The NSW town of Armidale is officially in its first night of lockdown after the virus arrived in the Northern Tableland towns after a six-hour journey on a regional NSW train.
More than 25,000 residents from the Armidale local government area, including the neighbouring township of Guyra, are affected by the stay-at-home orders which took effect at 5pm.
It appears the virus may have hitched a ride there on a train, with authorities issuing a close contact alert for people who caught an XPT service from Newcastle to Armidale on Thursday, July 29.
The XPT train stops at more than a dozen stations during its 333-kilometre journey, including Tamworth and Werris Creek.
At today’s press conference NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said it is likely a young person with COVID-19 brought the disease into the Armidale region from Newcastle.
Of the two cases diagnosed in Armidale yesterday, one was a close contact of a known case from the Newcastle area.
The lockdown will be in place until at least Sunday, August 15.
Restrictions will be identical to those already in place in Greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Newcastle and the Hunter – everyone in these areas must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave.
There are two exemptions for Armidale. Weddings and funerals can take place until the beginning of Tuesday, August 10. After that, weddings will not be permitted and funerals will be limited to 10 mourners.
People staying in a caravan park or camping ground on a booking made before Saturday can continue their stay, provided it is not extended.
People are encouraged to get tested at the Armidale Hospital drive-through clinic, the Laverty Pathology drive-through or the Douglass Hanly Moir Pathology walk-in clinic.
Victorian’s COVID-19 exposure sites have reached 140, with at least 61 added today.
Nearly two dozen new sites were listed on Saturday evening; among them, six new tier 1 sites, which require anyone who has visited them to get tested for COVID-19, and quarantine for 14 days regardless of the result. The new tier 1 exposure sites are:
- Woolworths, Caroline Springs – Thursday, August 5 between 10.15am and 12.55pm
- BWS, Taylors Lakes – Wednesday, August 4 between 6.20pm and 7.10pm
- BWS, CS Square, Caroline Springs – Monday, August 2 between 9am and 10am, Tuesday, August 3 between 5.10pm and 8.40pm, Wednesday, August 4 between 8.30am and 5.30pm, and Thursday, August 5 between 8.30am and 12.45pm
The remaining new sites are tier 2, meaning anyone who visited them during the specified timeframes has to get tested and isolate until they receive a negative test result. The new tier 2 sites are:
- Bharat Traders Indian Superstore, West Footscray – Wednesday, August 4 between 10am and 10.45am, and between 2.40pm and 3.30pm
- IGA, West Footscray – Wednesday, August 4 between 9.30am and 10.30am
- Management Office, Marque Apartment, Maribyrnong – Tuesday, August 3 between 1.15pm and 2pm
- The Coffee Club Cafe, CS Square, Caroline Springs – Thursday, August 5 between 8.55am and 9.35am
- Pizza Depot, Taylors Lakes – Tuesday, August 3 between 8.25pm and 9.05pm
- DFO Essendon, Strathmore – Tuesday, August 3 between 10.20am and 11.10am
- Snooze, DFO Essendon, Strathmore – Tuesday, August 3 between 10.20am and 11.10am
- e&s, DFO Essendon, Strathmore – Tuesday, August 3 between 10.10am and 10.50am
- House, Taylors Lakes – Tuesday, August 3 between 4.30pm and 5.25pm
- ANZ, Watergardens Shopping Centre, Taylors Lakes – Tuesday, August 3 between 9.55am and 10.55am
- ALDI, Keilor Central, Keilor Downs – Wednesday, August 4 between 5.20pm and 6.15pm
- The Reject Shop, Keilor Central, Keilor Downs – Wednesday, August 4 between 5pm and 6pm
- Kmart, Keilor Central, Keilor Downs – Wednesday, August 4 between 4.45pm and 5.45pm
- Collins Street Skin Aesthetics, Melbourne – Tuesday, August 3 between 7.30pm and 9.10pm
- Taylors Lakes Football Ground, Taylors Lakes – Sunday, August 1 between 9.20am and 12.20pm
- Mobile Coffee Shop Mr Barista, Taylors Lakes Football Ground – Sunday, August 1 between 10.15am and 10.25am
The new exposure sites come with the announcement of new COVID-19 detections in wastewater in regional Victoria.
