Coronavirus Australia live news: Restrictions ease for Victorians, 5km rule scrapped, hairdressers open


Victoria wakes to eased restrictions with the 5-kilometre rule extended to 25km and up to 10 people from two homes now able to meet outdoors.

Golf, tennis and skateparks have been given the green light and hairdressers will open in Melbourne for the first time in two-and-a-half months.

However, Victoria’s Shadow Attorney-General Edward O’Donohue says many small businesses are disappointed they cannot re-open and have not been given any certainty about their future.

Follow today’s events as they unfold.

Live updates

By Nicholas McElroy

New coronavirus restrictions announced in Italy

 

Italy has announced new coronavirus restrictions in a bid to avoid a second national lockdown.

 

Local mayors have been given authority to impose 9:00pm curfews, and restrict evening dining. 

 

Gyms and public swimming pools have been given a week to put better safety measures in place.

 

Italy confirmed 11,700 cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, a record daily high
 

By Nicholas McElroy

Federal Government defends New Zealand travel bubble

 

 

New South Wales and the Northern Territory agreed to quarantine-free travel and New Zealand visitors began flying into Sydney last Friday.

 

But the premiers of Victoria and Western Australian have questioned why dozens of the New Zealand arrivals were then allowed to catch domestic flights.  

 

Deputy prime minister Michael McCormack says it should not have come as a surprise. 

  

“They, at the end of the day, have the jurisdictional responsibilities for their own State borders but they are also available to see the manifests of airlines,” he said.

 

“They have been since October 16, those manifests, those passenger logs have been made available to governments, to health ministers, to health officers, protocol officers in the various states and it has been discussed at National Cabinet ad nauseam.”

By Nicholas McElroy

Key Event

No new COVID-19 cases recorded in Queensland

   

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young says no new coronavirus cases were recorded in the state overnight.

By Nicholas McElroy

By Nicholas McElroy

Victorian Government rejects criticism from Federal Government, business sector on eased restrictions

  

The Victorian Government has rejected criticism from the Federal Government and business sector about the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

   

Hairdressing salons and allied health services have re-opened, while non-essential external home maintenance has resumed. 

  

Public outdoor gatherings have increased to 10 from two households and the five kilometre travel limit has expanded to 25 kilometres.

  

But most retail and hospitality remain shut for now.

  

The Health Minister Martin Foley has told ABC Radio Melbourne, a careful and measured approach is crucial.

  

“We thank the Prime Minister, we thank the federal Health Minister for their partnerships to get us to the position we are but we have to take the careful expert advice based on the data that we have,” he said.

By Nicholas McElroy

What changes does Daniel Andrews expect from November?

    

For “Wondering not wandering”… looking at the story breaking down the steps outlined yesterday, the four reasons to leave home in Melbourne will not be lifted until 1/11 at this stage.

-Eagle Eye

    

Thanks Eagle Eye

  

Premier Daniel Andrews said this was among several changes he forecast for November 1: 

  

  • Scrapping the four reasons to leave your home and allowing people to go out for any reason

   

 

By Nicholas McElroy

You can exercise with up to 10 friends, as long as the group is made up of people from no more than two households

   

Dear N8cholas,How many friends can we exercise with now in our 25km bubble.?I enjoy this blog, I think your news is fair and often very funny. What happens when we have no more restrictions will the blog stop? I would miss you all😋

-Happy 25km bubble person

  

This is what the DHHS says:  

   

  • You can exercise in a group of up to ten people from a maximum of two households outdoors in a public place (personal training is limited to two people plus the trainer). This replaces the limit of five people from a maximum of two households.

 

By Nicholas McElroy

Key Event

Victoria records four new cases, one death

  

Victoria has recorded four new cases of coronavirus and one death in the past 24 hours.

    
The state’s death toll is now 817.

   
Melbourne’s 14-day average of new cases has dropped to 7.2, while in regional Victoria it’s 0.5.

