Victoria ‘eliminates’ COVID-19 after 28 days without a new case


While the tests worried health authorities, they say there have been no recent cases in the area.

According to the working definition, a state or territory has achieved elimination of community transmission of coronavirus if it goes 28 days with no mystery cases, a period which represents two long incubation cycles for the virus.

University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely said new cases will almost certainly leach back into the community as a result of international arrivals and hotel quarantine breaches. But he said the state’s contract tracing program has been improved so dramatically they pose less of a threat than at the outset of the pandemic.

“It was a bit of a longshot to actually get all the way to elimination,” he said, “I’m pleasantly surprised that we’ve been able to bring it back from that high point.”

Professor Blakely said the milestone was a “huge tribute” to Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton, and his deputy Professor Allen Cheng. “They are the masterminds of this,” he said.

“When we got down to 10 [cases] per day, it was stubbornly there, I thought this might be our new reality.”

He said the key to reaching elimination was fixing Victoria’s contract tracing efforts in Melbourne’s northern suburbs so that small outbreaks could be quickly shut down.

“I used to say that quarantine wasn’t rocket science, I’ve had to modify my view – this virus is so sneaky,” he said.

Melbourne will start to receive international arrivals again on December 7, with Mr Andrews confirming the state will stick with a modified version of its original hotel quarantine program.

The Premier ruled out a home-based isolation scheme for low-risk travellers, as was recommended by the state’s hotel quarantine inquiry, but said Australians returning to Melbourne will be required to be tested for coronavirus before they board a flight.

The last patient in Victoria infected with the virus, a man aged in his 90s, was discharged from hospital on Monday night, after being admitted last month. The man was treated at the Monash Medical Centre for more than 40 days alongside his wife who also contracted the virus.

Victoria achieved its first “triple doughnut day” on Tuesday, with no new coronavirus cases, no deaths and no active cases, for the first time since February 29.

There have been 20,345 cases of COVID-19 in Victoria and 819 deaths, most of them among the elderly in aged care.

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Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said on Thursday that the results from the Corio treatment plant were unexpected as there have been no recent COVID-19 infections in the area where the viral fragments were found.

The positive result could be from a person who has recovered from the virus and is living in the area or visited and is still “shedding” the virus.

“We have had few of these positive wastewater results recently and, while we haven’t discovered any undiagnosed case of coronavirus, it is possible that there may be an infectious person in this catchment,” Professor Cheng said.

“We encourage people in this area who are symptomatic to be tested and will update the community once more testing results become available. It is also a timely reminder for local businesses to re-check their COVID Safe plans to keep themselves, their colleagues and customers safe.”

Last week, viral fragments were found in wastewater samples from Altona, Benalla and Portland. No cases have been detected in those areas following the findings.

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Victoria hits 28 days with no new coronavirus cases or deaths



Victoria has recorded no new coronavirus cases or deaths for 28 consecutive days.

It means the state has achieved what is widely considered to be the official benchmark for eliminating COVID-19 from the community.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said 9,828 coronavirus tests had been received since yesterday’s update.

The last active case in Victoria was cleared and discharged from hospital on Monday.

More to come.



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Victoria is on the cusp of reaching coronavirus ‘elimination day’ — and NSW isn’t far behind


Today is the day that Victoria will hopefully find out the news it’s been waiting for — that the state hasn’t found a new coronavirus case in four weeks.

While it’s difficult to know for certain, it’s widely believed a 28 day period without any cases found is good evidence the virus has been effectively eliminated in Victoria.

It’s a remarkable turnaround, and a result some critics said couldn’t be achieved.

And Victoria, thanks to its tougher rules and loftier goals, got there faster than New South Wales.

Only one state recording local cases

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has repeatedly maintained that eliminating the virus locally was “unrealistic”.

But Australia’s largest state is also on track to get there, even if it wasn’t by design, as long as no local cases are reported in the next nine days.

The only state recording locally acquired cases at the moment is South Australia, and while the state isn’t out of the danger zone, cases remain in very small numbers.

Two states — Victoria and Tasmania — don’t have any active cases, while the ACT has only one. All three jurisdictions don’t receive overseas arrivals at the moment.

Current numbers are the lowest Australia has sustained since March, as the pandemic was taking off.

