Owner of Nobody Denim John Condilis is now manufacturing face masks. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
Owner of Nobody Denim John Condilis is now manufacturing face masks. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

Warning issued as 3 women die, 374 new cases of coronavirus

Three more Victorians have died of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, as the state records 374 new cases.

The spike marks one of the biggest daily surges since the pandemic began and brings Victoria's total to 6289.

Of the three most recent deaths, all were women aged in their 100s, 90s and 80s.

The new figures are a blow to more than 5 million Victorians already in lockdown and now facing tougher stay at home restrictions.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has repeatedly said case numbers would have to stabilise or fall to avoid further restrictions.

Prof Sutton has earmarked Wednesday as a key day, being two weeks after the current restrictions came into force, on which to assess potential next steps.

However, it is understood further restrictions, other than the requirement to wear masks that takes affect from Wednesday night, are unlikely this week.

"The Government will continue to monitor data over the next fortnight. Compliance - and the rate of community transmission - will decide what we do next, and whether we move to Stage 4 restrictions," a government spokesman said.

Premier Daniel Andrews also took aim at Melburnians unwilling to wear masks, saying the new rules should be followed to protect those on the frontline.

"It's a bit disappointing to see a bit of commentary around the place about an act of civil disobedience. That doesn't make any sense," he said.

Melburnians will have to wear masks from Thursday night. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Daniel Pockett
Melburnians will have to wear masks from Thursday night. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Daniel Pockett

"Nurses and doctors who finish up treating you wear masks.

"Let's thank them for their commitment by wearing a mask as we get around out and about for the four lawful reasons only when we need to be out.

"The best way to thank them is not finish up one of their patients, be putting them at risk, putting pressure on the public and private hospital systems as well."

Despite the mounting number of new cases, Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said he was hopeful the situation was worse than it could have been.

"Certainly, we are seeing a rollercoaster of numbers and I think to a degree our anxieties do rise and fall as the numbers do, but there has been some levelling in the last four or five days," he said.

"I know the day-to-day changes can be substantial but the modelling of a couple of weeks ago, if we had been on a exponential curve which is what happens with the coronavirus, we would have been at thousands of cases at this point in time.

"We are not, we are at 374. I'm not satisfied with that but it's much better than 3000."

The Premier echoed the sentiment, noting Victoria would be facing a different situation if Stage 3 lockdown had not been introduced.

"Tomorrow does mark the first two-week period of a six-week lockdown … a couple of points we have made consistently: things will need to get worse before they got better," he said.

"Then there will need to be a period of relative stability and then until you achieve that, any reduction wouldn't be meaningful.

"It could be a day, it could be two days even when we had numbers fall but only to spike up again."

Mr Andrews said close to 2100 workers were in the expanding contact tracing team, which included a small number of military support, significant numbers of off-roster Ambulance Victoria staff and some private sector staffers.

It comes as increased attention is also focusing on regional Victoria, where coronavirus cases have jumped by a third in the past fortnight.

Wednesday will mark 14 days since Melbourne and Mitchell Shire entered six weeks of Stage 3 restrictions, providing health authorities with the first full assessment of whether or not the stay at home measures are having an impact.

With mandatory mask wearing coming into force in the lockdown areas from 11.59pm on Wednesday Melbourne shops are slapping limits on how many customers can buy.

Authorities also put opportunistic businesses on notice over price gouging.

The restrictions come as some shops report sales increases of up to 30-fold, while there has also been a rush on fabric and sewing machines as people resort to making masks.

Queues form at Spotlight in South Melbourne before masks become mandatory
Queues form at Spotlight in South Melbourne before masks become mandatory

Bunnings has restricted masks to 50 a customer, Woolworths is only allowing one pack per person and Aldi has a two-pack limit.

"Customers will be able to purchase a maximum of two packs per person, to ensure a fair distribution of product," an Aldi spokeswoman said.

Woolworths said it was monitoring the situation closely.

"Tens of thousands of boxes of masks will continue to head in to Woolworths stores across Victoria this week and more will flow through the following week, with a priority focus on hotspot areas," the supermarket chain said.

