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Questions remain over a crew of Sydney removalists who tested positive after visiting two households in Melbourne last week.
A McDonald’s and a Mobil service station in Ballan, 80km northwest of Melbourne, are among the locations listed as Tier 1 exposure sites for July 8, from 5pm-7pm.
The removalist crews had meals and showered at the service station in that time frame.
Victoria’s Covid commander Jeroen Weimar hinted that the crew did not follow strict restrictions placed on them.
“There was a permit in place and the permit has very clear obligations within it … we have special worker permits and a special freight code, which is all about enabling that cross-border movement to continue … what we need people to do is comply with the obligations in those permits, he said.
“You’re in virtual isolation when you’re in Victoria, you need to wear a mask.
“You need to be socially distanced, you need to stay in your cabin all the time and you’re not doing five hours of removalist work in an apartment building — so we’re concerned about that.”
Authorities are rushing to track down 24 close contacts from McDonald’s and 28 from the Ballan service station, revealing they turned to CCTV footage following “complex and challenging” attempts to get information from the three removalists.
Mr Weimar said he didn’t believe the removalists were lying about or withholding information but their recollections were not as accurate as he would like.
“Fulsome, early information helps us move really quickly — that is not the case in this instance,” he said.
“They’re not being as forthcoming, their recollection is not as accurate as I would like it to be, the level of information coming through is not as fulsome as I would like, and the sense of clarity is not emerging as quickly as I would like.”
Coles Craigieburn Central was on Monday night identified as a Tier 1 location and anyone who attended the venue on Saturday from 5.28pm-6.38pm must get tested and isolate for 14 days.
Craigieburn Central Shopping centre was also listed as a Tier 3 site for the same period, with attendees urged to check for symptoms.
Anyone who visited Metro Petroleum Broadmeadows, a Tier 2 site, on July 11 between 1.19pm-2.04pm must get tested and isolate until negative.
Meanwhile, another new Covid case has been detected in Victoria — a member of a household who was in isolation throughout their infectious period.
It brings the total number of new infections to three.
Authorities had earlier been hopeful two positive cases in the family from the City of Hume had been contained, but on Monday revealed exposure sites that were understood to be linked.
Three people in the family flew home on July 4, while the fourth arrived by car on July 8.
All initially tested negative but two became symptomatic, were tested on Sunday and returned positive results on Monday.
A third family member returned a positive test later on Monday, and Mr Weimar said he suspected the fourth household member would also likely test positive in the coming days.
“Subsequently, one other household member on a re-test done yesterday has turned positive … we suspect the fourth member who is currently negative may also turn positive in the coming days,” he said.
NSW also announced 89 new infections, along with the death of a man in his 70s on Tuesday. It comes the day after the state recorded 112 new cases – the highest daily number since Victoria’s deadly second wave.
Meanwhile, Acting Chief Health Officer Dan O’Brien said he did not believe new restrictions, such as the resumption of masks in offices, would be required at this stage.
But he said the latest incursions could halt the easing of restrictions down the track.
“I don’t think it changes what we’re doing with our restrictions … it might temper us moving forward,” he said. “Nobody wants coronavirus. It’s not a great illness to have.”
VICTORIA’S FURY OVER NSW SUPPORT
The Prime Minister has been accused of favouring NSW after offering a financial relief to struggling businesses during the latest outbreak.
The Victorian government released a scathing statement on Tuesday afternoon, stating that residents were “sick and tired” of having to beg for help and that the support for NSW represented a “double standard”.
“Everyone in Australia believes that people in Sydney and NSW deserve every possible support as they battle a second wave and a long lockdown,” the statement said.
“But Victorians are rightly sick and tired of having to beg for every scrap of support from the federal government.”
“It shouldn’t take a crisis in Sydney for the Prime Minister to take action but we are seeing the same double standard, time and time again.”
Read the full story here
ENTIRE APARTMENT BLOCK IN LOCKDOWN
A Maribyrnong apartment complex visited by the infectious removalists has been plunged into lockdown.
Residents of the Ariele Apartments on Thomas Holmes Street were told they must not leave their buildings unless they were receiving a Covid-19 test, or in the case of an emergency.
Leaving an apartment to get vaccinated is not permitted.
More than 100 residents have now been tested, with results expected late Tuesday night or Wednesday.
Mr Weimar arrived at the apartment block just before 1pm and was seen speaking with health workers.
When questioned why residents were allowed to roam outside on Tuesday morning, Mr Weimar said a “small number of people” may have missed early health department messages.
“The first teams were on site here at 8.30pm last night, providing information to all the premises, to all the individual apartments,” he said.
“We contacted around 200 people last night by SMS or by phone and by letter drops in some conversations.”
Mr Weimar said authorities had spoken to most residents and all test results would be known by Wednesday afternoon.
“I know it’s challenging when we descend upon you, with no notice to tell you to go into 14 days of isolation but we’ve seen a really good response,” he said.
Anyone who was at the apartments from 1pm-11.59pm on July 8 has attended a Tier 1 location, which means they must get tested immediately and quarantine for 14 days.
Anyone who entered the residential complex any time from July 9 to 12 must get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.
Residents of Ariele Apartments in Maribyrnong woke to their first day of lockdown on Tuesday.
A number of health department officials arrived at the apartment block at 10.30am.
Two workers, clad in PPE gear, were seen entering the building.