The nation has now managed a streak of 40 days with a seven day average below 20, and most recent cases are overseas arrivals in hotel quarantine.

Aggressive suppression can slip away at any time

That streak comes after a peak of more than 500 in early August.

Only two countries — Singapore and China — have reached a peak of that magnitude and then improved to keep the average below 20 for longer than Australia.

“When you look at Australia compared to the rest of the world, well frankly there is no comparison,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday.

“Australia is in a handful of countries that stand out not just for how we’ve suppressed the virus, but how we have mitigated the economic impact on Australia.

But that doesn’t mean Australia can rest on its laurels.

Israel got its infection numbers as low as 13 a day, but a damaging second wave saw the country average 1,700 cases a day within two months of that, and the country went on to peak at a 7 day average of 6,222 cases.

Ireland too had great success, but saw another flare-up and is still dealing with the consequences of a sizable wave.

It’s unlikely breaches can be completely eliminated

The biggest threat to Australia maintaining its grip on low or non-existent case numbers is now the hotel quarantine system.

With many Australians trying to come home in time for Christmas, and a worsening global situation, the number of cases being found in returned travellers has been slowly increasing since the end of August.

While stricter controls could be put in place, as is currently happening in South Australia, it’s unlikely the risk of quarantine breaches can be completely eliminated.

That means the more people passing through that system while cases overseas remain high, the higher the risk of the virus escaping quarantine.

While tracing schemes like QR code check-ins are being increasingly rolled out, many of our cities are primed for superspreader events, amid fading compliance with physical distancing guidelines and mask wearing.



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SA records one new case, will open border with Victoria


South Australia plans to stick with its December 1 deadline to open borders with Victoria and ease restrictions.

Premier Steven Marshall said the state remained “on track” to remove its border arrangements next week.

“I know a lot of people would be very, very happy about that,” he said.

“We know Queensland will be making a decision on Monday next week. We’re hopeful we will be able to resume normalised borders across Australia, certainly in time for Christmas but I’m hoping it will be much sooner.

“The reality is we’ll normalise our border with Victoria on Tuesday next week.

“We’re open with NSW, the ACT, the NT, Qld and Tasmania are the next ones to consider what their arrangements are going to be. I think WA has made their position really clear.”

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said authorities have given a clear indication they were hopeful for restrictions to ease by next Tuesday.

“I think it’s been made pretty clear we’re still aiming for a Christmas that’s as normal as possible based on the restrictions we had back in mid November but we do rely on expert health advice,” he said.

“It’s been very good so far in terms of managing the virus so we’ll see what is said tomorrow… and we’ll announce as soon as possible what’s planned for December 1.”

It comes as the state recorded one new COVID-19 infections on Thursday, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 559 with 40 considered active.

The new case is linked to the Parafield cluster, which has 31 people connected.

The state initially recorded no new infections on Wednesday but health officials revealed later in the afternoon there was in fact one new case, however her test was counted in Thursday’s tally.

It was a female student who attended the Woodville High School in Adelaide’s western suburbs.

An alert was quickly issued for all staff and students who were on campus on Monday to isolate until further notice with their families.

SA Health’s Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said the teenage girl was exposed to the virus at the Woodville Pizza Bar, having picked up a pizza on November 14.

She said anyone else who bought food from the Woodville Rd business should get tested.

“We are still working through exactly this person‘s infectiousness period. We are trying to look at the interpretation of the data that we have from her results and we still haven’t completely nailed exactly how she got infected and when she was infectious,” Professor Spurrier said.

“There is also the possibility that there might have been somebody else, so another person who has been infected that this person has become infected through.”

It is still unknown if the student caught public transport to and from school but Professor Spurrier said any information that the public needed to know would be listed on the SA Health website.

“That whole area around Woodville, we are going to be putting out more messaging today and we are going to be doing more testing there and to help people in that area we are going to make sure we have got enough testing sites available.”

Health authorities are looking at setting up a pop-up testing clinic at Woodville, with the council chambers being explored as a possible location.

Woodville High School will remain closed, with plans to reopen next Monday, November 30, after further deep cleaning.

Professor Spurrier said the second person who tested positive to the virus is a male in his 40s who is a close contact of a confirmed case.

