As it happened: Victoria reports 94 new COVID-19 cases; NSW hopes clusters reduce as Australian death toll jumps to 602

Australia

That’s all from the the blog tonight – thank you all for reading along.

A quick rehash of the day’s COVID-19 news:

This is Rachael Dexter signing off.

As always, if you appreciate our COVID-19 coverage and are an avid reader of the blog, please consider taking out a subscription to The Age or The Sydney Morning Herald to support what we do.

Stay safe, look after one another and goodnight.

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Today feels like a momentous day psychologically for our Victorian readers, who saw new coronavirus cases finally drop below 100. For many, today’s near-Spring weather also gave them a much needed boost to hold out for the last two weeks of stage three and four restrictions.

We asked for your stories and photos today and have been swamped. Thanks so much to everyone who wrote in, I’m sorry we can’t publish every single one. Here’s a final wrap up of some of my favourites:


“I just read the updated numbers and I am very teary. What an emotional roller coaster this is … Enjoying the sun on my back porch”
– Shelley


“Having a backyard vacation! Basking in the sun with watermelon frappés, heaven!”
Brook

Two young Melburnians enjoy a paddling pool frappé.

Two young Melburnians enjoy a paddling pool frappé.Credit:Brook (Age reader)


“Well, we haven’t strangled each other yet…so that’s one good thing. We really do feel for people who are going through this crisis on their own, must be incredibly hard for them. Hope and pray that it doesn’t last much longer… hang in there folks!”
Geoff and Pam Pendlebury


“My husband and I took the dog for a walk along Dandenong Creek. Many, many walkers, runners and cyclists, and some storm damage from Thursday. We also came across some adorable COVID cuteness!”
Kate KM

Kate's husband and dog walking amongst trees damaged in Thursday night's ferocious winds.

Kate’s husband and dog walking amongst trees damaged in Thursday night’s ferocious winds.Credit:Kate (Age reader)


“Spent the day in the garden. Mowed the lawns. Kids grabbed an ice cream from up the street. Played in the front yard. Kids doing some yoga in the sun. Now reading on the back verandah with music playing in the background. Lockdown seems like a distant memory albeit for a few hours.”
Brad


A backyard COVID-19 campout.

A backyard COVID-19 campout.Credit:Naomi (Age reader)

“Weekend away.”
– Naomi


“In beautiful Eltham North I was soaking up some much needed Vitamin D and doing some soul-soothing crafting, while our puppy, ‘Autumn’, brought cries of delight to people walking past. My world has narrowed down too much physically, spatially and emotionally, and I haven’t made the most of the hour of exercise, or even our beautiful garden.
Responsible for myself and two children, I lurch between letting things go based on it being extraordinary circumstances, and beating myself up for not having the energy or skills to look after myself better and provide a happier, more productive and constructive environment for my kids. And compared to many, I have it easy.
Today has cracked open my darkened soul just a little.”
– Katharine

The view from Katherine's crafty corner in her garden in Eltham.

The view from Katherine’s crafty corner in her garden in Eltham.Credit:Katharine (Age reader)

A German regional court gave the go-ahead for mass demonstrations planned on Saturday in Berlin against coronavirus curbs, ruling against the capital’s ban on such protests.

Police, who deployed 3,000 officers to control crowds expected to reach 20,000, have prepared for possible violence as activists opposed to the virus measures urge social media followers across Europe to arm themselves and gather in Berlin.

Coronavirus skeptics, right-wing extremists and others gather to march in protest against coronavirus-related restrictions and government policy on August 29, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

Coronavirus skeptics, right-wing extremists and others gather to march in protest against coronavirus-related restrictions and government policy on August 29, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Credit:Getty Images

Activists, angered by Berlin’s decision to ban protests after demonstrators at a recent rally failed to wear masks or keep their distance, flooded the city with thousands of applications for additional protest rallies this weekend.

“The gatherings planned by several initiatives for Aug. 29 against the corona policy of the federal and state governments can take place,” the court ruled.

Responding to the ruling, Berlin’s interior minister, Andreas Geisel, said the court had given protesters a second chance to show they can comply with social distancing measures.

“I appeal to everyone to gather in Berlin without violence,” he said.

Querdenken 711, one of the movements behind the protests, urged demonstrators in a YouTube video to “be peaceful and exercise no violence toward the police”.

Until now Germany has managed the coronavirus crisis better than many of its European counterparts, with rigorous testing helping to hold down infections and deaths.

But new daily infections have accelerated in recent weeks, as in much of the world.

On Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to keep up their guard against the virus.

“This is a serious matter, as serious as it’s ever been, and you need to carry on taking it seriously,” she said. Protesters gathered before the Brandenburg Gate in central Berlin ahead of Saturday’s march with signs reading “Stop the corona lies” and “Merkel must go”.