The Chief Health Officer’s update, issued on Saturday evening, reiterated that new wastewater detections had been made in Benalla and Healesville, and the Healesville detection impacts the towns of Badger Creek, Coldstream and Healesville.
Meantime, there had been more wastewater detections to indicate “strong and increasing levels of COVID-19 fragments in the Glenroy-Broadmeadows area and surrounding suburbs”.
“The number of repeat detections and the strength of these detections in the Glenroy-Broadmeadows area indicate that it is likely there are as yet undetected positive cases of COVID-19 in that catchment,” the chief health officer’s update said.
“This catchment includes the following suburbs: Attwood, Broadmeadows, Campbellfield, Coolaroo, Essendon Fields, Gladstone Park, Glenroy, Gowanbrae, Greenvale, Jacana, Meadows “Heights, Oak Park, Pascoe Vale, Roxburgh Park, Somerton, Strathmore, Strathmore Heights, Tullamarine and Westmeadows.”
Five patients have now died after catching COVID-19 in Liverpool Hospital’s geriatric and neurology wards; among them, 80-year-old Bossley Park grandfather Kat Ditthavong.
Mr Ditthavong caught COVID-19 in the geriatric ward, where he had been admitted for dehydration caused by one of his medications, his son, photographer Sitthixay Ditthavong, said.
A former Laos diplomat who spoke six languages, Mr Ditthavong came to Australia as a political refugee in the 1970s. The father of six and grandfather of eight, who had Parkinson’s, had mostly stayed home since March 2020. He was not vaccinated on the advice of his GP due to his health conditions.
“I want people to know that he wasn’t just a number, and he wasn’t irresponsible,” Sitthixay said. “He had a great love of life and he did all the right things.
“I feel like there’s this overarching blame of people who get infected and are not vaccinated, but there are many reasons why people have been unable to be vaccinated and they have been let down by the state and federal governments’ slow rollout.”
Construction workers will be able to return to unoccupied worksites across NSW from Wednesday on the condition they remain at half capacity and workers from COVID hot spots are vaccinated.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro has announced construction workers from Sydney’s eight worst-hit local government areas will be able to pick up the tools from Wednesday, for the first time since a snap ban took effect on July 17.
However, a strict vaccination and testing regime will be in place for the workers from the affected local government areas, including Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool and Parramatta.
“We want workers back on the tools, but we need to continue to keep this virus at bay, and so by opening unoccupied worksites at 50 per cent capacity and vaccinating workers from within those affected LGAs, we can achieve both,” Mr Barilaro said on Saturday.
From Wednesday workers from those LGAs will have to provide evidence that they have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine before attending a worksite, or one dose of a vaccine at least three weeks beforehand.
If it is less than three weeks since they received their first vaccine dose, the workers must be tested and produce a negative result in the 72 hours before attending a worksite.
NSW Health is currently trialling rapid antigen testing, which if approved will be offered to the workers as an alternative to pathology tests, which can have wait times of over 48 hours for results.
Unoccupied construction sites across Greater Sydney, including at the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Wollongong and Shellharbour, will also have to operate at 50 per cent capacity from Wednesday.
A mass vaccination day targeted at construction workers has been announced for next weekend.
“We hope to vaccinate about 8000 workers at Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday 15 August, with vaccines also available at some GPs and pharmacies,” Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres said.
Exemptions will be in place for construction workers with medical or other conditions that make vaccination unsuitable.
About one-fifth fewer jabs are being administered in Victoria compared with NSW over the past week.
Victoria is administering an average of 17,600 jabs per day over the past week compared with 23,300 in NSW. Queensland is tracking at 11,500 per day.
NSW, off the back of updated advice from Australia’s immunisation advisory group, is now allowing under-60s to receive the AstraZeneca jab at state-run hubs.
The Victorian government will follow suit next week and hopes the change will increase the rate of vaccination in the state.
Premier Daniel Andrews described himself today as a “spruiker” for the AstraZeneca shot which causes an extremely rare blood clotting syndrome that kills approximately one in a million people. The contraceptive pill and other heavily-used medications carry a far greater risk.
“Go and talk to your doctor, and for the vast majority of people the advice will be AstraZeneca is safe – go and get it,” Mr Andrews said.
