Victoria reported 73 new Covid-19 cases overnight, with 10 hotspot postcodes to enter lockdown from midnight as the state tries to bring the cases under control.
While there were 14 new cases announced in New South Wales overnight, all of those were in returned international travellers now in quarantine hotels. Of Victoria’s cases, only three were from hotel quarantine, with community transmission becoming a growing concern in the state over the past fortnight. The source of 42 of Victoria’s newest cases remains under investigation.
The Victorian premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Wednesday that the work of public health officials door-knocking the most affected suburbs and offering people free testing was now a key part of the state’s strategy to bring the spread under control.
“I can report to you that as of last night we had knocked on some 54,000 doors in those high-risk suburbs and postcodes offering advice, testing information and in some cases the self-administering test kits where people can take the test and it can be collected at a later point,” he said. “There will be further door-knocking, quite intensive door-knocking and there will be an update to this end each and every day.”
Maidstone and Broadmeadows are the focus of this door-knocking on Wednesday, with and Albanvale and Brunswick West to be targeted on Thursday. Twelve new testing sites will be established across the 10 hotspot postcodes, which include 36 suburbs, facing lockdown.
“In terms of those lockdown suburbs I again make the point I know and understand that this will be deeply inconvenient,” Andrews said. “It will be frustrating, it will be very challenging. We will be there to support each and every business that’s impacted, not just with within the zone but also the tourism businesses where there will be bookings that will have to be cancelled because of these lockdowns.”
He said the prime minister, Scott Morrison, supported the measures, including the diversion of international flights to other states after breaches were identified in infection control in Victoria’s hotel quarantine program.
Further announcements were expected on Wednesday afternoon about support for affected businesses, as well as how the lockdowns will be enforced.
“Ultimately, if I didn’t shut down those postcodes I’d be shutting down all postcodes and I don’t think we want to get to that point,” Andrews said. “We all want to work hard, literally day and night to try and avoid that sort of an outcome.”
It comes as the NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, announced any Victorian from one of the hotspot suburbs entering NSW faces fines of up to $11,000 or six months’ jail. Residents from his state face the same penalties if they go to one of the 36 suburbs.
“Victorians living in virus hotspots have to take the Victorian and NSW health orders seriously and should be very aware that NSW will impose additional penalties if they seek to leave their suburbs to enter NSW,” he said.
NSW has further eased its social distancing restrictions from Wednesday, with limits on attendance for funerals, weddings, places of worship and community sport relaxed as long as there is no more than one person for every 4 sq m of space.
Outdoor gatherings are still restricted to 20 people but community sport with a Covid-19 safety plan can have up to 500 participants. Funerals, weddings and church services may have the maximum number of people allowed on the premises, with one person for every 4 square metres. All businesses can now open and operate under the same principle.
The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, reiterated on Wednesday that the states borders were reopening from 10 July except to Victorians.