No positive tests have been confirmed in neighbours living at the apartment block.
The street appeared quiet on Tuesday morning, with no police or health department officials in sight.
Resident Nicola Clement said she wasn’t looking forward to two weeks of isolation.
“Of all the apartments in Melbourne, I couldn’t believe it was mine,” she said.
“One thing I’m grumpy about is it’s a stricter lockdown than Sydney.”
Ms Clement said it was the 10th lockdown or isolation period she had gone through after stints in Western Australia and New Zealand.
Cherryll Scott said she only found out about the lockdown after reading a letter that had been posted on her front door.
The resident of three years left for work early on Tuesday but realised something was amiss when she saw media outside.
“I just stuffed it (the letter) in my handbag, and when I drove out I saw the news crews, realised something was going on, stopped, read the letter and came back home,” Ms Scott said.
“They could’ve sent a text message.”
Another resident, Gabriel, only found out his apartment was an exposure site after checking the Health Department’s website.
“I was going to work … realised we had the lockdown and came home,” he said.
“I caught the tram and was heading towards the train station then came back.”
A worker at Cafe Yary said he was unaware of the exposure site until a health department worker delivered a letter at 7am.
Despite the warning, the cafe, which is located on the ground floor of the block, was not forced to close its doors.
RESTRICTIONS HERE TO STAY
Premier Daniel Andrews has flagged restrictions will remain a part of Victorian life for the foreseeable future.
Speaking on 3AW on Tuesday morning, his first appearance on the station since 2017, the Premier said mass vaccinations wouldn’t bring an end to restrictions.
Asked how the fight against Covid-19 would end, Mr Andrews said it would only end with everyone getting vaccinated.
“It ends by everybody getting two jabs. And then we’re able to say, look, we’ve all done our very best to protect everyone who needs to be protected,” he said.
“There’ll then, I think, still be from time to time masks and things of that nature but not lockdowns.
“We still have to make sure that we’re not overwhelmed by that 20 per cent of people who don’t have the vaccine, or ten, hopefully it’s 5 per cent.”
“We still need to protect against that running wild throughout that non vaccinated group.”
Speaking on 3AW Premier Andrews said he doubted office workers would ever return to their desks full time and the fight against Covid-19 would only end with everyone getting vaccinated
Mr Andrews said if even 75 per cent of Australians were vaccinated, it would mean the equivalent of the population of Victoria were not vaccinated.
“It’s a pretty big number of people, and if it runs through there — and a percentage of them get really unwell — then that’s the hospitals full,” he said.
Mr Andrews said anyone who chose not to be vaccinated, unless there was medical reason not to do so, was threatening the health of others.
“People who choose not to protect themselves, it’s not really just making a choice for themselves, they’re making a choice to everybody else who can’t get the vaccine because they’ve got medical conditions,” he said.
“And all the people who get sick and finish up in hospital will take the places and beds and space that the rest of us will need for the best of reasons.”
Mr Andrews appeared on Melbourne’s top-rating breakfast program, Breakfast with Ross and Russell.
It was his first appearance on 3AW since March 2017 when he stopped appearing on the station despite repeated requests.
It is understood a falling out with presenter Neil Mitchell saw the station black-listed.
In his brief interview on Tuesday morning, Mr Andrews said he doubted office workers would ever return to their desks full time, and said work-from-home arrangements would likely become part of new normal working arrangements.
He said there would have to be other ways to draw Victorians to Melbourne’s CBD to aid the city’s recovery.
HOW NSW INCURSIONS OCCURRED
Victoria is on high alert with new Covid-19 cases in a family from Melbourne’s northwest returning from Sydney and infected removalists travelling across the state.
The two new cases will be added to Victoria’s coronavirus numbers on Tuesday, after the family of four returned to their City of Hume home from Sydney last week.
Amid warnings “flying embers” are crossing the border from NSW, contact tracers are racing to confirm the movements of three removalists – two of whom have tested positive – who travelled from Sydney through Victoria to Adelaide.
The trio arrived in Melbourne last Thursday to deliver furniture to a four-person household in Craigieburn, before visiting another four-person household in Maribyrnong.
Both households remain in isolation.
The removalists stayed in Melbourne overnight, claiming to have slept in their vehicle cabin, before leaving the state for Adelaide on Friday morning.
But authorities have revealed that ongoing interviews with the men are proving “complex and challenging” with the Department of Health forced to examine fuel cards and logbooks to confirm their movements.
“We’re getting slightly different messages from the individuals about exactly what they did,” Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said.
“We’re seeking to validate the nature of their business and exactly the weight of their travel, and whether they complied with those restrictions contained in that permit.”
Mr Weimar said authorities were not concerned about the risk of Covid-19 spreading on the family’s flight to Melbourne.
“If these individuals have returned a negative test result two days after getting off that plane, they don’t represent an infectious risk on that flight,” he said.
“I’m not surprised we’re seeing some flying embers coming in from NSW,” Mr Weimar said.
About 350 police are stationed along the Murray River from Mildura to Mallacoota after NSW and the ACT were declared a red zone by acting chief health officer Deb Friedman on Sunday night.
Victoria Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Michael Grainger wasn’t sure how long the border closure would last but hinted it could be for at least another month.
— Additional reporting: Miles Proust and Mitch Ryan
Originally published as Questions over Syd removalists; PM accused of ‘double standard’