The Australian state of Victoria has recorded 74 new cases of Covid-19 overnight as thousands of Melburnians get used to their first full day in strict quarantine lockdown across scores of public apartment blocks. Almost 30 cases were identified in the flats, just north of the CBD.
Residents of the blocks, who won’t be able to leave home for at least five days, will get $1500 in hardship payments and rent relief for the next fortnight.
Premier Daniel Andrews said while today’s cases were a reduction on the 108 yesterday he expected “to see some big days with big numbers ahead”.
However, he and his state government have been slammed as “incompetent” and “deeply unimpressive” following the surge that began after inept hotel quarantine management.
Some residents of the towers have lashed out at authorities claiming the lockdown on some of the city’s most vulnerable was not fair.
Australia has recorded a total 8253 cases of Covid-19, with 3230 in New South Wales, 2543 in Victoria, 1065 in Queensland, 443 in South Australia, 607 in Western Australia, 228 in Tasmania, 108 in the Australian Capital Territory and 29 in the Northern Territory.
Australia’s coronavirus death toll is 104.
Premier gets tough on people refusing to test
Andrews has said that for the residents of the nine public housing blocks that are in hard lockdown, the only response to a request they should be tested is “yes”.
The government has been caught off guard by reports of up to 10,000 Melburnians refusing to be tested in hot spot suburbs.
Andrews said that wouldn’t be happening in the North Melbourne and Flemington flats. He’s told people to call out their non-testing neighbours.
The government has said it needs five days to test all 3000 residents and get their results back. The premier hinted that if people refused to test, the tough lockdown could last longer.
“I expect that everybody will consent to a test because the sooner we have the testing process concluded the sooner we will be able to make decisions based on the data about the restrictions that are appropriate for those nine towers,” he said at a press conference today.
“If someone knocks on your door to do a test the only answer you should give is yes.
“And if you see someone in your family group, in your friendship group, in your street, who is not taking this seriously, then call them out.”
Andrews said he expected only a “small number” of people to refuse a test.
“My message to those residents is consent to the test, agree to the test and find out exactly how much of this virus is in these towers”.
‘Big infection numbers’ expected in coming days
Andrews has said he is not calmed by the lower numbers today and fully expects infections to go up.
“Obviously 70 odd cases is better than 100. But we are going to see some big days, big numbers in the days ahead. You can’t go and test 3000 people in such a focused and concentrated way and not have numbers go up,” he said.
“We might be pleasantly surprised and they don’t, but I think it is far more likely that we are going to find what we’re looking for, and that is the strategy working.
“There is no good not knowing about virus out there, and then the only proxy measure becomes a number of people presenting at hospital for a machine to help them breathe.”
Four new Covid-19 cases have been found across the nine tower blocks that are currently in hard lockdown.
Thirteen cases have been diagnosed in the North Melbourne flats and 14 in Flemington, totalling 23 infections across the public housing cluster.
Chief health officer Brett Sutton said he expected that to rise as residents were tested.
“If this had exploded within the towers, and there were literally hundreds and hundreds of people who became infected and they were going about their normal business, it would have spread beyond the postcodes even. So I think the early, if imperfect control, is the really key element here.”
We’re getting a bit more detail now on where those other cases have come from.
Two new cases have been diagnosed among staff in Epping Hospital bringing to five the infections there. The Stamford Plaza Hotel outbreak has grown to 42 with a guard and two family members of guests testing positive.
At the Al-Taqwa College cluster, a further eight cases have been identified.