“There’ll be many, many people who will be able to get AstraZeneca in state clinics who can’t now.”
About 150,000 Pfizer doses are being fast-tracked to Victoria in response to the latest outbreak.
Cricket Victoria is in discussion with the department of health after the Junction Oval indoor centre was named as a tier 1 exposure site.
A positive case was at the facility on Wednesday night from 7.30pm to 11pm as players from numerous clubs trained.
The positive case was a grade cricketer from Melbourne’s north-west, meaning a considerable number of players who trained that evening will need to go into isolation.
However, it is unlikely that the Victorian senior state squad will be heavily affected, as they had trained at the ground on Wednesday morning and most left Junction Oval by mid-afternoon.
The squad is scheduled to depart Melbourne for the start of the domestic season in three weeks’ time.
Before COVID-19, no-one thought anything could stop the HSC.
When the epidemic began last year and the state locked down in March, concerns about social distancing led to delays – the written exams were postponed by five days – and the cancellation of some group examinations, but abandoning exams, which have run like clockwork since 1967, was never on the cards.
This year, it’s different. The tactics that tamed the Alpha variant of COVID-19 are not working for Delta. Case numbers are stubbornly high and inching upwards. It’s making teenagers sick.
When COVID-19 hit last year the HSC examining body, the NSW Education Standards Authority had almost six months before the written exams; this year, the outbreak came just as year 12 was about to hit the final stretch. Student stress went through the roof. The sector began asking itself; what happens if NSW is still battling COVID-19 when HSC exams begin in October?
After a few weeks, Sydney Catholic Schools boss Tony Farley publicly articulated what a lot of people were already thinking; maybe, he suggested, it’s time to cancel?
NSW Health has issued an alert after a COVID-positive patient travelled on an XPT throughout regional NSW over the course of a week ago.
The train travelled from Newcastle to Armidale via Werris Creek on Thursday, July 29.
Anyone who was on the train service is considered a close contact and must get tested and isolate for 14 days since they were on the train, regardless of the test result.
The train departed Broadmeadow station at 11.40am on July 29 and arrived at Armidale at 5.30pm. Two further close contact venues have been identified in Sydney where the same rules apply:
- Belmore Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Centre, Burwood Road, Belmore – Tuesday, August 3 from 1pm to 5.30pm
- Commonwealth Bank, Burwood Road, Burwood – Tuesday, August 3 from 8.15am to 5.15pm and Wednesday, August 4 from 8.15am to 5.15pm
NSW Health has also identified a number of new casual contact venues. Anyone who attended them during the specified timeframes must get tested and self-isolate until they receive a negative result. If you visited the venue within the last four days, you must get another test on day five from the date of exposure.
The new casual contact venues are:
- IGA, Claudia Road, Toongabbie – Monday, August 2 from 10.05am to 10.15am
- Tong Li Supermarket Rhodes Waterside, Rider Boulevard, Rhodes – Friday, July 30 from 10.20am to 10.50am
- Coles Rhodes Waterside, Rider Boulevard, Rhodes – Friday, July 30 from 9am to 10am
- Patisserie New York, Marco Avenue, Revesby – Monday, August 2 from 11:50am to 11:55am
- Bakers Delight, Marco Avenue, Revesby – Monday, August 2 from 11:55am to 12:00pm
- Woolworths, Concord Road, North Strathfield – Tuesday, August 3 from 12.50pm to 1pm
- Fresh Farm Markets, North Parade, Mt Druitt Westfield – Sunday, August 1 from 10am to 10:05am
- Zag Seafood Store, Pitt Street, Stockland Merrylands – Wednesday, July 28 from 1.20pm to 1.35pm
- Woolworths, Pitt Street, Stockland Mall Merrylands – Wednesday, July 28 from 1.20pm to 1.35pm
- Coles, McFarlane Street, Merrylands – Tuesday, August 3 from 7.55pm to 8.15pm
- Woolworths, Louis Street, Granville – Tuesday, August 3 from 6am to 6.10am, Monday, August 2 from 1pm to 1.10pm, Friday, July 30 from 4.45pm to 5.10pm, and Thursday, July 29 from 11.35am to 12.10pm
- Dan Murphy’s, Corner Hewitt Street and Great Western Highway, Colyton – Sunday, August 1 from 10.10am to 10.15am
- Casula Fish Market, Hume Highway, Casula – Monday, August 2 from 1.30pm to 1.50pm
- NAB ATM Castle Towers, Castle Street, Castle Hill – Sunday, August 1 from 6pm to 6.10pm
A full list of NSW exposure sites can be found here.
