PM announces disaster payment as Melbourne shuts down

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that the federal government will be establishing a "disaster payment" of $1500 per fortnight for those who don't have sick leave.

It comes as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced major changes to non-essential business operations across the state.

Mr Morrison described the Victorian lockdown as "heartbreaking" and a devastating blow".

He urged Australians to offer "an elbow of support" and said Australia's future depended on the weeks ahead.

"This pandemic, this virus, is taking a heavy toll," the PM said.

"And now is the time - as it has been throughout this epidemic - that we continue to provide support for each other, offer an elbow of support. I wish it was a hug, but we know that's not gonna help. But that offer of support being there for each other at this time is incredibly important. If you've got friends in Victoria, call them. Cheer them up. Encourage them. Let them know you're there for them if you're in a state in a much better situation - which, thankfully, all other states and territories are.

"Offer whatever support you can. We've asked so much of Australians over these many months, and we've asked even more of Victorians. And now we're asking - through the Victorian Premier - even more. We know that we have to help them push through, because Australia's future depends on these weeks and months ahead."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has conceded that coronavirus is taking a heavy toll on Australians, and particularly Victorians. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has conceded that coronavirus is taking a heavy toll on Australians, and particularly Victorians. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage

Mr Morrison said there was now "no economic reason" for people who should be self-isolating to go to work.

"This pandemic is a disaster. And we need a disaster payment when it comes for people who have to isolate for a period of 14 days through no fault of their own, regardless of what job they're in or employment they're in - they need that support," Mr Morrison said.

MELBOURNE SET TO SHUT DOWN

Victoria has recorded 429 new cases of coronavirus and 13 deaths in the past 24 hours.

The figures come less than 24 hours after Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of disaster across Victoria and introduced stage four lockdown restrictions on Sunday.

A total of 416 Victorians are currently in hospital as a result of coronavirus, with 35 in intensive care.

The death toll for the state is now at 136.

Mr Andrews has announced all non-essential business will shut including retailers such as Kmart and Bunnings.

Discussing the new restrictive measures, the Premier said: "I know there will be substantial pain that comes from that but unless we have literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people at home and not going to work, so hundreds of thousands of less movements around the community each and every day, we will not pull this virus up, we will not see the numbers reduce.

"As heartbreaking as it is to close down places of employment, while I never thought that I would be telling people not to go to work, that is what we have to do in order to stop the spread of this wildly infectious virus."

Mr Andrews said workplaces fall under three primary categories under the new restrictions.

The first relates to businesses that will remain open and largely unaffected by the lockdown, and includes supermarkets, grocery stores, bottle shops, pharmacies, petrol stations, banks, newsagencies, post offices, and frontline responders.

The Premier asked that people do not resort to panic buying. "There is no need for people to be going and literally buying months worth of groceries," he said.

"Whether every single item you might normally buy will be on the shelves, I can't guarantee, but everything that is needed and there is no need for people to go and shop for things in bulk. That sense of panic is simply misplaced; we don't need to do that."

Premier Daniel Andrews further outlined what stage four restrictions will mean for Victorians on Monday. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty
Premier Daniel Andrews further outlined what stage four restrictions will mean for Victorians on Monday. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty

The second category consists of retail, administration and some manufacturing, which will be forced to close from midnight on Wednesday, but will still be accessible via contact-free collection or home delivery.

The third category of businesses will remain open but run at a significantly reduced capacity - including meat works plants operating with two thirds of regular staff.

"Those workers will be essentially dressed as if they were a health worker," Mr Andrews said.

"Gloves and gowns, masks and shields, they will be working in one workplace only, they will be temperature checked, they will be tested."

Victoria's construction industry will also face changes, with commercial projects above three storeys required to have no more than 25 per cent of their workforce on site. Domestic building sites can have no more than five people on site at any one time.

Meanwhile, Tasmania has announced its borders will remain closed in light of the ongoing coronavirus outbreaks on the mainland.

Premier Peter Gutwein made the announcement today, saying that the state will be closed the all until at least August 31.

13 NEW CASES IN NSW

In NSW, a baby is among four new coronavirus cases in Wagga Wagga.

The baby and its family - a 52-year-old woman, and a son and daughter-in-law in their 20s - are believed to have contracted the virus in Melbourne.

These cases are in addition to 13 new cases in NSW announced, as Premier Gladys Berejiklian called for residents to be on "extra high alert".

One new case cannot be linked to any known case, while eight were linked to other local cases.

Mask-clad Melburnians pictured shopping in South Yarra over the weekend. Picture: Mark Stewart
Mask-clad Melburnians pictured shopping in South Yarra over the weekend. Picture: Mark Stewart

Three others are overseas travellers in hotel quarantine and one had returned from Victoria.

Worryingly, NSW Health officials revealed there are seven cases of coronavirus diagnosed over the past week that still have no known source.

Elsewhere in Australia, South Australia will reintroduce COVID-19 restrictions from Tuesday after the state recorded another two cases of the virus today.

From 12am on Tuesday, gatherings will be reduced from 50 to ten people, with licensed premises moving back to seated-only patronage.

Premier Steven Marshall said his biggest concern at the moment was community transmission.

"It's been absent for a long time in South Australia, and we don't want to see it come back," he said.

