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Melbourne suburbs lockdown announced as Victoria battles coronavirus outbreaks

The Guardian logo The Guardian 30/06/2020 Melissa Davey
a man holding a sign: Photograph: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Ten Victorian postcodes will be back in lockdown from midnight on Wednesday and international flights coming into Melbourne will be diverted elsewhere, as the state struggles to get on top of Covid-19 outbreaks and community transmission.

On Tuesday the premier, Daniel Andrews, said a number of Victoria’s cases through late May and early June had been linked through genomic testing to an infection control breach in the hotel quarantine program, prompting him to call for a judicial inquiry.

Related: Coronavirus Australia update: Victoria records 64 Covid-19 cases as premier announces 10 Melbourne postcode hotspot lockdowns – live news

“Clearly there has been a failure in the operation of this program,” Andrews said. “I have today ordered the establishment of an inquiry, led by a former judge, into the operation of the hotel quarantine program.

“A significant number, and potentially more, of the outbreaks in the north of the city are attributable via genomic sequencing to staff members in hotel quarantine breaching well-known and well understood infection control protocols. That is unacceptable to me. I’m sure that will be unacceptable certainly to all of those who will be impacted by the restrictions that we have had to reimpose, announced today, coming into force at 11.59pm tomorrow night.”

a screen shot of a man: Victoria premier Daniel Andrews announces that 10 Melbourne coronvirus-hotspot postcodes will return to lockdown from midnight on Wednesday. © Photograph: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images Victoria premier Daniel Andrews announces that 10 Melbourne coronvirus-hotspot postcodes will return to lockdown from midnight on Wednesday.

From Thursday, the only reasons people living in postcodes 3012, 3021, 3032, 3038, 3042, 3046, 3047, 3055, 3060 and 3064 will have to leave home are to exercise or work, to buy essential items including food or to access childcare and healthcare. The restrictions will remain in place until at least 29 July.

“If we do not do this now then I won’t be locking down 10 postcodes, I will be locking down all postcodes,” Andrews said. “I can’t do this – the government can’t do it on our own.

“We need every Victorian to play their part. Victoria police will not be mucking about. They will be there policing these rules. They will be there in booze bus-type arrangements on major corridors in and out of these postcodes and if people make a judgment that they can ignore the rules and there is a low chance of getting caught that would be a very unwise judgment to make.”

Businesses affected in those suburbs will be eligible for grants of $5,000.

The announcement follows a testing blitz across the most affected suburbs, with hundreds of public health officers door-knocking homes and offering free testing. Andrews expressed disappointment that in Broadmeadows and Keilor Downs alone, more than 900 people refused to be tested. “Now, I can’t change that,” he said. “That’s happened. All I can do is encourage those people come forward and get tested today.”

Sixty new cases of Covid-19 were identified in Victoria overnight, with 13 of those linked to known outbreaks throughout the state, 20 identified through routine testing and 31 cases under investigation.

No new cases have been detected in returned travellers in hotel quarantine, suggesting there is now a concerning level of community transmission. Of the cases linked to outbreaks, six are part of Melbourne’s Stamford Plaza Hotel cluster, taking the total in that cluster to 29. All cases were close contacts of known people who were tested while in quarantine.

Related: Victoria's coronavirus spike: what's causing it, and is anyone to blame?

As the state implements an elaborate testing operation across virus hotspots, the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, announced on Tuesday that the border to her state would open from Friday 10 July, but not to Victorians. Anyone who has travelled from Victoria will be turned away or will have to pay for 14 days in a quarantine hotel. Queensland has sent its deputy chief medical officer to Victoria to help with the outbreak.

“We just can’t risk removing border restrictions for people coming from areas of Victoria right now,” Palaszczuk said. “And I hope Queenslanders understand why I am saying that. I’m not alone in saying that.”

She added that the level of community transmission in Victoria was worrying.

“Can I urge all Queenslanders: please do not go to Victoria. Please do not go to Victoria,” she said. “Stay in Queensland. We now have the crossover of New South Wales and Victoria school holidays. Our concern is people from New South Wales going into Victoria and then choosing to come to Queensland. That is why we now have the border declaration that must be declared. And if you falsify that document, it’s $4,000.”

Two of the new Victorian cases are linked to Albanvale primary school, taking that cluster total to seven. One was a student who was a close contact of the original case, and the second is a household contact of a known case.

A new case has been linked to the outbreak at the Coles Chilled Distribution Centre in Laverton, taking the total to five. Two staff at the StarTrack facility in Tullamarine have tested positive, with both staff members working while infectious. Cleaning will be undertaken at the site and contact tracing is under way.

Two cases linked to the Hugo Boss store on Collins Street in Melbourne have tested positive. The new cases include a staff member and a household contact, taking the total to three.

In other cases not believed to be clusters, a second healthcare worker from Orygen Youth Health facility in Footscray has tested positive. The healthcare worker was a close contact of the original patient and had been in quarantine. Two additional staff at the Al-Taqwa college in Truganina have tested positive, as have two staff members at Camberwell grammar school.

Students at two new schools have tested positive: one was a student at St Bernard’s college in Essendon who attended school while infectious, and two students from Moreland primary school in Coburg have also tested positive. Positive cases have been identified at five childcare centres: Guardian Childcare and Education in Pascoe Vale; the Grove Children’s Centre in Coburg; Little Steps Family Day Care in Sunshine; Clare Court Children’s Service in Yarraville; and Kids on Queens Parade in Fitzroy North.

This is the 14th consecutive day of double-digit case growth in Victoria, with health authorities describing a continuing and concerning number of new cases associated with transmission within households and families.

Related: Coronavirus Victoria: everything we know about Melbourne's Covid-19 clusters

The Victorian government has launched a targeted blitz, with a team of 800 testers and a fleet of mobile vans across 10 priority suburbs. People in those suburbs can receive free testing even without symptoms. Priority suburbs include Keilor Downs, Broadmeadows, Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Hallam, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir and Pakenham.

“We have made some great progress in slowing the spread of coronavirus but we are still seeing new cases in the community,” said Victoria’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton.

“If you have any fever, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, and loss of sense of smell or taste – stay home, don’t go in to work and don’t visit friends and family. Get tested and stay at home until you get the result.”

On the ABC’s 7.30 on Monday night, the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, noted that one-third of the new Victorian cases were being found in people in their 20s and 30s.

“Particularly in this outbreak, as there was in the Bondi outbreak, young people have been contracting and transmitting the disease,” Hunt said. “The message is not just don’t put other people at risk, we know that young people are still susceptible to a potentially fatal disease.”

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