  
The number of cases in Melbourne with an unknown source is stable at 15. 

By Nicholas McElroy

A taste of how some of you are feeling as restrictions ease

    

It’s the simple pleasures:  

   

Today we grabbed breakfast and coffee from a favourite cafe 6km from home. It’s a good day.

-The small things

     

Melburnians are rockstars: 

    

Good morning Nick!I hope you and everyone else in Melbourne are well today. What a great day today is!I’ve not made use of my new freedoms yet, however I feel good just knowing I can. A massive shout out to my fellow Melburnians for getting through these last few difficult months. You’re all ROCKSTARS! Stay safe and well everyone xx

-So flippin happy!

       

For some, the easing of restrictions has offered little relief: 

    

I think calling it exciting times is a bit over the top. Nothing much has changed for many thousands of Victorians, especially those that still cant get back to work. So the rope has been extended a little, but we are still tied up.

-False Freedom

I went to bed feeling aweful after yesterdays announcements and its no better this morning. The 25km restriction is still a significant infringement on our freedoms and lives for so many of us. Really feel for Dagmar’s situation. This is no longer proportionate given the case numbers and Andrews should give a clear point from which the restriction will be scrapped in its entirety, instead of backtracking on his roadmap. We’ve earned and need this. Its now come to the point of comparisons with the Berlin wall. If ever there was a sign it has gone to far this would be it. Hang in there Dagmar.

-Dagmar

By Nicholas McElroy

By Nicholas McElroy

From 5km to 25km 

  

Good morning! And it really is! Looking fwd to bursting my 5km bubble, but can’t seem to find whether we’re still restricted in the reasons we can leave home – medical/caregiving, buying food & supplies, exercise, work/study. Has this been detailed anywhere? Thanks for the blog, it’s been my lifeline this year!

-Wondering not wandering

 

Good morning! This is what the Victorian DHHS has to say about your question: 

     

“You can now travel up to 25 km from your home or permitted workplace within metropolitan Melbourne. This replaces the 5km rule. Travel to regional Victoria is still only allowed for permitted purposes even if this is within 25 kms. This means you cannot travel into regional Victoria for exercise or recreation.”

   

“You can leave home for any period of time to exercise or see friends and family outdoors. This replaces the two hour limit on these activities. There are no limits on the number of times you can leave home.”

By Nicholas McElroy

Dagmar lost her husband during lockdown. Melbourne’s 25km limit means she still can’t see her family

ABC News

  

By Elise Kinsella

 

For Dagmar Limp, Melbourne’s new travel restrictions mean she can now travel to her favourite butcher, but still can’t see her daughter.

  
The 77-year-old lives in Warburton in the Yarra Ranges, and lost her husband Klaus two months ago, during Melbourne’s second lockdown.

 
She hasn’t been able to see one of her daughters, who lives in St Kilda, since her husband’s death because of the rule preventing Melburnians from travelling more than 5 kilometres from their homes.

 
“For some people I guess 25km will make a difference, but if you are this far out as I am in Warburton, well then it is no use to me at all,” she said.

By Nicholas McElroy

Midnight hair cuts and early morning tee times 

   

Melburnians have wasted no time making use of their new freedoms, after coronavirus restrictions were eased yesterday.

   

Restrictions preventing people from going to the hairdresser, or playing golf and tennis, were lifted at midnight.

  

The 5km travel restriction was also extended to 25km, giving people more freedom to travel out of their suburbs.

 

South Yarra hairdresser Joey Scandizzo opened his business at midnight.

 

“The phones have been going crazy so we’ve been trying to get everybody we can in,” he said.

 

“As soon as the clock struck 12 we were in here, we got them all done.”

 

Some keen golfers turned up early this morning to a golf club in North Balwyn hoping to be first on the course, only to find that the club did not yet have council approval to reopen.