A Priceline spokeswoman said the chain's Melbourne pharmacies had experienced a "30-fold increase" in sales compared with last week.

Spotlight said sewing machines and fabric were being "replenished regularly" while fabric shops reported queues out the door yesterday.

 

Thornbury fashion shop Nobody Denim has started mass producing masks.

Director and co-founder John Condilis said he restructured his denim factory last week to start making the masks and hoped to make up to 15,000 a day.

Mr Condilis said when the pandemic began, he started experimenting with PPE prototypes. The company then offered to help produce masks for the Victorian government.

"There was no real necessity for PPE when we started our prototypes, but that changed a couple of weeks ago so we put our hand up to help out," Mr Condilis said.

The masks will not be for retail sale, but will be distributed by the state government.

Premier Daniel Andrews urged businesses to do the right thing amid reports of price gouging.

"I would encourage everybody to do the right thing and acknowledge this is no time to be profiting from the pain of others," he said.

Owner of Nobody Denim John Condilis is now manufacturing face masks. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
Owner of Nobody Denim John Condilis is now manufacturing face masks. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

Mr Andrews said the government had ordered more than two million multi-use masks.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said a business could not make misleading claims about reasons for price increases, and if they did they would be breaching consumer law.

But the ACCC is relatively powerless to stop price gouging.

"In some limited circumstance excessive pricing may be unconscionable where it is extreme and targets particularly vulnerable consumers," she said.

"It may be a supply and demand thing. We did see when the first wave happened, with hand sanitiser the wholesalers were increasing their prices and that flowed through to the retailers."

 

 

VIRUS FEARS IN EAST GIPPSLAND

 

Businesses have closed in East Gippsland and locals are being told to get tested after a woman from Melbourne visited the area before testing positive for coronavirus.

It has been confirmed at least four businesses in Orbost and Marlo in Victoria's east were undergoing precautionary cleaning over fears the woman had attended their venues in recent days.

Orbost Chamber of Commerce Garry Squires said business had not been contacted by authorities, but had been told about the cases through the local grapevine and were undergoing cleaning as a precautionary measure.

"It is very worrying,'' he said.

"We don't know what to do so businesses have closed their doors.

"We have ha no official confirmation but the businesses want to do the right thing."

Nationals MP Tim Bull said he had contacted local authorities and it had been confirmed a woman, who was a former resident, had visited from a metropolitan area before returning a positive test this week.

It is understood the woman had travelled to attend a wake and was not aware she was infected.

"It's incredibly foolish," Mr Bull said.

"I've spoken to the police and it's real," he said.

"While it's incredible disappointing the reality of it is that it has occurred and as a community we are encoring everybody that may have been to the location, or known somebody, to be test and be vigilant.

"We have an ageing population in East Gippsland and we certainly hope we get through this without any further cases."

Premier Daniel Andrews warned "if you are waiting for the results of the test or if you have got a positive result, or a close contact then you need to follow the rules, stay at home".

"We need to know more about this case but ultimately travelling from one side of the state to the other while you're waiting for a result is not ideal."

 

- Alex White


ANOTHER SCHOOL CLOSES, STUDENTS PREPARE FOR MASKS

Manor Lakes P-12 College in Wyndham Vale has closed due to a positive COVID-19 case at the school.

Parents were notified late on Monday night that all sections of the learning facility - including secondary, primary, childcare and supported - will be closed on Tuesday until further notice.

"While we know this is late notice, and some may not receive this information on time, we will be onsite in the morning to assist families of P-10 onsite attendance students," the message said.

 

It means all students at the school will move to remote learning.

More than a million face masks will be issued to students over coming days as schoolyards prepare for a very different look.

From Thursday, face masks will be mandatory for all students aged over 12 in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.

Although most Victorian students began term three learning from home on Monday, a dozen schools have already been closed for cleaning and further investigation after they were linked to coronavirus cases.

Education Minister James Merlino said schools would be given priority in the state's mass face mask orders, and 1.37 million reusable masks have been ordered for students to be delivered in July and August.

