Victoria imposes restrictions on gatherings and cancels pub capacity increase

Among a new string of coronavirus cases in Victoria are people who knew they were infected but continued to work and socialise anyway, Premier Daniel Andrews has revealed.

The state will reintroduce restrictions after recording another 25 new coronavirus cases in the past day, with concerns that a second wave of COVID-19 is possible.

From midnight tomorrow household gatherings will be restricted to a maximum of five guests, and public gatherings will have a limit of 10 people.

And the planned easing of restrictions for pubs and restaurants next week has also been deferred.

Mr Andrews said the new cases included “large family outbreaks” where the virus was spread among people in a household, and then to others in the community.

In some cases, those people knew they were infected but went to work or social gatherings anyway, he said.

“If you are sick, do not go out. If you are sick, do not go out,” Mr Andrews said. “You’re putting the rest of Victoria at risk. That is not right.”

Victoria’s concerning rise in coronavirus cases this week had authorities vigilant as the next step to ease restrictions looms.

Gyms, cinemas, indoor sports centres and concert venues were scheduled to reopen on Monday while cafes, restaurants and pubs will increase capacity from 20 people to 50.

But Victorians may have to wait a little bit longer before going back to the pub.

The new rules will come into place from midnight tomorrow and stay in place until midnight on July 12.

Mr Andrews confirmed the new restrictions after another 25 cases were reported today.

He said the restrictions were imposed to try and “break the cycle” of people who are unwell continuing to socialise.

He would also not rule out further restrictions on “hot spot” areas in Melbourne where there are more cases.

He said authorities would go door-to-door to ensure the new rules are being adhered to.

“I want to make it really clear that we have seen some families who have not done as they have been asked,” he said.

“We have seen some families who perhaps through a sense of frustration and their hope that this is over, they have pretended that it is.

“I am not happy to have to confirm this but we will go door-to-door getting the message out there to communities across the state and that these restrictions are there for everyone.

“We will also go door-to-door not just in getting good public health advice out to people, we’ll go door-to-door if we have to make sure people are doing the right thing.”

Those restrictions could include going back to restricting the reasons why people can go outside.

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The state’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said Victoria is at a “crossroads” after the latest spike in cases.

“We are indeed at a crossroads,” Dr Sutton said.

“The increase in numbers just in the last few days, in absolute terms, doesn’t look like a great deal but it’s a very significant increase from where we’ve been previously.

Dr Sutton said Victorians had to listen to the new advice.

“They have to adhere to these new restrictions, that’s my point about there being no plan B,” he said.

“The only other pathway we have if we’re not following these restrictions is to see an exponential increase in cases.

“We got on top of that early, and we know that it’s challenging now because we’re seeing it again. But the lessons from around the world is that there is no plan B.

“There is no vaccine available yet and not likely to be for six months plus. So the only tools we have are doing the right thing, and we have shown that works.”

Thirteen new cases were recorded on Friday, 18 on Thursday and 21 on Wednesday, resulting in the state’s biggest increase in more than a month.

While the rest of the country’s COVID-19 infections decline, Victoria’s active cases rose to 91 on Friday, up from 66 four weeks ago.

Authorities are relieved that they know the links to most of the cases – many of whom are returned travellers or linked to them.

“We’re hoping that this isn’t the beginning of a second wave and we’re doing everything we absolutely can to make sure that that’s not the case,” Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen said.

Overall, 1792 Victorians have been recorded with the virus, though 1680 have recovered.

Five people are in hospital, including two patients in intensive care. Nineteen people have died.

But while there is a spike in Victoria, four other states and territories are now essentially COVID-19 free.

Tasmania has joined South Australia, Northern Territory and the ACT as having zero active cases.

The ACT first reached zero known active cases on April 30. It recorded one new case four days later before returning to zero for most of May. It confirmed another new case on June 7, returning to zero known active cases on June 17.

SA first reached the milestone on May 16, but 10 days later recorded one new case. It returned to zero on June 4.

The NT has had no known active cases since May 21.

The Australian death toll remains at 102, with confirmed virus cases since the initial outbreak topping 7400 on Friday.

Active cases are calculated by taking total case numbers and deducting recovered cases and deaths.

Despite a positive picture emerging from these four areas, nationwide there has been a rise in the number of active cases to 412 after months of steady declines.

There were 2306 active cases of COVID-19 on April 19 but the numbers fell every week as recovered cases outnumbered new ones.

However, this all came to an end on Sunday when the numbers hit a low of 380.

Active cases nationwide rose to 382 on Monday, 389 on Tuesday, 398 on Wednesday, 412 on Thursday, according to figures compiled by the federal government.

This spike is being largely driven by outbreaks in Victoria, with the majority of them stemming from security guards at a hotel with quarantined travellers, leading to a sudden increase in new cases and concerns about community transmission.

Meanwhile, the number of active cases in NSW has been largely steady over the past week. It rose from 308 on Saturday to 314 on Sunday and has varied from 317 to 319 in the days since.

— With wires

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