By Nicholas McElroy

Need a more concise refresher on restrictions in Victoria?

  

This is the link you’re looking for: 

 

 

By Nicholas McElroy

Here is the link to Sunday’s live blog

   

Want to catch up on how we got here? 

  

  

Enjoy. 

By Nicholas McElroy

By Nicholas McElroy

Good morning

  

Welcome to the ABC’s Coronavirus live blog for Monday October 19. 

    

It’s an exciting day for Victorians with restrictions easing across the state. 

   

Do you have something to say about it? Got any burning questions? Use the blue button at the top of the page that says ‘Leave a comment’ and we will get to as many as we can.

  



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Victoria 5km rule to be lifted, Daniel Andrews flags Victoria restrictions easing, Victoria records two new cases, no deaths for Sunday, UK lockdown recommences, Australia death toll at 904


Premier Daniel Andrews said that “modelling gets very challenging” when case numbers get low.

He said the number of tests completed each day, the number of mystery cases and the ‘story’ that sits behind each new case will determine if the state can roll back more restrictions from November 2.

“As the numbers gotten very low, you do have to make that difficult judgement, could this be as good as it is going to get? And then make a proportionate decision,” he said.

“Things that will drive us, and I think some of the material we have given you goes to this, how many people are getting tested? How quickly are they getting tested? And how many mystery cases are there? What is the story that sits behind every new case that comes to us?

“That means that there will be many, many hours of meetings every day between now and the weekend, to see if we can bring things forward a bit.”

He said while the state would still be aiming to get to 14 days in a row with no new cases, the government has “never been about keeping these things on for an indefinite period to reach a target that may or may not be achievable”.



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Victoria 5km rule to be lifted, Daniel Andrews flags Victoria restrictions easing, UK lockdown recommences, Australia death toll at 904


A plan to revive Melbourne’s moribund city centre through tax relief, deregulation, commuter incentives and repurposing of vacant commercial buildings is being considered by the Victorian government ahead of the state budget expected on November 10.

Free train travel and coffee, suspension of payroll and fringe benefits tax, waiving of fees for new liquor licences and the transformation of office space into affordable housing and shared working spaces for start-ups, students and artists are among the measures proposed by a high-powered group of business and civic leaders.

Melbourne’s Collins Street has been deserted for months.Credit:Wayne Taylor

With Victoria recording only a handful of new COVID-19 cases in recent days, Premier Daniel Andrews has promised to announce today “significant” easing of Melbourne’s stage four restrictions but has dismayed the retail and hospitality sectors by ruling out any immediate steps towards the reopening of shops, cafes and bars.



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Coronavirus updates LIVE: Melbourne’s 5km rule could increase to 20km; NSW Health Minister urges COVID-19 positive people to ‘tell the whole truth’; Australian death toll stands at 897


“While some of our larger commemorations won’t look the same as in past years, this exemption means smaller services can be held in all local communities across NSW,” Acting Veterans Minister Geoff Lee said.

NSW recorded six new locally acquired coronavirus cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Wednesday – matching Victoria’s six new local cases.

The NSW tally included a man in south-east Sydney with no known links to any of Sydney’s active outbreaks, and three linked to the growing Lakemba GP cluster – its source still a mystery.

Five new cases were travellers in hotel quarantine, taking the NSW daily total to 11.

Confirmed COVID cases being less than forthcoming with details about their movements while potentially infectious was a problem for both NSW and Victoria, Mr Hazzard said.

“We are not interested in any of your personal activities, we are not interested in other legal issues that you might have been involved in,” he said.

“Whether it’s deliberate or whether it’s simply overlooked … you need to make sure you tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Read more here.



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City’s 5km limit could go to 20km, with models being run ‘as we speak’


Victoria on Thursday recorded six new cases all linked to known outbreaks , which Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said was “about as encouraging as it gets at this point in time” despite signalling his ongoing concern at the number cases with an unknown source.

