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What we know today, Tuesday July 20

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Victoria will stay in lockdown until at least July 27, as it records nine new locally acquired cases of COVID-19.

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Victoria to spend another week in lockdown

Victoria will stay in lockdown until at least July 27, as it records nine new locally acquired cases of COVID-19.

Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the lockdown extension of at least seven days on Tuesday, hours before it was originally flagged to end.

The state recorded a total of 13 new local infections in the previous 24 hours, four of which were previously announced by authorities.

“As promising as our progress has been, avoiding a New South Wales-style long, lengthy, very challenging lockdown where you just lose control of cases, we have avoided that,” Mr Andrews told reporters.

“But, we need more time. That is why on the advice of the chief health officer we will extend these lockdowns for a further seven days.

“So far, the strategy is unfolding exactly the way that we would like it to unfold, but we have had a couple of super spreader events.”

Almost a third of Victoria’s locally-acquired coronavirus cases can be traced back to a sports fan who attended an AFL match, a Euro 2020 viewing party and the rugby while unknowingly infectious.

That man caught the virus from a resident of a Maribyrnong apartment complex who caught the virus from unmasked NSW removalists and went on to spread it to friends and family.

Twelve of Tuesday’s cases are linked to the current outbreaks of the Delta variant in the state, which originated in NSW, while one case remains under investigation.

Nine of the cases were in isolation during their infectious period.

Two of the four reported cases are linked to an outbreak at the restaurant Ms Frankie in Cremorne, while two are household contacts of a person who contracted the virus at the Geelong-Carlton game at the MCG on July 10.

One new case, a woman in her 20s from Roxburgh Park, is believed to be connected to a family from Hume local government area who tested positive after returning from NSW earlier this month.

The state also recorded two cases in hotel quarantine, bringing the total number of infections to 96.

Red zone travel permits, needed to get into Victoria from NSW, will be paused for two weeks.

“The only people that will get a permit to travel from a red zone into Victoria are those who are authorised workers and those who apply for and get a compassionate exemption to the new rules,” Andrews said.

There will also be minor changes to exempted workers to include services that operate solely outdoors where physical distancing can be maintained, such as pet grooming mobile services and pamphlet delivery services.

And from Wednesday, July 21, students with disability will be able to return to on-site learning if a parent or carer indicates the student cannot learn from home due to vulnerability or family stress.

NSW records 78 new cases

NSW has recorded 78 new local COVID cases as people in Greater Sydney and surrounds continue to live under strict stay-at-home orders.

Of the new cases diagnosed from 62,860 tests in the 24-hours until 8pm on Monday, at least 38 were circulating in the community for some or all of their infectious period.

The isolation status of three cases remains under investigation.

The 78 new cases is down on the 98 reported on the previous day.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the efforts of the community was making a difference.

“That 78 number would have been much, much higher had people not been doing the right thing,” the premier said on Tuesday.

A total of 1418 people have been diagnosed with the virus since the outbreak began on June 16.

People living in Greater Sydney, Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong, and Shellharbour are in the fourth week of a lockdown and the government is under intense pressure over a sudden decision to shut down the state’s construction industry.

Builders, unions and constriction companies have formed a united front to lobby the government to allow some workers back on sites before the end of the month.

On the weekend the premier blindsided the industry by announcing the unprecedented two-week shut down, costing the NSW economy at least $700 million per week and forcing 250,000 tradies to down tools.

CFMEU state secretary Darren Greenfield says if the shutdown continues into August … “businesses will start to collapse”.

“Subcontractors cannot sustain a third or fourth week of this. Our industry will be a basket case,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Tuesday.

Berejiklian said the decision was taken to prevent the risk of workplace transmission and to stop “thousands and thousands of people” moving around the community.

SA ordered into lockdown over Delta outbreak

South Australia will be put into a seven-day statewide lockdown from 6pm tonight, with five confirmed cases linked to the fast-moving Delta strain prompting authorities to order schools and all building sites to close amid a concerted bid to slow down the spread.

Schools, universities and “non-essential” shops and services will close and construction and non-urgent elective surgery will grind to a halt for at least a week.

South Australians will need to wear masks if they leave their home.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes will close except for takeaway.

Weddings and funerals will be banned.

Interstate and regional travel is prohibited and fly in/fly out workers are on hold.

A sombre Premier Steven Marshall announced the snap shutdown this morning, saying it was the only way to “stop the disease dead in its tracks.’

“This is highly transmissible,” he said, confirming the cluster was linked to the Delta strain.

Read the full story here

Thirteen new exposure sites added overnight

SA Health has identified 13 new exposure sites associated with the latest positive cases of COVID-19 overnight, mainly in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, forcing at least 1000 more people into isolation.

Deputy chief public health officer Dr Emily Kirkpatrick told ABC Radio this morning that about 1000 SMS messages had already been sent to people who checked in using QR codes at the sites during the times of concern.

People who were at any of the below locations at the specified dates and times and members of their household must immediately gate tested, quarantine for 14 days, get tested again on days 5 and 13 and complete this form to notify SA Health of their presence at the location.

People who were at any of the below locations at the specified dates and times must:

Get a COVID-19 test as soon as possible and quarantine until you receive a negative result and get tested again on day 5 and day 13 after the last day you were at the location.

There is no requirement to quarantine after the day 5 and 13 test, unless you have symptoms.

Complete this form to notify SA Health you were at this location:

If you were at the below location, monitor yourself for symptoms and get tested as soon as they develop.

Previously announced locations can be found at http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/covidcontacttracing

Isolating staff place further pressure on health system

Adelaide’s health system is under serious strain after a community COVID-19 infection in the north-east suburbs yesterday forced dozens of hospital staff and ambulance workers into quarantine.

