria is also likely to blame for the delay of in border reopening Tasmania.
The island state will now open to the rest of Australia on July 31 at the earliest, according to Premier Peter Gutwein.
In the NT, it was reported that a US marine has brought the enviable number of active cases in the Northern Territory to two (2) on Friday.
The ACT saw its first cases of coronavirus in over a whole month to rise to four Canberra residents.