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A dozen schools from Toorak to Drysdale closed as COVID-19 spreads

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Premier Daniel Andrews said that while he happy to be reporting a lower rate of new coronavirus infections, a key measure of success would come later in the week, after which Melbourne and Mitchell Shire would have spent two weeks under new social distancing restrictions.

“I don’t want anyone to think that just because we have had a couple of days where we have seen a decrease, that somehow a corner has been turned and we can be less vigilant about following these rules,” Mr Andrews said.

“This is our new normal.”

The new situation has resulted in mandatory face coverings for people leaving their homes in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire from 11.59pm on Wednesday.

There are now 2913 active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria and the latest batch of positive tests saw a flurry of school closures, from Toorak to Drysdale.

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Among those closed for deep cleaning and further investigation following a positive case were Roxburgh College, Princes Hill Secondary College, Leibler Yavneh College, Trinity College Colac, Pascoe Vale Girls Secondary College, Drysdale Primary School and Toorak Primary School.

While students in year 10 and below have been encouraged to stay home and attend classes remotely if possible, specialist schools have been able to continue face-to-face learning.

However, Ashwood Special School in Melbourne’s east has asked parents to “think carefully” about whether they send their students to school this week, with some staff isolating due to COVID-19.

In an email to parents on Sunday, principal Helen Hatherly said the school had more than 18 staff away, and only eight classrooms teachers available on Monday.

“We are in a very difficult situation today giving advice to all families that we are facing a distinct lack of staff at Ashwood this week,” she said.

“Some staff will be away for longer as they are awaiting the results of COVID-19 testing. The current wait time for results is advised to be between three and five days.”

Ms Hatherly said the teacher absences would have a “distinct effect” on how the school operated, and that routines would be “significantly disrupted”.

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Health authorities in Victoria continue to deal with hundreds of coronavirus cases with an unknown origin, with only about 10 per cent of the cases announced on Monday immediately linked back to known outbreaks.

The 28 new cases with a known link include new infections attributed to the Royal Melbourne Hospital Royal Park campus, now at 18 cases, and Victoria’s largest coronavirus cluster at Al-Taqwa College, at 173 cases.

At least 40 different aged care homes in Victoria have at least one positive COVID-19 case, with a number of regional homes also dealing with infections, including Bill Crawford Lodge in Ballarat and Mercy Place Bethlehem Home in Golden Square, a suburb of Bendigo.

The number of facilities with an active case of the virus has doubled in five days, according to state government data, after only 20 aged care homes were affected on July 14.

A cluster at Estia Health in Ardeer has grown to 40 cases, while 28 cases have been linked to Glendale Aged Care facility in Werribee.

The virus has also emerged in the city’s courts, with two staff members from the Melbourne and Heidelberg magistrates courts testing positive to COVID-19.

A statement said the pair were “close contacts” and that 10 people who had come into close contact with them were tested and have gone into isolation.

They said all tests that had been conducted in response to the positive cases had come back negative and that those who had tested positive hadn’t come into contact with the public.

The court said that they had been working according to a roster system that meant their operations – which are typically very busy – would be uninterrupted.

With David Estcourt, Adam Cooper and Ashleigh McMillan

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