Victoria Covid update: removalists from NSW banned after six more cases
Victoria has recorded six new cases linked to the Sydney removalist cluster on the first day of a five-day lockdown and placed a two-week ban on removalists entering the state from New South Wales.
The six cases are in addition to four cases announced on Thursday, bringing the official total reported on Friday to 10.
The new infections include two cases linked to the Young and Jackson’s pub near Flinders Street station in the city; one person who was in the members’ reserve stand of the MCG (bringing the total number of people believed to have caught the virus at the grounds to four); and a household contact of a case in Barwon Heads.
It also includes two more teachers at Bacchus Marsh Grammar in central-western Victoria, bringing the number of cases connected to that school to three. The Bacchus Marsh Grammar principal, Andrew Neal, later said four teachers had tested positive.
One of the new cases lives on the HMAS Cerberus naval base on the Mornington Peninsula.
The state also announced a new round of grants for businesses affected by the lockdown but confirmed that 22,000 businesses that applied for funding during the last lockdown in May have still not been paid.
The premier, Daniel Andrews, said the number of new cases “confirms the decision to lock the state down” for five days.
Andrews announced the new rules for removalists in response to the current outbreak, which began when a moving crew from Sydney worked in Melbourne while infectious and did not wear masks.
“If you are coming from a red zone moving furniture, then know you can’t,” he said. “We think that is the appropriate thing to do.”
“It is just a change we can make particularly as things become more unstable and more challenging in terms of more case numbers coming out of Sydney.”
The change means that removalists or delivery drivers who have been in an area declared a “red zone” in the past 14 days will not be able to get a permit to enter Victoria. Currently, all of NSW is a red zone. The rule also blocks freight workers who are unable to unload cargo in a Covid-safe manner – meaning they stay in the cabin while a local team unloads – from entering Victoria.
Freight drivers will also be required to get a Covid test every three days.
Moving house, including across state borders, has been permitted throughout the pandemic. Asked about the impact on people who had sold houses or ended leases with plans to move in the next 14 days, Andrews said: “Well, we’re in a global pandemic. I’m terribly sorry, I can’t provide any other answer than that.
“I am doing everything to make this a short lockdown and have it as an outbreak not a wave. And that will mean that some people will do it tough. We will look to support them as much as we can … They may be need to put other arrangements in place.”
Andrews said he would not at this stage require all essential workers who enter Victoria to get a test at the border.
“I could pretend that we’re our own nation and build a wall,” he said. “There are all sorts of things we could do.
“Ultimately, if you have any movement whatsoever, if you are going to live outside of permanent lockdown, there is always an inherent risk. Our challenge is to find the balance point.”
Victoria has listed more than 120 exposure sites – 50 just in the past 24 hours – and there are 6,500 people in isolation.
The jobs minister, Martin Pakula, said the state paid out $413m of a $460m package to 896,000 businesses during the recent two-week lockdown in Victoria, and that everyone who received a grant last time would automatically receive funding during this lockdown.
But he confirmed thousands of businesses still had not been paid due to difficulty processing applications, which he put down to errors and inconsistencies in application forms.
“We would expect those all to be resolved by early next week,” Pakula said.
The funding does not apply for businesses with an annual turnover of less than $75,000 that are not registered for GST.
Andrews said he would look at closing that loophole, but suggested that businesses that fell into that category may be eligible for the Covid disaster relief payment paid by the federal government under a deal announced late on Thursday.
“If you can’t, according to the paperwork, be paid, we cannot in good conscience pay you,” Andrews said.
He said the aim was to have “money in bank accounts” by the end of the lockdown, at midnight on Tuesday.
The federal government payments mirror those available in Sydney and offer $600 for those who lost 20 hours or more of work during the lockdown and $375 for those who lost between eight and 20 hours.
They will be paid in arrears through Services Australia on applications made from Friday 23 July – seven days after the lockdown started. Applications can be made through the MyGov online portal.
The federal government will foot the bill for areas it has deemed a coronavirus hotspot – greater Melbourne, the Moorabool Shire, the city of Greater Geelong, the borough of Queenscliff and Surf Coast Shire – but the state will pay for applications from all other areas of Victoria.
Andrews said he was not sure what it would cost.
“We will have a clearer sense in the next few days but it will be administered by the commonwealth,” he said. “They will send us a bill and we will move on from there.”