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Melburnians warned not to leave city as regions ready for easing of restrictions

The new rules will remain in place until the end of September, but Shepparton could join the rest of regional Victoria sometime next week, Mr Andrews said.

Victoria Police enforce border restrictions near Chiltern in July.

Victoria Police enforce border restrictions near Chiltern in July.Credit:Jason Robins

Police warn of $5000 fines as they unveil Operation Guardian

About 200 police officers will be deployed to regional Victoria from midnight on Thursday to ensure people in metropolitan Melbourne aren’t travelling to those areas as they come out of lockdown.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said “with the easing of restrictions, some people in greater Melbourne may be tempted to interact with regional areas for all sorts of reasons, whether that’s visiting a cafe … a pub or restaurant, or some other reason.”

Mr Nugent said 200 police would be deployed to take part in Operation Guardian, patrolling major arterial roads and back roads leading out of Melbourne.

The operation will include booze buses, random checkpoints, roving patrols, and the use of automatic number plate recognition technology.

Mr Nugent warned if people from metropolitan did try to visit the regions, they would be issued with a $5452 fine for breaching the Chief Health Officer’s directions.

‘A safe first step for regional Victoria’

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton acknowledged the changes in regional Victoria were modest, particularly for country towns that have not had a case of COVID-19.

“I certainly know how hard it’s been for everyone,” Professor Sutton said. “I do believe today’s announcements are a safe first step for regional Victoria.”

Five new cases were recorded in the regions over the past 24 hours. One was in Mildura, in a person who usually lives in metropolitan Melbourne.

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A case was also recorded in the Latrobe Valley, most likely acquired in Melbourne.

Two construction workers who had travelled to Melbourne for work have tested positive, one in Mitchell Shire and another in Moorabool.

In Melbourne, an aged care worker who was fully vaccinated has tested positive. Staff on the same shift are isolating, but Professor Sutton said 95 per cent of staff and residents were vaccinated.

A Serco call centre in Mill Park is the site of a new outbreak, with four employees and four close contacts testing positive. There are 300 primary close contacts connected to that outbreak.

And 42 staff members have been furloughed after a nurse in hotel quarantine tested positive, which was announced on Tuesday.

Victoria records 221 new cases

There were 221 new cases of COVID-19 recorded across the state on Wednesday.

Mr Andrews said there were 120 people in hospital, including 33 in intensive care and 15 in a ventilator. Of those, 87 per cent have not had a jab, while 13 per cent had received one dose.

“This is going where the vaccine isn’t. It is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Mr Andrews said.

Of the new cases, 98 have so far been linked to existing cases and clusters, while investigations continue into the source of the remaining 123 cases.

A breakdown of Wednesday’s new cases:

  • 5 cases in regional Victoria – one in Mildura, one in Latrobe Valley, one in Mitchell Shire, one in Bellarine Peninsula and one in Moorabool
  • 78 in Hume
  • 52 in Moreland
  • 4 in Whittlesea
  • 5 in Darebin
  • 19 in Wyndham
  • 11 in Hobsons Bay
  • 7 in Melton
  • 5 in Brimbank
  • 3 in Moonee Valley 
  • 8 linked to Mill Park call centre
  • 2 in the Mornington Peninsula
  • 2 in Stonnington 
  • 2 in the Yarra Ranges 
  • 2 in Kingston
  • 2 in Maribyrnong
  • 5 in Cardinia
  • 1 in Banyule 
  • 8 linked to other areas 

There are now 1920 active cases in the state after 42,429 test results were received in the past 24 hours.

Nobody in a Victorian hospital has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

There were also 83, 049 vaccines administered in Victoria on Tuesday, including 36,716 at state-run clinics and 62.5 per cent of people aged over 16 have now received at least one dose of a vaccine.

The number of COVID-19 cases follows consecutive days of 246 new cases on both Monday and Tuesday, the highest daily caseloads recorded in Victoria since August last year.

On Tuesday, there were 110 people in hospital, including a 17-year-old teenager on a ventilator.

New quarantine rules for stranded Victorians

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Stranded Victorians on the other side of the border in New South Wales will be allowed to quarantine at home, as part of a trial agreed to by the national cabinet.

Health Minister Martin Foley said more than 200 people who have been at the border for 14 days – from August 25 until Wednesday, September 8 – will be the first to undertake quarantine at home.

They will need to apply from Friday night, provide a negative test result and evidence of having received a first COVID-19 vaccine, evidence they have remained at the border, and proof of being a Victorian resident.

Residents who are considered the lowest risk will then need to quarantine at home for 14 days.

Other Victorians should not rush to the border, Mr Foley said, as they would not be eligible for the first iteration of the program.

Once the lower risk trial has been done, the state could start to bring back residents from higher-risk areas of NSW.

“The last thing we want to do is import that risk into Victoria and make an already challenging situation even more difficult,” Mr Foley said.

St Vincent’s patients isolating because of COVID-19 visit

Several patients are in isolation after a person with coronavirus was treated in the emergency department of St Vincent’s Hospital in Fitzroy on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the hospital said the patient tested positive for coronavirus upon arrival and was treated as a suspected COVID-19 patient as soon as they entered the hospital.

St Vincent’s Hospital in the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy.

St Vincent’s Hospital in the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy.Credit:Scott McNaughton

“All appropriate COVID-safe controls were in place, including staff in full personal protective equipment, and as a result no staff members required furloughing as a result,” he said.

The spokesman said in line with Victorian Department of Health protocols, the patient was transferred to Royal Melbourne Hospital on Tuesday night for ongoing care.

The Age has been told five patients were potentially exposed to the virus due to being in the emergency department at the same time as the positive case. All of them will need to quarantine for 14 days as a precaution.

Patients and staff at The Alfred hospital’s emergency department have also been forced into isolation after it was declared a tier-1 exposure site on Tuesday evening.

A spokesman for the hospital said a patient who visited the emergency department on Monday night tested positive for the virus. He said the person was screened by a nurse on arrival, and did not present with symptoms of COVID-19.

Anyone who attended the emergency department’s waiting room on September 6 between 5.37pm and 11.55pm must get tested and isolate for 14 days regardless of the result. However, because emergency department staff are currently working in tier-3 protective gear, none of them have been furloughed.

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Victorian health authorities identified several new COVID-19 exposure sites on Wednesday. A neighbourhood learning centre at Carlton, an auto body repair shop at Preston, and a childcare centre at Truganina were among those listed as tier-1 sites.

An apartment complex at Epping was declared tier-2, as was an apartment complex at Richmond.

Victoria chases extra 340k Pfizer doses

Mr Andrews on Tuesday lashed the federal government for handing NSW more Pfizer vaccines than its share of the population, saying: “I signed up to a national plan to vaccinate our nation, not a national plan to vaccinate Sydney.

“Some don’t like to see this as a race, but a race it surely is,” he said. “What I did not know was that Premier [Gladys] Berejiklian is in a sprint while the rest of us are supposed to do some egg and spoon thing.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt acknowledged that NSW had received urgent help to deal with its outbreak and said the Commonwealth would redress the balance “very quickly” to make sure all states received their fair share.

Mr Andrews’ office told The Age that Victoria needed 340,000 more doses from the federal government to restore its fair share of the allocation.

With Melissa Cunningham

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