She said he was in quarantine and was isolating with his family.

Mr Marshall said nearly 5000 people had gone into quarantine to reduce the circulation of this virus and “stop it in its tracks”.

“The record testing rates we have seen over the last few days will be critical in our efforts to rein in this virus,” he said.

“Nearly 10,000 South Australians were tested yesterday. This is quite simply an outstanding result for our state.”

The state’s Transition Committee will meet again on Friday.



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Victoria achieves 27 days with no new coronavirus cases


“I think there’s every chance that there are a handful of cases out there, this is a wildly infectious virus,” he said on Wednesday. “You’ve always got to assume there’s more out there than you know.”

There have been 20,345 cases of COVID-19 in Victoria and 819 deaths, most of them among the elderly in aged care.

Victorians will be able to enter Queensland from next Tuesday after its extended run of zero-case days.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Wednesday morning she would reopen the border to Victorian travellers on December 1, after the southern state recorded its 26th consecutive day without a COVID-19 case.

NSW opened to Victoria on Monday, while Tasmania is due to open from Friday. South Australia will allow Victorians to enter the state without restriction again on December 1.

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Victorians are already permitted to enter ACT and the Northern Territory has been allowing regional Victorians to enter without quarantining since November 2, but still classifies metropolitan Melbourne as a hot spot.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner has previously spoken of his intention to allow Melburnians back into the territory by Christmas.



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Racing Victoria plans to capitalise on silver lining from COVID


The figures were released at Racing Victoria’s annual general meeting on Tuesday.

With Racing Victoria also eyeing an opportunity to streamline its media assets, having entered into a new agreement with Seven in August to take greater control of Racing.com, chief executive Giles Thompson said COVID-19 has created an opportunity for the industry to fast-track its integrated media business.

“No doubt [increased engagement] is a silver lining of [COVID] and what it’s enabled us to do is reconnect with people who haven’t connected with racing and wagering on racing in a while and have rediscovered a love for it,” Thompson said.

“As far as how we tackle that, and this plays to the integrated media business, we’re quite fortunate in Victoria that we control a large part of our media world.

“If we talk about things like on-demand type products and the type of content we can deliver to our punters and viewers as well, we have a great opportunity in that space, and for me, that’s the next few years, to bring together an integrated media business and really try and drive engagement in our sport, which has lots of direct and indirect benefits for us, is a real opportunity for us and it’s accelerated because of COVID.”

But while managing Victoria’s racing calendar “with optimal efficiency” is also one of RV’s key goals, Thompson said he didn’t believe the “clear air” in November necessarily presented an opportunity for Victoria to extend its carnival.

The Melbourne Racing Club earlier this year proposed to move its Caulfield Cup carnival to after Melbourne Cup week in an attempt to increase its reach and interest by gaining clearer air from the end of the AFL season.

“The debate we had about that as an industry around April-May time this year that we should try and find some clear air, a lot of that discussion was to get away from the footy codes,” Thompson said.

“I think we leveraged pretty well those footy codes and the results this spring suggest that we managed to find plenty of clear air and momentum on that.

“The debate now changes to … is there clear air in the back end of November where we can find some extra oxygen for Victorian racing? For me it’s not as clear cut as that.

“It’s not clear to me that people at the end of this month are really ready to engage in racing versus a month ago when Christmas is around the corner and school holidays are a week away.

“It’s not a closed door that we shouldn’t consider how to continue to tweak and innovate our spring carnival because it’s never going to be 100 per cent right. There’ll definitely be those discussions, we’ll review the whole spring and the programming is part of that review too.”

Also at the AGM, Racing Victoria announced it would be retiring Trakus as its sectional data supplier and replace it with Triple S Data, which will be rolled out across the city tracks in coming months.

Meanwhile, Kruger said a decision on potential Aquanita disqualifications was imminent.

He said stewards were still considering responses to show cause notices sent to the owners of Aquanita runners, which asked them to explain why their horses should not be disqualified for races in which it’s been determined they were illegally administered performance-enhancing drugs.

