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Melbourne, AUSTRALIA – July 31, 2020: 4:42pm (ABC.NET.AU): Premier Daniel Andrews has warned restrictions in Victoria are likely to be extended beyond the six-week lockdown in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire, after the state recorded another 627 coronavirus cases and eight deaths overnight.

The increase in cases is the second-highest single-day increase of the pandemic and comes after a record 723 cases were recorded yesterday.

“I’ve got no announcements to make about next steps but it is important that all of us acknowledge that these numbers are still far too high and we could not open up with these numbers,” the Premier said today.

“We could not open up even with significantly less than these numbers.”

The Premier said national and Victorian health officials were doing a “detailed analysis” of what was driving the increasing cases.

“We have data that marks the halfway point of the six week [lockdown in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire],” he said.

“We have numbers that are too high, community transmission too high, and we need to do detailed analysis and potentially take further steps beyond the current framework.”

He said the analysis would let authorities know what needed to be done to drive numbers down.

“It will continue today, tomorrow and if we have got further announcements to make, we will,” he said.

“I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that there are a whole range of potential next steps that will come at a very significant cost — and I mean that in all of its senses.”

More than 1,000 healthcare workers infected

The people who died were two men in their 50s, two men in their 70s, three men in their 80s and one woman in her 70s. The state’s death toll now stands at 112.

Four of the deaths were connected to aged care settings, Mr Andrews said.

The eight deaths include the death of a man in his 50s from Portland in south-western Victoria, which health authorities confirmed late yesterday.

There are now a total of 349 people in hospital, including 37 people in intensive care.

The Premier said 928 active cases in Victoria were connected to aged care settings, and 1,030 active cases were healthcare workers.

More than 100 COVID-positive people not at home during door-knocks

Since late last week, Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel and health authorities have been doorknocking the homes of people who have tested positive to COVID-19 .

The Premier said more than 130 people who had tested positive to coronavirus who were not at home over the past two days.

“It is difficult to understand why one in four people that were doorknocked weren’t there,” he said.

“That is very challenging to try and understand that. There could be economic issues, we have talked about this many times over many days.”

Mr Andrews said 5,200 people had applied for the $300 payment which is on offer to people waiting for a test result and who have no sick leave.

Mr Andrews said 4,200 people had been paid out a total of $1.26 million.

CHO has ‘absolutely no regrets’ about St Basil’s response

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has also defended directing staff at St Basil’s nursing home in Fawkner to enter quarantine, amid one of the largest aged care-related outbreaks in the state.

St Basil’s handed over control of the home to Aspen Medical workers appointed by the Federal Government last week so all its staff could go into quarantine, as the rate of new infections accelerated.

The sudden staffing swap disrupted care to residents at the home, as the new staff struggled to familiarise themselves with the home’s systems and communicate with Greek-speaking residents.

On the weekend, federal and state health authorities sent a senior nurse manager and staff from Victoria’s hospitals into the St Basil’s to address the issues.

The chairman of St Basil’s in Victoria was reported in Nine media today as saying he warned Professor Sutton that standing down the entire staff at the Fawkner facility would jeopardise residents’ care.

But Professor Sutton addressed those comments today, and said he wrote to St Basil’s and told management their entire workforce were considered close contacts.

He said there were now 124 cases in St Basil’s — “and that’s with the intervention”.

“Without the intervention … that’s just more and more residents exposed and infected and dying so I have absolutely no regrets about writing to St Basil’s about changing that workforce,” he said.

“What I did say was they should do it when an appropriate workforce could be mobilised.

“If they could not find a reasonable workforce to transition I would have been up for that conversation.”

Professor Sutton said he was not part of day-to-day talks about how that transition occurred.

Federal Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said on Tuesday his department would begin an investigation into the St Basil’s outbreak as soon as possible.


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