As reported earlier, there’s been a jump in the number of active ‘mystery’ cases with no known source in Victoria by two today, bringing the total to 17 recorded between September 30 and October 13.
The two new mystery cases today are in postcode 3047 (Broadmeadows, Dallas, Jacana) and 3977 (Botanic Ridge, Cannons Creek, Cranbourne, Cranbourne East, Cranbourne North, Cranbourne South, Cranbourne West, Devon Meadows, Junction Village, Sandhurst, Skye).
The mystery cases tally has increased by two today and so has the daily cases tally.
The two new cases confirmed today were residents of postcodes 3152 (Knox City Centre, Studfield, Wantirna, Wantirna South) and 3175 (Bangholme, Dandenong, Dandenong East, Dandenong North, Dandenong South, Dunearn).
The Victorian government had hoped to be under five mystery cases before October 19 for easing.
Plenty of news out of Victoria this afternoon for a Friday afternoon.
The Chief Health Officer’s daily data release, which was running a few hours late today, has just arrived and reveals that one of today’s two new cases “relates to a patient at the Royal Children’s Hospital”, but no other details about the case were revealed.
The other case today was a household contact of an existing case.
The two new cases reside in Greater Dandenong and Knox.
The last time there was a daily increase of two cases was on June 8. There were zero new cases on June 6 and June 9.
“The fact that we as a community … city and country … have been as stubborn as this virus in our resolve to defeat it, we are well placed to take significant steps on Sunday,” Mr Andrews said. “Today is a very positive day.”
Friday’s two new infections take the statewide 14-day rolling case average to 9.3 new cases per day.
That exceeds the 14-day five-case average the state government had hoped to achieve by the end of this week, but Mr Andrews has said an average of 10, or thereabouts, could be “as good as it gets” for Victoria in the near future.
The NSW Education department has confirmed that a student at Oran Park High School in Sydney’s west has tested positive for COVID-19.
All staff and students have been asked to self-isolate.
“Contact tracing has commenced and the school will be thoroughly cleaned over the weekend,” a spokesperson confirmed.
“Weekend activities at the school, including basketball and Physical Culture have been paused at this time.”
This will not impact the school’s HSC contingent, as only year seven and eight students are currently on school grounds.
“Further advice will be provided to the parent community over the weekend advising when the school will resume on-site learning,” the spokesperson said.
“NSW Education will continue to work closely with NSW Health to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff is maintained.”
News just in, the Victorian Board of Inquiry running the probe into the state’s hotel quarantine program is reconvening next week.
“The Board of Inquiry proposes to hold an extraordinary sitting at 2pm on Tuesday 20 October,” a spokesperson for the Board said in statement a few minutes ago.
The announcement contained no further details so it’s not clear who they want to hear from.
In case you missed this earlier, Federal Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has excoriated WA Premier Mark McGowan for persisting with a total border lockdown despite the state’s Chief Health Officer telling a parliamentary committee it could open to most jurisdictions around the country.
The WA government has insisted its ‘hard border’ policy was backed by health advice, but contradictory messages this week have undermined this claim and prompted accusations Mr McGowan is exploiting the policy as a political ploy to win support in the March state election.
Senator Cormann addressed the media alongside WA Opposition Leader Liza Harvey on Friday morning to demand the Premier explain the public health justification for preventing West Australians travelling to jurisdictions with no cases and zero community transmission of COVID-19.
He said the federal government had always supported “clear and strong measures to protect people’s health”.
“But as soon as there is no public health justification to infringe on people’s freedoms, then those restrictions ought to be lifted,” he said.
“In relation to South Australia, the Northern Territory, the ACT and Tasmania, there is no reason why Western Australians should be prevented from travelling to and from those jurisdictions freely, none whatsoever.
“I have never believed that was because of the health advice, I’ve never believed that.
“If zero active cases and zero locally-acquired community transmission is not good enough, what is? Just tell us. Tell us why you are preventing people in Western Australia from visiting their family or having loved ones from those jurisdictions come to visit them here?”