"We absolutely don't want to see the types of lockdowns seen in Victoria, so we are staying in front of the game to keep SA safe."

Covid presser at Largs Bay, August 1, 2020. Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier and SA Health Minister Stephen Wade. Picture: Brenton Edwards
Covid presser at Largs Bay, August 1, 2020. Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier and SA Health Minister Stephen Wade. Picture: Brenton Edwards

Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said while one of the new cases was a man who had recently returned on a repatriation flight in hotel quarantine, the second new case was her biggest concern.

"A man in his 50s is a known close contact to the 20-year-old woman who tested positive yesterday," she said.

"We are testing all close contacts and one close contact is now isolated."

Both new cases are said to have some respiratory symptoms but were otherwise well.

It's understood this virus 'cluster' has its origins in Victoria.

"It's quite disappointing to see new cases in South Australia, especially given our extremely tight border restrictions," Professor Spurrier said.

"It just shows how transmissible and how quickly it can spread."

It comes as about 40 students have been forced into isolation after they came into close contact with a woman infected with COVID-19, prompting the closure of two schools.

The adult student, in her 20s, attended both Thebarton Senior and Roma Mitchell Secondary colleges while infectious.

At Roma Mitchell College, in Gepps Cross, she participated in an after-hours education program.

Earlier, four Woolworths stores in Melbourne were forced to close overnight for deep cleaning while workers returned positive results for the deadly coronavirus.

The supermarket giant confirmed infections in staff members at Newmarket, Bundoora, Cranbourne East and Karingal Hub in the past 24 hours.

Any customers who shopped in the stores between July 28-30 and feel unwell in the next two weeks should get tested.

Woolworths said they were making contact with all relevant team members and would provide "full support to those required to self-isolate".

"As a food retailer, we already have very high standards of cleaning and hygiene in place. As an extra precautionary measure, the stores closed overnight for an additional deep clean," a statement read.

"While the risk of transmission to customers and team members is low, the safety and wellbeing of the local community is our priority."

VICTORIA MOVES TO STAGE FOUR LOCKDOWN

It comes after Mr Andrews on Sunday announced the state would be placed under a stage four lockdown.

Victoria recorded 671 new virus cases in the 24 hours to Sunday, with seven more deaths - six of which were linked to aged care.

The latest deaths took the state's death toll to 123, and included three women in their 70s, two women in their 80s and a man and woman in their 90.

His announcement on Sunday took the total number of cases in Victoria to 11,557, of which 6322 are active.

"We have to do more and we have to do more right now," Mr Andrews told a press conference, as he outlined the tough new stage four restrictions.

Mr Andrews said: "I want to be clear, these changes, these changes are about making sure that we limit movement, that we have less people moving around.

"If we don't make these changes, we're not going to get through this. The time for warnings and cautions, that's over. Everyone knows the rules … lives are at stake."

Victorians will no longer be able to travel more than 5km from their home, as the Premier revealed metropolitan Melbourne moved to tougher restrictions from 6pm on Sunday.

Mr Andrews also imposed a strict 8pm-5am curfew as part of the "state of disaster" order - the only exclusions for this will be for care or care giving.

"Melbourne is under the state of disaster provisions from 8pm tonight, a curfew will be implemented," Mr Andrews told reporters.

"There will be a curfew across metropolitan Melbourne from 8pm this evening and run from 8pm to each and every day.

"And the only reason to be out of your home between the hours of 8pm and 5am is to get care, to give care, or to go to and from work or be at work," Mr Andrews said.

Mr Andrews said the new restrictions would run for at least six weeks until September 13.

"These are the decisions made because anything short of this will not keep us safe," he said.

"Anything short of this will see it drag on for months and months and months. That is not acceptable to having to stand up here every day reporting more and more people dying."

On Sunday, a total of 385 Victorians were in hospital, up from 379 on Saturday, with 38 in intensive care.

Of the 672 new cases, only 73 were linked to known outbreaks and 598 were under investigation.

Daniel Andrews watches on as Victorian chief health office Brett Sutton addressed the media in Melbourne on Sunday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Geraghty
Daniel Andrews watches on as Victorian chief health office Brett Sutton addressed the media in Melbourne on Sunday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/David Geraghty

Under stage four, cafes and restaurants will be able to provide takeaway services under the stage four restrictions, Mr Andrews said. As for exercise: "A daily exercise of one hour, no more than two people, no more than 5km from your home," Mr Andrews indicated.

"These are big steps but they are necessary," Mr Andrews said.

"We have got to limit the amount of movement, therefore limiting the amount of transmission of this virus.

"We have to clamp down on this. And get to the point where we have much lower numbers as quickly as we possibly can."

Meantime, US President Donald Trump has weighed in on Australia's alarming coronavirus surge, which has led to Victoria declaring a "state of disaster" as it recorded another huge spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

President Trump responded to a tweet that directly explained that Victoria was moving to a state of disaster declaration.

He said: "Big China Virus breakouts all over the World, including nations which were thought to have done a great job. The Fake News doesn't report this. USA will be stronger than ever before, and soon!"

News of his tweet was running on the New York Post which reported: "President Trump tweets about troubling COVID-19 outbreak in Australia."



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