Professor Cheng said modelling to be completed by Friday was considering factors such as increasing the five-kilometre movement limit, in place since August 2, to 20 kilometres before what the Premier said would be “significant changes” on Sunday.

“We’re looking at everything at the moment,” Professor Cheng said.

“There’s models being run as we speak and they should be off the computer in the next day or so. It does take a little bit of time to do. We’re considering all sorts of things in making those decisions.”

Additional drive-through testing sites were opened in Shepparton on Thursday but long queues extended into the afternoon as local authorities expected about 2000 residents to be tested.

About 1300 tests were done on Wednesday in response to the outbreak sparked by a man who failed to tell contact tracers until this week that he had visited Shepparton while infectious on September 30.

Of about 350 results received by Thursday, none were positive, although Professor Cheng said more cases would almost certainly be picked up in coming days.

On Thursday there were 340 close contacts and 70 secondary contacts in self-isolation and Goulburn Valley Health chief executive Matt Sharp, whose team has led the local health response, said test numbers would continue into the thousands by Friday.

“And that’s exactly what we want to get the most recent information about how prevalent COVID-19 is in the community,” he said.

Amid pressure from business groups for the government to provide clarity on reopening timelines, Treasurer Tim Pallas revealed on Thursday that the state’s public finances sunk $6.5 billion into debt at the end of the past financial year due to the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic and the summer’s bushfires.

The Premier admitted tight checkpoints around Melbourne would be vital to protect the regions and for NSW and South Australia to reopen their borders to regional Victoria, with national cabinet to meet on Friday.

City of Greater Shepparton chief executive Peter Harriott said maintaining strong checkpoints around Melbourne was a difficult task.

“The reality is the regions need people to come from Melbourne whether it’s supplying supermarkets or transporting goods,” he said. “We’re a major supplier of the nation’s food.”

Mr Harriott said the council, alongside Regional Development Victoria, had recently taken steps to ensure cafes were checking patrons had not come from Melbourne.

Many businesses chose to shut voluntarily in Shepparton on Thursday as a precaution against spreading the virus.

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The government is considering measures such as increasing hospitality capacity, reopening more retail stores and increasing gatherings at events in regional Victoria on Sunday.

Some epidemiologists have criticised the five-kilometre restriction as unnecessary as case numbers have lowered, though Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has said the rule prevented COVID-19 cases spilling over into previously unaffected areas of Melbourne.

Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton.Credit:Justin McManus

Professor Cheng warned that the number of “mystery cases” with an unknown source – the most concerning criteria for health authorities – were still too high at 15 in the fortnight to October 12.

“That’s the issue, and that these mystery cases are distributed through a lot of different LGAs [local government areas],” Professor Cheng said, which prevented authorities from targeting testing to one area.

Victoria’s existing road map aimed for five or fewer mystery cases in the preceding fortnight before freedoms such as the reopening of outdoor dining would be allowed, though that could be revised on Sunday.

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Victorian Government unsure when Melbourne’s 5km coronavirus travel rule will be lifted


Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton says authorities are yet to decide what travel will be allowed once Melbourne moves to the third step in its roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions.

“I don’t know, I honestly don’t know,” Professor Sutton said, when asked if the 5-kilometre rule could still be in place after October 19, when restrictions were forecast to next ease.

He said the State Government would consider the level of transmission and how the travel restriction was working before making a decision.

When asked if the 5km travel restriction could simply be physically extended out to allow residents to travel a little further, Professor Sutton said that was also possible.

“I wouldn’t rule out anything,” he said.

It’s a significant departure from the State Government’s roadmap out of restrictions for the city.

The roadmap, which was published on September 13, lists travel across the state as an allowed activity under the third step.

If travel restrictions were to remain during step three of the roadmap, it would be the first time the State Government had delayed easing a restriction from its original plan.

Sutton says 5km rule has helped curb transmission

Professor Sutton said the 5km rule had limited socialising and potential transmission of the virus.