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Berejiklian questioned about Covid test; Victoria to spend billions on recovery – follow live


The NSW premier is facing accusations that she failed to isolate after a Covid test, while Victoria will release its state budget with big investments to pull the state out of recession – follow latest updates

  • Victoria ends mandatory mask-wearing outdoors
  • Follow our global live blog
  • Are masks still needed to combat coronavirus in NSW and Victoria?
  • Australia’s restrictions explained: state by state

9.08pm GMT

After containing Australia’s largest outbreak, there are now no active cases of Covid-19 in Victoria.

A Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman told Guardian Australia on Tuesday morning the last Covid-19 patient was cleared of the virus on Monday.

#BREAKING: There are officially ZERO active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria. @VicGovDHHS has confirmed the state’s last coronavirus patient was cleared of the virus and discharged from hospital yesterday. @abcnews

8.59pm GMT

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has acknowledged she breached state health requirements by failing to self-isolate while waiting to receive the results of a Covid-19 test she took on the state’s budget day last week.

Berejiklian fronted ABC News this morning to address the claims, saying she had no symptoms and only took the test out of an “abundance of caution” last Tuesday afternoon, so that she could reassure people asking why she was losing her voice that she had tested negative to Covid-19.

I didn’t have any symptoms, no scratchy throat, no(ne) of the symptoms listed on the NSW Health website, but in an abundance of caution I had the test done that afternoon and was told I’d have a result within 90 minutes to two hours.

I didn’t change my schedule, perhaps I should have. But the facts were an ordinary person probably wouldn’t have needed the test at all,”

I still haven’t hugged my parents, that is really hard, since February. I haven’t let anyone touch me, even though people run up to you in the middle of the street, and I’ve put my elbow out which is rude for me but I do that.

It’s only because I am so vigorous against fighting against complacency that I took the test because I didn’t have a symptom.

8.31pm GMT

Good morning, Elias Visontay here to take you through all the day’s news in Australia.

Mathias Cormann’s travel around Europe to campaign for the top OECD job may be costing Australian taxpayers as much as $4,300 an hour. The Morrison government is supporting the former finance minister, who quit the Senate this month, in his bid for the job with the use of an RAAF Falcon.

Continue reading…



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Victoria records no new coronavirus cases or deaths for 24 days


Victoria has recorded no new cases of coronavirus or deaths for the 24th day in a row, the state’s health department says.

One case remains active in the state.

The Department of Health and Human Services said 7,261 tests had been received since the last update.

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Melbourne University epidemiologist Tony Blakely said Victoria was edging closer every day to eliminating the virus.

“Twenty-eight days is the official or working definition (of elimination) and that will happen on Thursday or Friday depending on how you count it and that will be our celebration of elimination day,” Professor Blakely said.

“What we’ve also learned is that we have to expect that it will get back in at some point between now and when we get the vaccine but we’re learning to live with this virus and stamp it out.”

Professor Blakely said Victorians should feel confident it had eliminated the virus, even though the number of people getting tested had dropped.

He said the widespread sewage testing being carried out would identify any areas where there may be active cases.

“Most of the results that come up at the moment will be what we call ‘false positives’ and that’s because we don’t think there is any community transmission out there, so any positive tests are likely to be someone infected a long time ago, shedding.”

Victoria-NSW border reopens

Travellers have begun taking advantage of the reopening of the New South Wales-Victoria border, which has been closed for four-and-a-half months.

The border officially opened at 12.01am, meaning people no longer have to go through two weeks of quarantine.

Mark Nochete is a registered nurse who is returning to NSW this morning for the first time in months.

“I came in August to help out with all the COVID in the nursing homes and now I can go back without quarantine,” he said.

Mr Nochete said he heard some horror stories about the NSW hotel quarantine arrangements and was happy to avoid being confined for two weeks.

“Some colleagues, they did quarantine in Darwin just to avoid New South Wales quarantine,” he said.

Lesley Lees is happy she can now visit her sick father in Victoria without having to go through two weeks of quarantine.(ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier)

Lesley Lees has been in Victoria visiting her father, who is recovering from coronavirus, and was glad she didn’t have to go through a fortnight of hotel quarantine when she returns to NSW.

“Obviously now I can come and visit my father when I need to without having to worry about when I can get home,” she said.

Ms Lees was expecting bigger queues at Melbourne Airport this morning, given how long many people had waited for the border to reopen.

More to come.



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