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ADF doorknocking finds COVID-19 patients are still going to work while infected

ABC Health logo ABC Health 30/07/2020 By Erin Handley

People are still going to work after testing positive for COVID-19, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says, as the state's coronavirus cases spike to a record 723 new infections.

Australian Defence Force personnel have been doorknocking and checking on people who are supposed to be self-isolating after contracting the virus.

Mr Andrews said 30 ADF teams have doorknocked almost 800 properties so far, with 269 visited on Wednesday.

"Now, I don't want this to be seen as criticism or blame, but I'm obliged to point out that there were a number of people who were not home," he said.

"They will be referred to Victoria Police."

People who breach the chief health officer's directions can be fined $1,652.

Mr Andrews described a joint ADF and Health Department team looking for a person with a confirmed diagnosis, but found they were not at home.

"They weren't home, but a family member was, and the family member helpfully pointed out that that person, a positive coronavirus case, was, in fact, at work," he said.

"To have found even one person who had disregarded their diagnosis and instead had decided to go to work is very disappointing."

In other cases, there were a number of people who needed prescriptions filled or were running low on basic household items, including groceries and toilet paper.

"Because of that visit, we have been able to source all of those things for those people," he said.

"This is not just about compliance, it's also about us visiting and saying: 'What can we do for you? What do you need?' And I think that's a really important point.

"That doesn't mean, though, that you are allowed to be out of your home or at work, or at the shops, if you are positive.

"If you're a positive case, then you need to be at home and you need to be isolating, and that is a very important message."

Mr Andrews said, in some cases, people were unclear about what they needed to do, and doorknockers were able to inform them.

People who do not have sick leave or who are in insecure work can apply for a $300 payment while they wait for their test result and isolate at home.

Those who test positive can receive a $1,500 payment.

"If you've got symptoms, the only thing you can do is get tested," Mr Andrews said.

"You just can't go to work. Because all you'll be doing is spreading the virus."

He added that restrictions would not be lifted if people continued to go to work while sick and infections continued to spread.

'Lockdown fatigue'

Nick Golding, an associate professor at the School of Public Health at Curtin University, is part of the team that provides daily tracking numbers to the Victorian Government.

He said the rate at which people changed their behaviour — such as staying at home, not going to work, and not meeting up with people — appeared to have changed during the latest lockdown, with some more relaxed the second time around.

"People haven't switched to that behaviour so quickly this time, and it doesn't seem like they've gone quite as far as they did the first time around.

"And it's certainly something we've been expecting. People get a little bit fatigued with lockdown."

He said the reproduction number in Victoria is hovering around one, meaning every positive case is infecting one other person.

"If it's at one, it's not going to decrease," he said.

"So it seems like we haven't locked down quite as hard, and you can see this in the publicly-available health data on people moving around."

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Fines for fishing and face masks

Victoria Police have issued 88 fines to people breaching the chief health officer's directions in the past 24 hours.

Of those, 26 were for failing to wear a face covering, which attracts a $200 fine.

Victoria Police said "a number of these fines were issued after people still refused to wear a mask, even after being offered one from police or PSOs [protective services officers]."

Six men at a short term rental property in Mornington Peninsula were issued penalty notices.

"Upon police arrival, they stated they were there for a work-related meeting however, when police arrived, they were drinking alcohol and watching television," according to Victoria Police.

They also fined four people in the Wyndham area who stated their reason for travelling was "to go fishing in Geelong", and another man was fined after travelling "from Dandenong to South Yarra for a convenience store coffee".

Police have done more than 187,500 spot checks in Victoria since March 21, with 5,650 spot checks on people at homes, businesses and public places conducted on Wednesday.

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos urged every Victorian to do their part in order to bring the virus numbers down.

"All the research tells us that we need at least 90 per cent of people doing the right thing," she said.

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