He said movement across the city could reintroduce the virus into areas where there had not been transmission for some time.

“We are incrementally shrinking it down where we are not seeing that postcode-to-postcode movement of the virus,” he said.

Professor Sutton said it was difficult to say exactly how big an impact the 5km travel restriction had on cutting down coronavirus case numbers.

“It is really hard to tease apart the individual interventions that are part of a really substantial package that has transformed the transmission through this wave,” he said.

Professor Sutton said the 5km rule was “in the mix” with what other countries had done to limit transmission of the virus.

A wet and dark Melbourne laneway, with a cafe sign saying it is open for take-away, and workers standing behind eating.
Essential workers are able to travel beyond 5km to their place of employment.(ABC News: Daniel Fermer)

Concern Melburnians won’t follow the rules if travel restriction eased

He said the Victorian Government had to also consider what lifting the 5km rule would mean for compliance.

“Whether it would be open slather, in that people go to households across metro Melbourne, in that space where masks are not worn, where people have close interaction where they are talking and laughing and those are transmission settings.”

Large groups of people on the grass at sunset at St Kilda beach.
Hundreds of people gathered on the St Kilda foreshore on Friday night, with many not following restrictions.(ABC News: Peter Drought)

But he said authorities were considering the needs of those in Melbourne who owned regional properties and needed to make bushfire preparations.

“There will have to be bushfire prep in advance of the season, that is being worked on at the moment and the communications and allowances for that are being worked through,” he said.

Victoria’s Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien is highly critical of the 5km travel rule, saying it should be overturned.

Health expert says Government is not making decisions ‘based on data’

Deakin University’s Chair in Epidemiology Catherine Bennett said she “doesn’t get” why the State Government would consider extending the 5km travel rule.

“I am struggling to see the health argument now,” she said of the restriction.

She said “it was something else” and not epidemiology that appeared to be determining the State Government’s decision-making on travel restrictions for Melburnians.

“The Premier often says movement equals virus, and if that is the position you keep coming back to, then anything that restricts movement is seen to be valuable and valid,” she said.

“The more we know about how the virus moves through a community, the more you understand what the response can be, particularly when the numbers are this low.”

She said recent workplace transmission showed why the 5km restriction was now of limited value.

A man walks past the entrance to Flinders Street Station which is completely empty.
Flinders Street Station in Melbourne remains empty while the city’s lockdown continues.(ABC News: Daniel Fermer)

Professor Bennett said Melbourne was in a really positive position and she couldn’t understand why health authorities were now discussing extending restrictions.

“Melbourne, apart from those three cases known to be linked to those complex cases and outbreaks, five cases today,” she said.

Professor Bennett said the original plan to allow intrastate travel at the next step of the roadmap was a safe plan.

“I think the original roadmap was overly safe, it was very conservative,” she said.

She said extending the 5km travel restriction risked losing some public support for coronavirus health measures.

“I think it would be losing a mountain of goodwill,” she said.



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Casey coronavirus cluster centres on five Melbourne households that broke the 5km limit and home-visit rules


Victoria’s largest coronavirus cluster outside of aged care is centred around five households whose residents broke the stay-at-home rules to travel outside their 5km radius and visit each other, Victorian health authorities say.

The first positive test in the Casey cluster was recorded two weeks ago, on September 4, and it has since grown to 34 cases.

Jeroen Weimar, head of community engagement and testing at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), said the cluster in Melbourne’s south-east was spread across five households.

“We have had to undertake a significant and painstaking contact-tracing exercise to actually get to the bottom of which other households were involved and how those households are connected,” he said.

“What we’ve seen is obviously some normal travel that we would expect people to conduct in order to get the necessary things for life … but we’ve also seen in this particular cluster visiting of houses beyond the 5km radius.”