A COVID-19 infected resident from a nursing home with one of the biggest outbreaks of the deadly virus in Victoria “wandered” out of the facility and spent almost an hour in the community.

More than 120 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to Cumberland Manor nursing home in Sunshine North.

The disappearance of the resident on August 8 raised fears about a lack of staff to cope with the large number of infected residents and keep them separate from those who had tested negative to COVID-19.

Cumberland Manor in Sunshine North, the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Cumberland Manor in Sunshine North, the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.Credit:Scott McNaughton

“It is gobsmacking that a resident who tested positive left this aged care home,” said Aged Care Matters Director Sarah Russell. “It indicates there was not enough staff on duty to supervise residents.”

The federal regulator of aged care providers had two days earlier taken regulatory action against Cumberland Manor, after determining there was “an immediate and severe risk to the health, safety or wellbeing” of residents.

Cumberland Manor referred The Age to the Department of Health and Human Services for comment.

The Victorian Aged Care Response Centre said the resident “wandered through an exit door that was in frequent use for waste removal”.

“The resident in question who was cognitively impaired and with high needs left the facility for a brief period before being found by staff from Cumberland Manor,” the centre, which brings together Commonwealth and Victorian state agencies to manage the impact of COVID-19 in aged care facilities, said in a statement.

“The resident had been relocated to another room and was unsettled due to a new environment.”

A source told The Age the resident, who was behaving in an aggressive and agitated manner, knocked on the door of one home, banged on cars and grabbed someone’s mail after leaving Cumberland Manor.

[Read more here]

Nice, France: Likely too busy racing to notice, the 176 riders starting the Tour de France this weekend will speed close to a sprawling hospital where caregiver Maude Leneveu is still reeling from furious months treating patients stricken and dying from COVID-19.

After her 12-hour days of cleaning their bedpans, changing the sheets, feeding them and trying to calm their fears, she’d then go home to breastfeed her baby daughter.

“We’re all exhausted,” the 30-year-old Leneveu says.

Slovenia's Primoz Roglic with teammates at the Tour de France team presentation.

Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic with teammates at the Tour de France team presentation.Credit:AP

With coronavirus infections picking up again across France and her hospital in the Mediterranean city of Nice preparing for a feared second wave of patients by readying respirators and other gear, Leneveu suspects she might soon be called back to the coronavirus front lines.

That would ruin her hopes of taking a short holiday after the Tour leaves Nice on Monday and heads deeper into France, after two days of racing around the city.

But while no fan of the race herself, and despite the health risks of pushing ahead with cycling’s greatest roadshow in the midst of the pandemic, Leneveu is adamant that the three-week Tour must go on, because “life must continue.”

“These are already tough times and it will be very, very hard to endure over the long term if, on top of all this, we don’t allow people to escape via the television, with events like this,” she said. “Many of my family members adore it and they would have been very sad if there’d been no Tour de France, because it’s emblematic.”

That the Tour, delayed from July, survived the health crisis that wiped out scores of other sporting events testifies to the emotional, political and economic clout steadily accumulated by the race during its 117-year history, both in France and beyond.

For race organizers and the French government, the reward of successfully steering the Tour to the finish in Paris on September 20 will be a striking message — that the country is getting back on its feet after the first deadly wave of infections and learning to live with its epidemic that has claimed more than 30,500 lives in France.

The risk is that so many riders might fall sick during the 3,484-kilometer (2,165-mile) odyssey that organizers are forced to cut it short.

Not reaching Paris would lead to questions, already being voiced by medical personnel and others, about whether the race should never have set off from Nice at all.

AP

In the depths of this hard, wintry lockdown, Melbourne’s cultural leaders are wargaming an ambitious summer of outdoors music and theatre – but the city’s cultural rebirth will likely look like nothing we’ve ever seen.

Imagine a concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, where the grassy amphitheatre is a checkerboard of little enclosures for households to picnic at a safe distance.

Fans in socially-distanced enclosures at the Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

Fans in socially-distanced enclosures at the Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Credit:Getty Images

Imagine sitting at a table, cabaret-style, in the Malthouse courtyard, watching a new production at a bespoke theatre that’s just been sprayed down with a mass-disinfectant machine.

Imagine Day on the Green’s winery crowd masked and temperature checked, ordering food and drink on an app for delivery to a quarantined enclave.

These are ideas canvassed by companies who spoke to The Age – emphasising that nothing is set in stone – who are desperate to satisfy a deep reservoir of demand for live performance in Melbourne, while not creating breeding grounds for a new pandemic wave. (Melburnians will have to wait for an easing of restrictions, with all plans dependent on revised health guidelines.)

