“People are entitled to their views, people are entitled to criticise, they’re entitled to have, you know, theories and views on all manner of things – that’s fine,” he said.
“No one’s criticising that, but at some point the question has to go back, well, what’s your alternative? If the best you’ve got is open the schools against medical advice, and then have kids bring this home into family, after family, after family.
“That’s not a strategy that I will pursue, they’re not choices that I will make, they’re not real options in fact – they’re not real options at all.”
Asked if schools would move back to classroom teaching this term, Mr Andrews said he did not have certainty on whether the health situation would allow that to happen.
“I simply can’t pretend that we have absolute certainty with this, we’re going to have to see how things unfold,” Mr Andrews said.
“I don’t want to see kids in hospital, I just don’t.
“We’ll think about this long and hard, we’ll look at the data and as soon as we can get the schools open and everything else as well … we will. The key to that is everybody following these rules.”
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said that, during this COVID-19 outbreak in particular, children had transmitted the virus.
“There is a risk from children to other children and from children to adults,” he said.
He urged parents whose children had coronavirus symptoms to get them tested for it.
Professor Sutton said airborne transmission rather than surface contamination was the concern behind the closure of playgrounds after he was asked about a case of transmission he flagged last week.
“It’s probably not through surface contamination that it occurred so it’s probably through airborne transmission for kids,” Professor Sutton said during Thursday’s COVID-19 update.
“I’m not concerned that it’s a hygiene issue of playgrounds needing to be wiped down. I’m concerned that it’s transmission between kids getting close, and we know that they don’t physically distance in a playground.
“Sure, we’ll encourage them – some kids might wear masks in those circumstances, but a lot will just be in very close contact with complete strangers … so that’s a concern.”
Victoria on Thursday recorded 80 new local COVID-19 cases as health authorities declared as dozens of new exposure sites were added, including exposure dates at two primary schools.
Of Thursday’s new locally acquired cases, 39 were in quarantine for their entire infectious period. The cases were recorded from more than 56,200 tests.
Sixty-seven are linked to the current COVID-19 outbreaks, and authorities are investigating the acquisition source for the remaining 13 cases. Victoria recorded no new cases in its hotel quarantine in the past 24 hours.
Victorian COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar 240 of Victoria’s 600 active coronavirus cases were people under the age of 20.
Seven people in the state who are in hospital with COVID-19 are aged in their 20s, and one is an infant.
“We see this very much as an outbreak really impacting the young people in our society and, of course, their families and households, the people they live with,” Mr Weimar said.
He also provided a breakdown of how the 67 linked cases were connected to existing outbreaks:
- 20 linked to Shepparton and the Royal Melbourne Hospital outbreak (including 18 in Shepparton);
- 15 linked to MyCentre childcare in Broadmeadows;
- Nine linked to Hobsons Bay/Wyndham cluster;
- Four to Newport Football Club;
- Three to CS Square Caroline Springs;
- Two to City of Port Phillip/St Kilda East;
- One to Altona Gate Shopping Centre;
- One to Brighton;
- One to Brunswick East;
- One to Glenroy;
- One to Sunbury and
- Nine are household contacts of unlinked cases.
Thursday’s figures came as the state’s health authorities identified dozens of new exposure sites, including the vacation care program at primary school in north-east Melbourne.
Northcote Primary School’s outside school hours care program was declared a tier 1 exposure site over three days: Wednesday, August 18 between 2.45pm and 6.45pm; Thursday, August 19 between 7.15am and 9.45am and 2.45pm and 6.45pm; and Friday, August 20 between 7.15am and 9.30am and 2.45pm and 6.45pm.
Tier 1 means anyone who attended the program during the specified timeframes has to immediately get tested and quarantine for 14 days.
Other new exposure sites listed on Thursday included the Coles at Corio Village in the suburbs of Geelong and a petrol station in nearby Lara. Both were tier-2 exposures.
An Indonesian restaurant near Albert Park and a nearby toilet were also added to the official list along with several tram routes.
The emergency department at Monash Medical Centre in Clayton was added as a tier-1 site on Wednesday evening.
A person with the virus was in the waiting area on Saturday afternoon. Authorities have said that anyone who was there between 3.35pm and 6.30pm is required to get tested for COVID-19 and isolate for 14 days.
A primary school in Shepparton was also added to the state’s list, which now includes more than 800 sites. Several retail outlets in the area were also declared tier 2 exposure sites, including Big W at Shepparton Marketplace, a post office in Shepparton south, and a bakery.
Shepparton residents have been struggling to source groceries, baby formula, nappies and medicine, and residents not in mandatory isolation have said it is hard to find places to buy essential supplies.
Some supermarkets have shut down because they are exposure sites or have lost staff to quarantine, while others have been forced to cut opening hours and reduce delivery and click-and-collect options.
However, Goulbourn Valley health officials said on Thursday that thousands of residents may be allowed to exit their 14-day isolation early as it considered downgrading some exposure sites from tier one to tier two.
Independent Shepparton MP Suzanna Sheed said: “The situation in Shepparton is a crisis and the mood is very anxious.
“For a town that would normally pull together, we simply don’t have the resources now. So we need the army, we need people driving trucks and distributing all the goods through the town.”
The Shepparton COVID-19 cluster grew to 66 cases on Wednesday, and about 40 Australian Defence Force personnel have been deployed to the city.
Mr Andrews said more Australian Defence Force personnel would likely be sent to Shepparton.
“There are substantial additional people on the ground today and that will build over time with public servants, general duties people, people from all across regional Victoria,” he said.
“We’ll stick with the community of Shepparton and give them all the support that they require in this, their time of need.”
He said authorities had provided additional support to Food Share and the Red Cross.
“There will be a request I think for some ADF personnel, that’ll be made through Emergency Management Victoria to support us in that work [in Shepparton],” Mr Andrews said.
“As soon as we’re in a position to be able to update you on that we will.”
Victoria still has chance at zero says expert, Sydney less so
Professor Brendan Crabb from the Burnet Institute said Victoria can still return to zero COVID-19 community transmission, but Sydney may be too far into its outbreak.
He said Victoria has two options – stay in lockdown until the state returns to zero cases and having a higher quality of life later in the year or start leaving lockdown with a high amount of virus in the community.
Professor Crabb, an infectious diseases expert, told ABC 774 on Thursday afternoon both options required the state to get to a high number of double-vaccinated people and Victoria should aim for zero.
However, he is concerned Sydney may have too many cases to return to zero.
“Unfortunately for the moment, Sydney is going down that second path,” Professor Crabb said.
With Roy Ward, Paul Sakkal and Melissa Cunningham
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