Victorian health authorities have identified more than a dozen new exposure sites, bringing the state’s total to 117.
Several of the new exposure sites added on Saturday afternoon are “tier 1”, meaning anyone who visited it during the specified timeframe has to immediately get tested for COVID-19 and quarantine for 14 days, regardless of the result. The new tier 1 sites are:
- Fat Jack’s, Altona North – Tuesday, August 3 between 7.35pm and 8.45pm
- Derrimut 24:7 Gym, Ravenhall – Wednesday, August 4 between 11.36am and 12.55pm
- Citipower Centre Junction Oval Indoor Cricket Centre, St Kilda – Wednesday, August 4 between 7.30pm and 11pm
- Capricho Grill, Sunshine West – Thursday, August 5 between 6pm and 6.40pm
- The Jolly Miller Cafe, CS Square, Caroline Springs – Wednesday, August 4 between 7am and 4pm
- Nando’s, Caroline Springs Shopping Centre -Thursday, August 5 between 6.25pm and 7.05pm
- McDonald’s, Yallambie – Monday, August 2 between 1.50pm and 2.20pm
The remaining exposure sites are “tier 2”, meaning anyone who attended those during the specified timeframes has to get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result. The new tier 2 sites are:
- ALDI, Werribee – Wednesday, August 4 between 6pm and 6.40pm
- Coles, Werribee – Wednesday, August 4 between 6.30pm and 7pm
- Woolworths, Werribee – Wednesday, August 4 between 5.45pm and 6.35pm
- Western Halal Meats, Werribee – Wednesday, August 4 between 5.30pm and 6.10pm
- United Service Station, Deer Park Central – Tuesday, August 3 between 12.25pm and 1pm
- Chemist Warehouse, Burnside – Tuesday, August 3 between 3.40pm and 4.25pm
- Saltwater Swim School, Point Cook – Wednesday, August 4 between 11.10am and 3.30pm
- Saltwater Swim School, Point Cook – Tuesday, August 3 between 11.10am and 3.30pm
- 7-Eleven, Yallambie – Wednesday, August 4 between 11am and 11.20am
A full list of Victorian exposure sites can be found here.
Victorian advocacy organisations are watching health authorities closely to see how they respond to the developing COVID situation in Melbourne’s public housing towers.
So far, a family of eight in one Flemington tower north-west of the CBD, which is home to at least 400 people, has tested positive for coronavirus. Authorities confirmed on Saturday morning the family was relocated from the tower.
The tower is one of nine blocks across Flemington, North Melbourne and Kensington that was placed under an immediate hard lockdown in July last year.
Abdiqifar Ahmed from not-for-profit organisation AMSSA Youth Connect supported the high rise residents in 2020.
He said while it was only the family of eight that had so far tested positive in the Flemington tower, there were at least 10 families from Al-Taqwa College – where a COVID-positive teacher worked – living across all the towers.
“Obviously comparing to last year it was really terrible because it had a massive toll on so many people. Every single person was locked down irrespective of their status – they didn’t take that into consideration,” he said.
“I hope this time around it’s handled more efficiently and affected people are removed, are taken to a safer location. Last time everyone just got locked in and it [the virus] spread more.”
Cory Memery, founder of the Public Housing Residents Network, said he was “devastated” by the news that highrise tenants had again become sick with COVID-19.
“I’m nearly in tears here,” he told The Age. “People in public housing we all did the right things [after last year’s lockdowns] and this has happened again”.
Mr Memery, who is a resident at the Carlton public housing towers where dozens of people became infected in Melbourne’s second wave, said he had long believed positive cases should be taken to hotel quarantine as soon as they’re found.
“I’ve strongly believed that since last year,” he said. “In the block that I’m in there’s only one lift at the moment, people congregate in the foyer.”
Last year’s tower lockdowns invited widespread condemnation with high levels of police and even fenced in exercise areas set up for residents at one stage.
Read the full story here.