Textiles teacher Dee Arambasic teaches students to make masks, at Melba College in Croydon, Melbourne. Picture: Daniel Pockett
Textiles teacher Dee Arambasic teaches students to make masks, at Melba College in Croydon, Melbourne. Picture: Daniel Pockett

In coming days, 1.2 million single-use masks will also be distributed to schools, though Mr Merlino said most families were expected to provide their own face coverings.

"From Thursday our community will look different with the mandatory use of masks," Mr Merlino said.

"Students may also choose to wear bandannas and scarfs to school so schools will be an interesting place from Thursday in terms of what students are wearing.

"We already have 1.2 million single use masks and we will be distributing those to all government schools in Melbourne metro and Mitchell Shire over the coming couple of days and we will also be providing these single-use masks for our Catholic and independent schools."

It will not be compulsory for teachers to wear masks during lessons, but face coverings will be mandatory outside the classroom, including in staffrooms. Specialist and primary schools are also exempt from the mask measures.

Students at a school in Melbourne's outer-east are making their own masks as the protective gear becomes highly sought-after.

The secondary students at Melba College in Croydon made the fabric masks during textile class on Monday.

Education Minister James Merlino said schools would be given priority in the state’s mass face mask orders. Picture: Getty Images
Education Minister James Merlino said schools would be given priority in the state’s mass face mask orders. Picture: Getty Images

 

More than 700,000 Victorian students and their families returned to remote learning on Monday, with only VCE and with special needs students attending school.

But that has not stopped schools across Melbourne and Geelong having to be closed due to COVID-19 cases.

Among those undergoing deep cleaning is Toorak Primary School, which is closed for the second time after becoming one of the first to record a positive test in the state when it closed on March 17.

Two Geelong schools are outside the stage three restrictions now in place for metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire - Grovedale West Primary School and Drysdale Primary School - were also closed for cleaning.

The other schools closed were Charles La Trobe College; Roxburgh College; Overport Primary School; Princes Hill Secondary College; Pascoe Vale Girls Secondary College; Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School; Trinity College Colac; Parkville College's Malmsbury Campus; and Leibler Yavneh College.

 

CHILD AND TWO DAYCARE STAFF TEST POSITIVE

A child and two staff members at a Port Melbourne childcare centre have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Ada Mary A'Beckett Children's Centre has been shut down "until further notice" after the cases were confirmed on July 21.

In a statement, management of the Cumberland Rd centre said they were "taking direction from the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure all response protocols and procedures are correctly implemented and followed".

"This includes a professional deep clean of the facility and full co-operation with the contract-trace process which is now under way."

It comes as five new active cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Port Phillip overnight to Monday, July 20, bringing the total number to 32.

 

RESIDENTS FORCED TO REAPPLY FOR PERMITS AT NSW BORDER

Bordertown residents looking to enter New South Wales from Victoria will be forced to reapply for their travel permit with a new border zone to be set up along the Murray River from midnight on Tuesday.

Travel permits will be cancelled and the criteria for those looking to travel between the two states will also be tightened.

Residents will only be allowed to cross the border for work, education or to access medical care, supplies or health services, which will make it more difficult for people to obtain a permit.

"We're strengthening the rules so the fewer people granted permits to enter NSW must now carry a copy of their permit and produce it when directed by enforcement officers," NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said.

The record cases of COVID-19 in Victoria has forced the NSW Government to further restrict entry to the state from Victoria, prompting the decision to erect the border zone.

STUDY VISAS FAST-TRACKED

Overseas students will now be able to lodge applications for visas to study in Australia in a bid to kickstart the international education sector once the borders eventually reopen.

The federal government is also tweaking visa rules for international students who are already enrolled in Australia, with about 87,000 students currently remaining overseas.

Education Minister Dan Tehan said the government wanted to be ready to "to welcome back international students in a COVID-safe way once state borders re-open and face-to-face learning resumes".

"As well as supporting jobs, international education builds our connection to the rest of the world and supports a number of critical industries like health, aged and disability care," he said.



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