State to shutdown, school holidays tomorrow
VICTORIAN school holidays will commence from tomorrow as the state implements a shutdown of all non-essential activity to combat the spread of Coronavirus.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced yesterday afternoon the shutdown decision which, he said was not something that had been done lightly.
“It’s clear that if we don’t take this step, more Victorians will contract coronavirus, our hospitals will be overwhelmed and more Victorians will die,” he said.
Mr Andrews said Victorians will still be able to go to the supermarket, the bank, the pharmacy and other essential stores, like petrol stations and convenience stores.
“Freight, logisitics and home delivery are also considered essential and will remain open,” he said.
Mr Andrews was last night telling his national Cabinet colleagues that school holidays will be brought forward in Victoria, from tomorrow.
“All measures to be implemented by Victoria are consistent with the health advice provided by the Victorian chief health officer,” he said.
“The decision whether to re-open schools after the Term 1 holidays will likewise be determined following advice from the chief health officer.”
Premier Andrews was to provide more details today.In other major developments:
• Prime Minister Scott Morrison is urging Australians to avoid all non-essential domestic trips;
• stronger, localised measures will be coming to enforce social distancing rules;
• South Australia’s borders will be closed from 4pm tomorrow in the ‘interest of public health’
• New South Wales announced it has 533 confirmed cases;
• Victoria confirmed 67 new cases, bringing the state total to 296; and
• Queensland confirmed 38 new cases, bringing state total to 259.
Tests ongoing, no cases here
WHILE the number of COVID-19 confimed cases continues to rise in Victoria, including many regional areas, the Rural City of Wangaratta had, as of yesterday afternoon, no recorded cases of the virus.
Northeast Health Wangaratta’s COVID-19 (coronavirus) screening clinic in Norton Street operated over the weekend, and will continue to test up to 20 people a day (by appointment only).
The clinic is accessible by calling the NHW COVID-19 hotline on 1800 324 942.
NHW director of partnerships and well ageing, David Kidd, said that of 103 people who were screened via phone between Thursday to Saturday, only 34 were swabbed for COVID-19 based on the latest advice around symptoms.
He said Australia-wide, less than one per cent of people being tested are coming back with a positive reading for the virus.
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) yesterday said there were 296 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state.
Of those cases, 256 are in metropolitan Melbourne and 25 in regional Victoria, with a number of cases remaining under investigation.
Multiple cases have occurred in the regional local government areas of Greater Geelong (8) Ballarat (3), Surf Coast (2), Warrnambool (2) and Macedon Ranges (2) and Latrobe, Yarriambiack, Gannawarra, Hepburn, Moorabool, Mitchell, Mildura and Greater Shepparton have all recorded one case.
A DHHS spokesperson said the department follows up and monitors all close contacts of confirmed cases and provides them with information and support, and all close contacts must self-isolate for 14-days.
“All people arriving from any international destination must also self-isolate for 14 days as per Commonwealth Government direction. “While most Victorians are voluntarily complying with requests to isolate, police have strong powers to enforce the direction if it’s required.
“Under the State of Emergency people who don’t comply with a directive could receive a fine of up to $20,000.
“Companies face fines of up to $100,000.
For the virus to spread, extended close personal contact is most likely required.
Close personal contact is at least 15 minutes face-to-face or more than two hours in the same room.
Extensive testing has shown that people who have passed through places where there was a confirmed case, known as casual contacts, have an extremely low risk of transmission and are not currently recommended for testing.
Authorities are urging everyone to maintain safe hygiene practices such as washing your hands regularly with soap and water, or cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow.
If you are ill, stay at home.
The DHHS hotline for public information on COVID-19 is 1800 675 398.
Further information is also available at https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/coronavirus
Albury Wodonga Health confirm first case on border
ALBURY Wodonga Health yesterday confirmed a NSW person, who was tested at the Albury Wodonga COVID-19 clinic, has returned a positive result for coronavirus.
Sally Squire, AWH director pandemic response, said the person had recently returned from overseas and had been in self-isolation at home since their return.
“They have not attended the Albury or Wodonga hospitals,” she said.
“They will continue to monitor their symptoms from home.
“NSW Public Health is following up with them regarding tracing their contacts and their ongoing self-isolation.”
Ms Squire said there were 54 people screened by Albury Wodonga Health via telephone on Saturday and of those patients, 15 were swabbed for COVID-19 at the Wodonga drive-thru and clinic.
$66 billion to help Aussies
FEDERAL Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (pictured) yesterday announced a second financial package from the Federal Government to help Australians whether the economic challenges of the COVID-19 health crisis.
Support for workers and households:
The government is temporarily expanding eligibility to income support payments and establishing a new, time-limited Coronavirus supplement to be paid at a rate of $550 per fortnight.
This will be paid to both existing and new recipients of the JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance jobseeker, Parenting Payment, Farm Household Allowance and Special Benefit.
The Coronavirus supplement will be paid for the next six months.
Eligible income support recipients will receive the full amount of the $550 Coronavirus supplement on top of their payment each fortnight.
Payments to support households:
In addition to the $750 stimulus payment announced on March 12, the government will provide a further $750 payment to social security and veteran income support recipients and eligible concession card holders, except for those who are receiving an income support payment that is eligible to receive the Coronavirus supplement.
This second payment will be made automatically from July 13.
The first payment will be made from March 31 to people who will have been on one of the eligible payments any time between March 12 and April 13.
The government will allow individuals in financial stress as a result of the Coronavirus to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21.
Eligible individuals will be able to apply online through myGov.
They will not need to pay tax on amounts released and the money they withdraw will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.
Assistance to business:
The government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium sized businesses, and not for-profits (including charities) that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000.
Small and medium business entities and not for-profits with aggregated annual turnover under $50 million are eligible.
Under the enhanced scheme from the first package, employers will receive a payment equal to 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld (up from 50 per cent), with the maximum payment being increased from $25,000 to $50,000.
In addition, the minimum payment is being increased from $2000 to $10,000.
The payment will be available from April 28.The payments are tax free, there will be no new forms and payments will flow automatically through the ATO.
Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme:
The government will establish the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme which will support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to get access to working capital to help them get them through the impact of the coronavirus.
Under the scheme, the government will guarantee 50 per cent of new loans issued by eligible lenders to SMEs.