Senator Cormann rubbished comments made by Mr McGowan in WA Parliament this week that there would be COVID-19 deaths similar to those seen in Victoria if “the Liberal party has its way”.
Premier Andrews has this afternoon announced his replacement Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, after the departure of Chris Eccles earlier this week who admitted he had misled the inquiry into the state’s hotel quarantine program.
Mr Eccles followed former health minister Jenny Mikakos out of Victoria’s administration when he quit on Monday as the state’s top public servant shortly after handing his phone records to the hotel quarantine inquiry.
This afternoon Jeremi Moule, a bureaucrat with almost 20 years of experience, has been announced as his replacement.
“Jeremi brings to the role his extensive experience in leadership and driving reform, having served as the Department’s Deputy Secretary of Governance Policy and Coordination since August 2018,” a government statement reads.
“In this role, he has been responsible for leading Victoria’s public sector governance, performance and reform, as well as overseeing DPC’s functions in intergovernmental relations, emergency management, strategic communications, engagement and a number of other important priorities. Prior to this position, he worked as Executive Director of the Strategic Communication, Engagement and Protocol Branch, beginning in 2015.”
Mr Moule had also served as Victoria’s representative on the Australian New Zealand Counter Terrorism Committee, and has also held the role of Executive Director within the Department of Premier and Cabinet in South Australia.
My colleague Craig Platt has confirmed more details of those rescue flights that Prime Minister Scott Morrison mentioned a short time ago.
The airline will operate eight return services: four from New Delhi, three from London and one from Johannesburg.
All passengers will undergo COVID-19 tests at least 48 hours prior to departure and must receive a negative result in order to be allowed to board the flight. Masks will be mandatory on board and passengers will be tested again upon arrival in Australia and be required to enter quarantine for 14 days.
The one-way economy fares cost $2150 from London, $1750 from Johannesburg and $1500 from New Delhi.
Read all the details in Craig’s story here.
Good afternoon readers, it’s Rachael Dexter here taking over the blog for the rest of the day.
It’s Friday afternoon so for something a bit lighter, we’re asking our Victorian readers to share their current hair ‘situation’ after months of hairdressers being closed. We’ve heard some stories of whopping iso beards, and school kids sporting mullets and we want to see some photos!
On a more serious note, if you have any news tips you’re welcome to send them through to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has given a warm welcome to the hundreds of New Zealanders who arrived in NSW today, the first cohort under the new ‘bubble’ arrangement between some Australian states and New Zealand.
“Today, we have already welcomed our first Kiwis back to Australia for a holiday. That’s fantastic,” he said.
“We say ‘Kia Ora’ to those Kiwis who’ve joined us. We hope you enjoy your holiday in New South Wales, or the ACT and we look forward to seeing more of you, tell your friends.
“We have a few Australians in New Zealand at the moment for the Bledisloe (Cup) on the weekend. There’ll be a few Kiwis headed this way for the Bledisloe return matches here in Australia in a few weeks time.”
The PM said the arrival of our first international tourists in six months was a “real turning point”.
“Here we are, already, before the end of the year, getting at least to some new point of normal when it comes to COVID-safe travel.”
Australian consular staff can issue loans or cash assistance to stranded Australians who may not otherwise be able to afford to quarantine in Australia, the Prime Minister has said.
Quarantine spots at the new NT facility will cost $2500 for an individual and $5000 for a family, and a reporter asked Mr Morrison what could be done for Australians who couldn’t afford it.
“We provided $65 million to support the work of DFAT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] for those who might be in a difficult situation. There are a range of arrangements they put in place. Zero-interest loans which can be paid back over a longer period of time. There’s emergency cash assistance in come occasions can be provided,” Mr Morrison said.
“That’s done at the discretion of the Australian consular [staff].”
Mr Morrison said 29,100 Australians had been assisted by DFAT to get home since the beginning of the pandemic.