COVID-19 case numbers begin to steady

Sarah Luke

AS confirmed COVID-19 case numbers across the state begin to steady, the state government is urging people not to become complacent.

At the weekend, it introduced a suite of new measures to further prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Hospital workers and paramedics who test positive for coronavirus, and those who have had unanticipated unprotected contact with a person suspected of having coronavirus, will be put up in hotels or apartments to self-isolate free of charge.

The move will allow health care workers to keep their families or house mates safe, without the financial burden of taking on extra rent.

Parents will also be able to send their children to sessional kindergarten for free during term two.

The government will provide about $485 for each child enrolled in a funded kindergarten program – allowing providers to continue teaching children, especially those of essential workers and those who are vulnerable, subject to health directions.

The funding will be available for community-based, local government and school providers offering sessional programs.

To be eligible for the additional funding, the services must not charge families, and allow children to attend 15 hours a week of kinder for free.

On Friday, Premier Daniel Andrews established a Crisis Council of Cabinet as the core decision making forum for coronavirus-related matters.

It is expected to operate until at least September 30. Chaired by the Premier, it will also include seven other ministers who have been sworn in with new COVID-19 portfolios, while also retaining their regular portfolios.

Mr Andrews said the state government had 1000 people working around the clock on the public health response to coronavirus in Victoria, on contact tracing.

The team includes epidemiologists, public health clinicians, logistics, phone operators and data entry staff.

The team, which had already been in place to trace the close contacts of diseases such as measles, has grown from 57 people.

Between 8am on Sunday and 8am Monday, Victoria Police conducted 983 spot checks at homes, businesses and non-essential services across the state as part of Operation Sentinel, and 108 fines were issued.

Since March 21, Victoria Police members have conducted a total of 14,275 spot checks.

Police can issue on-the-spot fines, including up to $1652 for individuals and up to $9913 for businesses.

Under the State of Emergency, people who don’t comply could also be taken to court and receive a fine of up to $20,000, while companies can face fines up to $100,000.

There are still only four reasons for Victorians to leave their home – food and supplies, medical care and care giving, exercise, and work or education.

On Monday morning, the Department of Health reported six confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wellington Shire – a number which has been steady since last Tuesday.

In Gippsland, there were five cases in Baw Baw and Latrobe, three cases in South Gippsland, two in Bass Coast and one in East Gippsland.

This means there has only been one additional case recorded in Gippsland since last Tuesday – in South Gippsland.

At the time of print, the number of cases in Victoria was 1135 – an increase of 20 from the previous day.

There were 75 cases in Victoria that may have been acquired through community transmission.

More than 56,000 tests had been conducted to date.

There were 47 people are in hospital – including 11 patients in intensive care – and 573 people had recovered.

Of the total 1135 cases, there were 911 in Melbourne and 212 in regional Victoria.

A number of cases remain under investigation.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton urged Victorians to stay vigilant.

“While we are starting to see some improvement in the rate of transmission, now is not the time for complacency,” Professor Sutton said.

“We still have a long way to go.

“We thank those Victorians who overwhelmingly are doing the right thing by staying at home, but we must keep at it to save lives.

“Everyone who’s unwell must isolate themselves and everyone who’s been told they’re in quarantine either as a returned traveller or close contact must do so.”

Wellington Shire mayor Alan Hall has also urged people to follow the advice issued by federal and state governments.

“This will make a difference in our local communities and will save lives,” he said.

“If everyone plays their part, we will significantly slow the spread of COVID-19 in our municipality.”