Fully vaccinated Victorians stranded in New South Wales and the ACT can now return home after changes to the state’s travel permit system.
Victorians stranded in New South Wales and the ACT can now return home if they are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, following changes to the state’s travel permit system.
Under the current restrictions, Victorians who have been in extreme risk zones over the last 14 days cannot return home unless they obtain an exception, have another valid permit or are exempted for limited reasons.
Greater Sydney and the ACT are designated extreme risk zones under the travel permit system.
But following changes to the Extreme Risk Zone permit, which come into effect from 11.59pm tonight, eligible Victorians can now re-enter the state.
Vaccinated permit holders must test negative 72 hours before their departure and quarantine immediately upon arrival for 14 days.
They are also required to get tested at the start and the end of their quarantine period.
Authorised officers will conduct at-home spot checks on Victorians quarantining in their house to ensure compliance.
A travel permit is required to enter Victoria from anywhere in Australia, and can be obtained from the Service Victoria website.
CHAOS AS COVID HITS CFMEU AFTER WILD PROTEST SCENES
The CFMEU’s Melbourne headquarters have been declared a Tier 1 exposure site, forcing state secretary John Setka and his members into two weeks of isolation.
In a statement on Wednesday, the union revealed the office on Elizabeth St had been declared a high-risk site and blamed protesters for putting people at risk of Covid infection.
The Herald Sun understands one of the positive cases is CFMEU Victoria and Tasmania president Robert Graauwmans.
At least four union workers — based at the Melbourne headquarters — have so far tested positive.
Acting chief health officer Ben Cowie on Wednesday refused to comment on whether the infectious person was inside the building or part of the mob of protesters outside.
Prof Cowie said he didn’t have all the details about the outbreak but said it would be “irresponsible” to comment on individual cases.
But he hinted that a positive case had been inside the building, given the Tier 1 listing.
“You can draw your conclusions from that,” he said.
Prof Cowie reiterated that transmission was less likely to occur in outdoor gatherings compared to indoor settings.
“Speaking in general principles — I’m not going to be drawn on individual cases — (but) as we’ve described previously, outdoor settings present substantially less risk of transmission than do gatherings indoors,” he said.
“It’s why a lot of the freedoms that we’re starting to enjoy again are focused outdoors.”
But the Herald Sun has since been told protesters have not been asked to undergo two weeks quarantine as per the Tier 1 site listing.
“This outbreak, caused by the disgusting behaviour of selfish and reckless people with no regard to the wellbeing of the thousands of construction workers or their families, will not deter our commitment to getting construction back open and all our members back to work,” Mr Setka said.
“The union has worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to keep construction open and members working safely while so many other industries were shut and thousands out of work, many for well over a year.
“The shutdown of the industry last week was devastating for 300,000-plus construction workers and the lack of prior consultation from the CHO even more frustrating.
“Construction workers not being able to work and earn an income to put food on the table and pay mortgages puts enormous stress on families.
“We are working tirelessly on a roadmap for the government and CHO to get construction open and everyone back to work.”
It comes after wild scenes erupted outside the CFMEU city office on Elizabeth St on Monday, September 20, when about 500 protesters turned on the union, furious it had not done more to oppose mandatory vaccine rules.
The protesters attempted to storm the building, kicking in doors, smashing glass and brawling as they rounded on leader John Setka.
The demonstration triggered days of protests in Melbourne during which thousands marched on the West Gate Bridge and Shrine of Remembrance, prompting an extreme police response and hundreds of arrests.
DEADLY DAY FOR MELBOURNE’S NORTH
All seven Victorians who died from Covid in the past 24 hours were residents of Melbourne’s north.
Health Minister Martin Foley said two women in their 80s, a man in his 80s, a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 50s were from the local government area of Hume.
Two other women — one in her 80s and the other in her 90s — were from the City of Whittlesea.
Victoria recorded 950 local infections on Wednesday, bringing the total number of active cases to 9890.
There are 371 people in hospital with Covid, with 81 in ICU and 55 are on a ventilator.
Meanwhile, New South Wales recorded its deadliest day since the pandemic began with 15 people dying from Covid and 863 new cases.
More than 61,300 tests were received in Victoria on Tuesday, while 34,028 people received a Covid vaccine.
At present, 78.7 per cent of eligible Victorians have received a single dose of the vaccine, while 48.4 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The majority of Melbourne’s Covid-19 infections are emerging from the city’s northern suburbs.
Prof Cowie said 240 of Wednesday’s 950 new cases were from the local government area of Hume.
A total of 102 were linked to the Whittlesea area, there were 63 in Moreland and 28 in Darebin.
He said there were 31 new cases reported from the Melbourne City Council.
In the west, there were 55 in Melton, 54 in Wyndham, 63 in Brimbank, 29 in Moonee Valley and 22 in Maribyrnong.
In the southeast, there were 50 new cases in Casey, 14 in Cardinia, 18 in Port Phillip, 16 in Greater Dandenong and 10 in Stonnington.
Professor Ben Cowie said the east had recorded 15 new cases in Manningham and six Boroondara.