[Read the full story here]

Electricity restoration and clean up efforts in locked down and storm-struck Victoria tomorrow, as gusts of up to 100km per hour are set to batter the state again.

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds on Sunday that stretch from Warrnambool to the Alpine ranges, and includes Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat.

Melbourne residents are waiting to hear when they will no longer need to boil drinking water, as many gathered on Saturday at emergency tankers to fill bottles and pots and pans after a wild storm caused widespread blackouts and potentially contaminated drinking supplies across at least 100 suburbs.

More than 270,000 households were still being urged to boil their water on Saturday afternoon as they anticipated an update at 8pm. About 10,000 homes remained without power after the vicious winds and heavy rain that lashed the state on Thursday night knocked out power to more than 130,000 customers.

Three people were killed in the storm, including a four-year-old boy who was walking with his family when falling tree struck him.

The government has reminded those affected by the outages or damage that they are allowed to travel to family’s houses for assistance, despite strict coronavirus restrictions.

[Read more here]

The Andrews government has struck a deal with state MPs to continue Victoria’s state of emergency beyond September 14, as daily COVID-19 case numbers fell below 100 on Saturday for the first time in more than two months.

Premier Daniel Andrews reported 94 new cases and another 18 lives lost to the virus, taking the state’s toll to 514, as he urged Victorians to “find a way” to keep following lockdown rules and not be tempted into risky behaviour by the falling case numbers and sunny weather.

Late afternoon sunshine at St Kilda beach on Saturday.

Late afternoon sunshine at St Kilda beach on Saturday.Credit:Scott McNaughton

Police and military personnel were out in force on Saturday enforcing the COVID-19 restrictions as Melbourne enjoyed a day of late winter sunshine, with joint patrols at Melbourne seaside spots as well as at beaches on the Surf Coast.

Cyclists were being stopped and questioned on the busy St Kilda Road in the city’s inner south as officers enforced the 5km limit rule.

Despite the continued positive trend in the daily case count, the Premier said it was still too early to go public on a roadmap out of lockdown or even say if the tough stage four restrictions will end as scheduled on September 14.

But Labor has found a way to break the Parliamentary impasse over its controversial bid to extend for another 12 months its power to declare states of emergency, which it has been using every four weeks throughout the pandemic.

A deal has been hammered out with crossbench MPs in the upper house, giving Mr Andrews’ government a one-off extension which will last six months, but not the permanent legislative change it was seeking, on condition that members of Parliament are briefed on the health situation each time a new four-week state of emergency is declared.

[Read the full story here]

A positive COVID-19 attended a pub in Sydney’s south last week.

In a social media post on Saturday night, the Caringbah Hotel said the guest attended the hotel on August 22 between 8:30pm and 11:30pm.

“As a licensed venue, we already have very high standards of cleaning and hygiene in place, and the venue has a detailed deep clean scheduled overnight on 29 August,” the hotel said in a social media post.

“We have provided NSW Health with contact details of staff and customers at the hotel during that period. To further aid NSW Health with contact tracing monitoring, we highly encourage all customers to download the COVIDSafe app.”

“The wellbeing of our guests, team and communities is our highest priority, and in line with public health advice, we are taking all necessary steps to ensure ongoing safety in our venue.”

The venue urged those who were there during the time period as the infectious guest and have since displayed symptoms, or do so in the next two weeks, to contact the Department of Health hotline on 1800 020 080 and follow their recommendation on testing and isolating.

“We thank you for your continued support and understanding in what is a very challenging time for everyone,” the statement said.

NSW Health is investigating new cases of COVID-19 linked to the City Tattersalls Fitness Centre cluster on Pitt Street.

These cases, who were exposed to COVID-19 at the gym, attended the centre in the past few days but didn’t know they were infectious. NSW Health has been asked to clarify the exact number of new cases.

Anyone who attended the centre on the following dates and times is considered to be close contacts. They must immediately get tested and self-isolate for 14 days since their last visit

  • Wednesday, August 19, between 8am and 2pm
  • Friday, August 21, between 8am and 2pm, including: Aqua Aerobics from 10am and 10:45am;
  • Stretch Class from 11am and 11:50am; Pump Class from 12:15pm and 1pm
  • Sunday, August 23, between 8am and 2pm
  • Monday, August 24, between 8am and 2pm
  • Tuesday, August 25, between 8am and 2pm

Members who attended the gym on the above dates but not during the listed times should be on the alert for symptoms, get tested and self-isolate if symptoms do develop.

NSW Health is investigating if the CBD cluster originated in the City Tattersalls Club and then spread to workplaces in the city and to households across Sydney and the Central Coast. They are asking anyone who attended the Club between August 4 and 18 to get tested for COVID-19 and isolate until a negative test result is received

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