Regional Victoria’s bars, cafes could open up next week as new cases remain low

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Victoria’s Parliament House and its grounds have been closed down due to a contracted security guard testing positive to COVID-19.

The presiding officers of Victorian Parliament said in a statement on Sunday afternoon: “A person who worked at Parliament House last week has tested positive to COVID-19.”

“As a result, we have closed access to Parliament House and its grounds until further notice while deep cleaning of the relevant areas is conducted,” they said.

The statement said the security guard stayed home on the day they started to feel unwell, and contact tracing was already underway.

“Deep cleaning of the areas where the person worked in the building has been undertaken and is continuing. This is on top of the ongoing high-level cleaning already undertaken in Parliament House each weekday,” the statement said.

Under current contract arrangements, security guards who work at Parliament are unable to work elsewhere.

The news follows Victoria recording 41 new cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths since yesterday, six of which have been linked to aged care outbreaks.

The deaths — of one woman and one man in their 70s, one woman in her 80s and four women in their 90s — take the state’s death toll to 723.

Mr Andrews said there were 17,396 coronavirus tests processed since yesterday and about 90 per cent of test results were coming back within 24 hours.

The number of “mystery” cases in the state, where the source of the transmission cannot be traced, has dropped by 11 since yesterday’s update.

Victoria’s state of disaster and state of emergency would be extended for another four weeks from tomorrow.

The Government has announced a $3 billion support package for businesses including cash grants, tax relief and cashflow support.

Restrictions set to ease from midnight in metropolitan Melbourne and the regions

Melbourne’s 14-day average of new daily cases has dropped to 56.9 and regional Victoria’s is at 4.1.

Mr Andrews said regional Victoria was on track to open up pubs, bars, and restaurants to outdoor diners as soon as this week.

“It looks likely, but again we have to wait and see the next few days’ numbers, but it looks likely that in just a few days’ time, regional Victoria will be able to take another step which has direct bearing in relation to pubs, restaurants, cafes,” he said.

Melbourne and regional Victoria are set to move into slightly relaxed restrictions from midnight, including allowing single households and parents to form social bubbles with one other person.

The Melbourne curfew will be shortened by an hour, allowing people out until 9:00pm, and people will be able to exercise for two hours instead of one.

In Melbourne, exercise will be extended for two hours, split over a maximum of two sessions, playgrounds and outdoor training will reopen and libraries will open for contactless click-and-collect.

In regional Victoria, up to five people from two households will be able to gather together outside and outdoor pools and playgrounds will reopen.

‘Highly unlikely’ coronavirus targets will be met early, Premier says

Mr Andrews said it was “highly unlikely” the state would meet its target of fewer than five new cases on average over 14 days earlier than October 26.

Under the state’s roadmap, if the 14-day average is fewer than five new cases and there were fewer than five “mystery cases” over the same period, there will be no restrictions on leaving home, and public gatherings outside will increase to 10.

But Mr Andrews said it would be “highly unlikely we will meet those case number thresholds” before October 26.

A woman wearing a face mask walks in Melbourne's CBD. A tram can be seen in the background.A woman wearing a face mask walks in Melbourne's CBD. A tram can be seen in the background.
Some restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and the regions will ease at midnight.(ABC News: Daniel Fermer)

“It is not just about numbers, but about the passage of time,” he said.

“The passage of time is, I know, very painful and very challenging for businesses and for families, but in terms of taking safe steps, it is a positive thing.”

He said decisions on when and how the state opened up would be informed by the most recent data.

CHO says large proportion of new cases from known outbreaks

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the proportion of new daily cases was “very strongly in favour” of known outbreaks.

He said about 35 per cent of new cases were linked back to aged care outbreaks and about 40 per cent were people who were close contacts of those linked to known outbreaks.

“It is really only 10 to 20 per cent that are unknown-acquisition or mystery cases,” Professor Sutton said.

Why are we still seeing new cases linked to aged care?

Professor Sutton said outbreaks in aged care were “difficult to get on top of” even with “all of the PPE (personal protective equipment) and all of the training and awareness”.

He said some household contacts of aged care staff were acquiring the virus and there were residents with “some challenging behaviours” who were “hard to manage from an infection-control point of view”.

“With all of the PPE in the world, it can be quite a challenge to get on top of transmission with those settings.”

Despite the challenges, Professor Sutton said there had been a “slow and steady decrease in the number of active cases in aged care”.

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