Regional Victoria recorded 30 new cases in the past 24 hours as another rural local government area was plunged into lockdown.
WHERE LATEST REGIONAL VICTORIAN CASES EMERGED
• Nine were from the Mitchell Shire on Melbourne’s outer-northern fringe
• Four cases in Warrnambool — all from the same household
• Two cases in Moorabool Shire
• Two cases in Wellington Shire
• One case each in Strathbogie Shire, Surf Coast, Ballarat, Murrindindi Shire, Corangamite Shire, Baw Baw Shire, and South Gippsland
Overnight, there were four new cases across two households in Latrobe — the latest regional Victorian municipality to enter a snap seven-day lockdown.
There are 225 active Covid-19 infections in regional Victoria.
FOLEY’S VACCINE SWIPE AT FEDS
Martin Foley has hit out at the Commonwealth, saying Victorian authorities still do not have confirmation of Pfizer vaccine supply for the last week of October.
Mr Foley said once Victorian officials had received confirmation from the federal government, a decision could be made on reducing wait times between Pfizer doses from six weeks to three.
The reduced interval could mean Victoria hits its double-dose targets much sooner.
“We are confident we have the supply to achieve that to bring forward the double-dose rate to the earliest possible opportunity we can,” Mr Foley said.
“That requires us to have confirmation of supply over October … as of last night we still do not have confirmation of that last week in October.”
Mr Foley said the Commonwealth had previously vowed to deliver the vaccination program by October.
“This is an uncertain world that the Commonwealth is operating in,” he said.
“We acknowledge this is very much a race and we are more than keen to deliver those second doses in the shortest possible approved time, but we have got to do so once we know we have got the doses.
“The most recent advice that we have is that we should have that by Friday. If we get it earlier than we will announce it earlier.”
VACCINES ‘POWERFUL’ AGAINST COVID-19
Almost everyone admitted to Victorian intensive care units with Covid-19 in the past few months was unvaccinated.
Stark new figures have thrown a spotlight on the power of vaccines.
Since July 12, there had been 15,238 cases of Covid-19 in Victoria
Of those diagnosed with coronavirus, 79 per cent were eligible for the vaccine at the time of their infection.
Professor Cowie said 88 per cent of the cases were unvaccinated.
Similarly, 86 per cent of hospitalised cases were unvaccinated and 98 per cent of individuals admitted to intensive care units across the state were unvaccinated.
“This is the kind of data that shows how powerful all of these vaccines are against preventing infection,” Professor Cowie said.
JAB TARGETS TO END SUPPORT PAYMENTS
Support payments for Victorians forced out of work during the state’s lockdown will end two weeks after 80 per cent of eligible adults are fully vaccinated.
The Herald Sun understands federal grants for affected businesses will also stop flowing once that threshold is reached, in a move that increases the pressure on the state government to allow shuttered businesses to fully reopen.
Josh Frydenberg will announce on Wednesday that once 70 per cent of those over 16 in a state are fully vaccinated, individuals receiving the $750 payment will have to reapply every week.
When the 80 per cent mark is reached, the payment will be cut to $450 in the first week for those who have lost more than eight hours of work, and $100 for those on income support.
In the second week, the payment for those who have still lost more than eight hours of work will be brought into line with the Jobseeker unemployment benefit at $320.
More than 614,000 Victorians have already received the payment. A $2.3bn package of grants for businesses affected by the state’s lockdown ends on Thursday, but more support is due to be announced soon.
However, the Herald Sun understands this will also be switched off at 80 per cent – a mark Victoria is expected to reach in early November.
The Treasurer said the commonwealth had provided more than $13bn in direct support during the Delta outbreak.
“As I have said before, we can’t eliminate the virus, we need to learn to live with it in a Covid-safe way,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“This means we must ease restrictions as vaccination rates hit 70-80 per cent in accordance with the plan agreed at national cabinet.”
Amid criticism from some industry groups about Victoria’s reopening plan, particularly over ongoing density limits in venues, Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the state should reopen completely on December 1 along with other jurisdictions.
“We should have a road map in front of us that matches other states, that says it’s about time we got our lives back, it’s about time that we got hope back,” he said.
The third phase of the national plan, which kicks in after 80 per cent of Australians are double-dosed, calls for fully vaccinated people to be “exempt from all domestic restrictions” while allowing for “minimum outgoing baseline restrictions, adjusted to minimise cases”.
Premier Daniel Andrews hit back at critics on Tuesday, saying he was “not quite sure that people who are making that criticism have read the national plan”.
LATROBE IN LOCKDOWN AS CASES ESCALATE
The City of Latrobe has entered a seven-day lockdown overnight following a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in recent days.
Residents can only leave their home for essential goods and services, care-giving or compassionate reasons, authorised work or permitted education, exercise or outdoor interaction and getting vaccinated.
Locals are not permitted to travel to other parts of regional Victoria unless it is for those reasons.
Shopping, exercise and outdoor social interaction will be limited to 15km from the home for four hours each day.