The 81-year-old man was taken to Modbury Hospital’s extended emergency care unit on Sunday before testing positive to the virus at 2.30am on Monday.

The hospital’s entire emergency department has since been closed and the man has been transferred to the Royal Adelaide Hospital’s COVID ward.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier yesterday said 27 patients who were “in the vicinity” of the man would be transferred to the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

A further 57 staff have been ordered into hotel quarantine.

The South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association (SASMOA) said code yellows – internal emergencies – were last night declared at two major metropolitan Adelaide health networks.

SASMOA said the Central Adelaide Local Health Network – which covers the Royal Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth hospitals – and the Northern Adelaide Local Health Network – which covers Lyell McEwin and Modbury Hospital – declared “major incidents” across their networks.

The Ambulance Employees Association also reported that the South Australian Ambulance Service declared a major incident due to staff shortages with paramedics facing quarantine after the  Modbury Hospital ED was listed as an exposure site.

It urged any non-rostered staff to come in to help yesterday afternoon to fill shortages,

The ambulance union reported that an internal emergency was also called at the Royal Adelaide Hospital yesterday afternoon, linking it to an influx of patients from Modbury Hospital’s closed emergency department.

It is the second time in two weeks an internal emergency has been called at the RAH, after a major incident was declared across the Central Adelaide Health Network last Tuesday.

Meanwhile, huge lines of cars queued outside the Victoria Park COVID-19 testing clinic last night with long lines of cars stretching along Wakefield and Fullarton roads.

There were 7166 coronavirus tests carried out on Sunday but that number is expected to increase significantly when SA Health publishes Monday number later today.

Victorians await lockdown update

Victorians are set to learn how long lockdown will be extended as authorities buy time for contact tracers to beat an outbreak of the Delta coronavirus variant.

Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the lockdown will be extended beyond 11:59pm on Tuesday, saying there were still “far too many” cases of community transmission to ease restrictions after five days.

“It would be perhaps a few days of sunshine and then there would be a very high chance we’d be back to lockdown again. That’s what I’m trying to avoid,” he told reporters.

Victoria’s public health team and senior government ministers will make the final call on the length of the extension by Tuesday morning.

Monday’s testing figures and results, as well as any new exposure sites and mystery cases, will guide their decision.

At least four additional local cases, all of whom were in isolation for their entire infectious period, have already been announced.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there would undoubtedly be more reported on Tuesday, warning no other jurisdiction in the world has been able to keep up with the Delta variant.

“There is no absolute guarantee that we can win against Delta period, we have to give ourselves the absolute best chance,” Professor Sutton said.

“This will take off if we allow it to.”

The outbreak, which originated from NSW, now totals 76 cases after 13 new infections were reported in the 24 hours to Monday morning.

There are now 15,800 close contacts and more than 300 exposure sites, including sites on Phillip Island in the south of the state to Mildura in the northwest.

NSW outbreak claims fifth life

A fifth person has died amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Greater Sydney as the NSW premier admits “some level of restriction” will remain in place until the state’s vaccination rates reach an acceptable level.

The death of the southwest Sydney woman on Monday morning is the fifth in NSW since mid-June and the 61st throughout the pandemic.

The woman was in her 50s, making her the youngest COVID-19 death in Australia since a Victorian man died in August 2020.

The Green Valley woman was reportedly linked to removalists who travelled to central-west NSW while allegedly knowing they were COVID-positive. They have been handed court attendance notices for failing to comply with COVID directions.

Monday marked the first weekday since harsh new restrictions were enforced on Greater Sydney – including an Australia-first shutdown of the construction sector for two weeks.

And while Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the current lockdown could only end when the number of cases infectious in the community nears zero, she admitted some restrictions will remain in place until vaccination rates are much higher.

This is because of the infectiousness of the Delta variant currently in the community.

About three in five NSW residents (57 per cent) aged over 50 have had their first vaccination dose, while just under one in five (18 per cent) have had both doses.

“Our population coverage – even for the over 60s – is not high enough and we have a good vaccine that can be used, where the risk of hospitalisation and death (from the virus) is very high as age increases,” Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said.

Dr Chant also said Australia needed to think about making vaccines available for children, particularly those of high school age, once older age groups are immunised.

NSW recorded 98 new local cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday, maintaining a three-day average in the high 90s.

Australia calls out China over global hacking

Australia has joined the US and other allies in calling out China over its global hacking activities, saying it has undermined international security.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews and Defence Minister Peter Dutton said the activities by China’s Ministry of State Security are malicious and concerning.

Australia and its international allies have determined the ministry exploited vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange software earlier this year, affecting thousands of computers and networks worldwide.

“These actions have undermined international stability and security by opening the door to a range of other actors, including cybercriminals, who continue to exploit this vulnerability for illicit gain,” the three ministers said in a joint statement on Monday night.

Australia has joined the US, NATO, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, New Zealand and Canada to level the allegations.

Australia is also “seriously concerned” about US allegations the Ministry of State Security engaged contract hackers to carry out cyber-enabled intellectual property theft to give the Chinese government a commercial advantage.

“Australia calls on all countries – including China – to act responsibly in cyberspace,” the minister said.

“China must adhere to the commitments it has made … to refrain from cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets and confidential business information.”

The US Justice Department said on Monday four Chinese citizens – three security officials and one contract hacker – have been charged in a global hacking campaign aimed at dozens of companies, universities and government agencies in the United States and abroad.

The activities took place between 2011 and 2018 that focused on information that would significantly benefit Chinese companies and businesses, it said.

 – with AAP and Reuters

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