He said the households were located in the suburbs of Hallam, Clyde, Narre Warren South and Cranbourne North, which are all within the City of Casey local government area.

“In this particular cluster we have had, unfortunately, some members of those households visiting other households,” Mr Weimar said.

“It is that limited amount of contact, relatively infrequent contact, between these five households that has now meant that we have 34 people in five houses experiencing or living with a very real threat of the coronavirus.”

DHHS is now encouraging anyone in the Casey and Dandenong areas to get tested for coronavirus, even if their symptoms are extremely mild.

More cases could be linked to Casey cluster in coming days

Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said there was a particular focus on testing people who had been to Fountain Gate Shopping Centre.

“We think that most of the cases are linked to contact between these households but there have been visits to Fountain Gate,” he said.

“We are not aware of any links at the moment of transmissions in that setting … but it’s really more out of caution than genuine concern.”

Professor Cheng said 4,228 people had been tested in the Dandenong and Casey areas over the past week.

New testing sites have been opened at the Clyde Recreation Reserve Footy Pavilion, Hallam Secondary College and the Noble Park Rapid Testing Site.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the outbreak had been “challenging” for contact tracers because not all the links were immediately obvious.

He said the outbreak had been “very well handled” but there could still be more cases in coming days.

“It is disappointing but hopefully this is a really, really strong reminder that nobody gets a pass from this, everybody has to follow the rules,” Mr Andrews said.

“The rules are in place for a reason, and anyone who undermines these rules undermines entire strategy — and it just means the rules will be on for longer.”

Victoria recorded 45 new coronavirus cases and five deaths on Friday.

No new infections were linked to the Casey cluster.

Metropolitan Melbourne’s 14-day case average is now sitting at 42.7, which remains within the 30 to 50 range required to move to the next step on September 28.

GP fears people refusing medical advice, not getting tested

Casey GP Amena Azizi is worried some people are not getting tested for coronavirus, despite having symptoms or being advised to do so by their GP.

While none of her patients are in that position, she said she had spoken to community members and other GPs who shared her fears.

“People are telling me that some people are actually not going to do the test,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“They are sick and they are really sick some of them.

Dr Azizi said one of her patients had a friend who was so sick she was having trouble breathing and was unable to talk on the phone, but still refused to do a test, preferring instead to self-isolate in her room.

Dr Azizi believes some of the concern around testing stems from a fear that a diagnosis would put tougher restrictions on everyone in the household. She thinks GPs should have the ability to involve the police if a patient refuses a test.

“I think some sort of enforcement would be much better but that is my idea, I don’t know,” she said.

Dr Azizi — who is fluent in Pashto, Persian and Dari and often treats patients from migrant backgrounds — believes a lack of education on the disease could be the problem, rather than language barriers.

“Most of them they can speak [English] very well … but I’m not sure, maybe they don’t get what is coronavirus and what is involved,” she said.

There’s also a fear that teenagers aren’t taking the virus seriously and continue to meet up with friends, she said.

Two men kit up in protective gear to do coronavirus testing
People in Casey and Dandenong are being encouraged to get tested after an outbreak in the area.(AAP: Daniel Pockett, file photo)

Homaira Mershedi is an Afghan community leader in Melbourne and said her community had been unfairly “singled out” over the outbreak.

She said it created a sense of shame that might stop people from getting tested.

“One good thing about the Afghan community is they obey rules, they love rules, because they came from a country that literally had no law,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne on Friday morning.

“The majority of the people are obeying the rules. They don’t want to get COVID-19. They care about their elders and the house. A lot of the Afghan community, they live together with their parents.”

Earlier this week, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there was evidence of some community transmission and offered to speak to multicultural groups in the area.

“I have made an offer to personally speak to that community,” Professor Sutton said.

“Having been to Afghanistan a couple of times over the years, I want to be able to reflect on my cultural experiences and the fact I know that there are universal motivations that every family has: to do the right thing, to protect their families.”



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