Residents can meet with one other person, or up to four others from two households if all present are fully vaccinated.
Masks will also be mandatory for both indoors and outdoors settings.
While people can visit their intimate partner or single social bubble buddy, no other visitors will be allowed in the home.
Authorities are urging residents to abide by health measures and get tested if they are experiencing symptoms.
“If you’re in the City of Latrobe, please follow the lockdown restrictions, get tested if you have symptoms, and get vaccinated if you haven’t already,” Acting chief health officer Ben Cowie said.
“We’ve just seen the Ballarat and Geelong communities get through an outbreak so we know it can be done – it’s vital we protect the local community and the rest of regional Victoria from significant outbreaks.”
A rapid response team has also been deployed to the area to provide additional support testing, and boost capacity and extend opening hours.
There are coronavirus testing sites in Traralgon, Morwell, and Moe, while capacity will be boosted in Baw Baw and Bass Coast.
There are 18 active coronavirus cases in the City of Latrobe Local Government Area. Seventy-three per cent of the population has had at least one vaccination dose, while 44 per cent are fully vaccinated.
STAFF SHORTAGE BITE SUPERMARKETS
Supermarkets are running out of staff, with many forced into isolation after working at exposure sites.
Coles chief operating officer Matt Swindells has called for a rethink of quarantine rules in an effort to ease the shortage.
About 3000 Coles staff are in isolation across Victoria and NSW – and 30,000 have been forced to isolate over the past three months despite not one testing positive to Covid-19.
Mr Swindells told 3AW on Wednesday morning that the situation in NSW had improved while Victoria was getting “progressively worse”.
He said 37 stores had been “significantly disrupted” by staff shortages and 22 had “moderate to minor disruptions” – representing about a quarter of the company’s Victorian stores.
“We can’t have the old isolation rules apply to the new norms of opening up,” Mr Swindells said.
“We want to go back to similar protocols we had last year which is that we’ll do the contact tracing for team members that have come through and (someone) tested positive and we’ll have an appropriate and proportionate response.
“The numbers of team members being put into isolation is not reflective of the risk
He predicted the situation would worsen as the state reopened and said both supermarkets and retailers would struggle to cope with consumer demand at Christmas if workers will still forced to isolate.
PLEA TO CARRY ON CAMPING
Victoria is in danger of losing hundreds of school camps to residential developers if outdoor education doesn’t return next term, experts warn.
Camps and other mass activities are currently banned, and talks are under way between relevant ministers and outdoor sports organisations.
Australian Camps Association chief executive Rod Thomson said camps and outdoor activities were “fantastic for the kids to connect with nature, their fellow students and teachers”. “We hope to get kids back on camp in what will be a sunny term 4,” he said.
The businesses, which provide 5000 jobs and $474m for the state each year, also needed support, he said.
“Otherwise, camps will be sold to holiday house and residential housing developers and our kids won’t have these precious developmental opportunities.”
Mr Thomson said 240 camps and outdoor activity providers were in “dire straits” as a result of the six lockdowns. “Half have fallen through the gaps in recent Victorian government support packages so are closing, or about to close forever,” he said.
A state government spokesman said: “We look forward to camps reopening when the public health advice says it’s safe to do so.”
Covid-POSITIVE DAD FIGHTS FOR LIFE
The daughter of a man Melbourne doctors have labelled one of the “sickest Covid patients in the country” is urging all Australians to get the jab.
Greenvale dad-of-five Zain Tiba, 45, was perfectly healthy with no underlying medical conditions before he was struck down by coronavirus on September 6.
Mr Tiba’s daughter Ella Zain says her sick dad is now fighting for his life at The Alfred hospital, on a ventilator, kidney dialysis and ecmo machines in an intensive care unit.
“If my dad would have gotten the vaccine, it would have avoided all the hardships,” Ms Zain told the Herald Sun.
Read the full story here.
TREATMENT COULD GIVE ‘IMMEDIATE PROTECTION’
A new Australian-made Covid-19 treatment may work beside vaccinations to protect the most vulnerable members of the community after the nation reopens.
Developed by a consortium of Australia’s leading research institutes, the monoclonal antibodies treatment has successfully blocked the SARS-CoV-2 virus ahead of planned human trials next year.
Unlike vaccinations, antibody treatments provide immediate protection against the virus – making them suitable for preventing severe disease once a person is already infected, or to be rolled out among close contacts to stop an outbreak spreading through settings such as aged-care homes.
Read the full story here.
VICTORIA WON’T CUT PFIZER JAB GAP
Victoria’s vaccination hubs will receive 529,800 Pfizer doses in the last two weeks of October, the biggest fortnight of the rollout, but the state government is still refusing to immediately fast-track second jabs that could spell an earlier end to lockdown.
The Herald Sun can reveal 264,900 doses will be sent to the state hubs in both weeks, which federal health chiefs say is more than enough to deliver second Pfizer doses three weeks apart instead of six.
But Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley is still stalling, saying the state didn’t have “final confirmation of that last week of October” to reduce the interval between jabs.
Read the full story here.