Coronavirus Australia: Victoria records three more Covid-19 deaths and 217 new cases as PM postpones parliament | Australia news


Victoria has recorded 217 new cases of Covid-19 and three more deaths, as the prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced parliament would be postponed due to the health risks of MPs travelling to Canberra from Melbourne and south-western Sydney.

Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, described the 217 cases as “a relief” following a record 428 new cases announced on Friday, and a then-record 317 new cases on Thursday.

However, he warned that the outbreak was far from over, as Victoria also revealed three new aged-care homes had reported Covid-19 infections: Bethlehem aged-care facility in Bendigo, Bill Crawford Lodge in Ballarat and Bupa in Edithvale.

Australia’s acting chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, also sounded the alarm over a growing number of cases in south-western Sydney, where he said people were not taking precautions “as seriously” as in Melbourne.

New South Wales reported 15 new cases overnight, 10 of which were acquired locally. Five were linked to the outbreak at the Crossroads hotel in Casula, and one was linked to a new cluster at the Thai Rock restaurant at Wetherill Park.

There were now four cases linked to the restaurant, and on Saturday, NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty said there was no link between the restaurant and the Crossroads hotel yet discovered.

Kelly said that the effective reproductive rate of the virus, known as the R number, was “virtually at one in Victoria”, due to its harsh lockdown, but was at 1.4 in south-western Sydney.

“That demonstrates that the potential for transmission is higher in NSW,” he said.

NSW Health also warned that two people who tested positive had visited the Soldiers Club bistro in Batemans Bay on 15 July between 7pm and 9.30pm, and also the McDonald’s at Albion Park on 15 July from 2pm to 2.30pm. People who visited the two restaurants have been asked to self-isolate for two weeks.

On Saturday morning, Morrison announced that the upcoming sitting of parliament would be postponed, after Kelly advised it would be a health risk.

Kelly told reporters that the numbers in Victoria and the “emerging situation in south-west Sydney” meant that “there is a high risk”.

“Let’s think about how parliament works,” he said. “We need to have people both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives from all of the states and territories, so flying in from all states and territories … Even with physical distancing, hygiene and all the other measures we put in place … that would be deemed a mass gathering.”

However, he said that the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, currently in Melbourne, would be given an “essential worker” exemption to enter Canberra to deliver the nation’s economic update on Thursday.

He added that “there will be restrictions on what [Frydenberg] can and can’t do”, to be determined by Kelly and the ACT health authorities.

Kelly shared that the R number for Melbourne was at 1, which he described as a “good sign”, while the number was 1.4 in south-western Sydney.

“People are more mobile [in Sydney], they are mixing in greater numbers and there are suggestions from that modelling that people are not taking those messages about physical distancing, hygiene and so forth … as seriously as they currently are in Melbourne.”

In Victoria, Sutton said “217 is much better than a number above 400. But it is a number that would have shocked us all a month ago, we need to remember it is still a high number.”

Seventy-four people were fined in the state over the past 24 hours, including a man who travelled from the outer Melbourne suburb of Werribee to the city to “get a specific butter chicken”, according to police.

The federal opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, accepted the decision to delay parliament, but said it would mean the government would not be “held to account [over] the uncertainty that remains with jobkeeper and jobseeker”.

“Labor has always said that we need to follow the advice by the health experts,” he said, “[but] we believe it’s absolutely critical that the parliament sit in September, and we expect to be consulted much further in advance from any decision being made than what’s occurred with these circumstances.”

However, the Greens leader, Adam Bandt, opposed the delay, saying that parliament could have sat online.

“Every other organisation has been asked to work out how to function … and parliament should be able to as well,” he said. “It seems 2020 is the year of online meetings and working remotely for everyone except parliamentarians.

“It is vital for democracy that parliament keeps meeting … when parliament doesn’t sit, more people get left behind.”

In Victoria, the premier, Daniel Andrews, announced that of the 217 new cases of coronavirus, 11 were connected with known outbreaks, 205 were under investigation and one was in hotel quarantine.

Kelly said that the statistics were a “good decrease” in Victoria, but “this is not over” especially with new cases in rural parts of the state.



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