Outbreaks ‘inevitable’ as economy re-opens

Premier Daniel Andrews announces a construction blitz.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Victorians are being warned that coronavirus is still in the community as the State Government charted further steps to economic recovery.

A timeline for the re-opening of tables at cafes, restaurants and pubs from 1 June has been unveiled.

On 18 May, the Government also announced a $2.7 billion building “blitz” to “kickstart” 3700 direct jobs over the next six months.

Over the past seven days in Victoria, new cases of Covid-19 rose from 1509 to 1567.

Greater Dandenong’s case numbers remained steady on 16. One case was detected on 17 May, but was not classed as active.

Infections in Casey also rose by one in the past week to 57 total cases, including one active.

Cardinia’s reported case remained at 16 with no active cases.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s closed 12 restaurants including in Sandown after a delivery driver was reportedly infected. He was said to have been asymptomatic when he visited the restaurants.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Annaliese van Diemen said each of the outlets were deep-cleaned, staff have been quarantined until they test negative to the Covid-19 virus.

A re-opening date for the stores was yet to be determined, Ms van Diemen said.

Premier Daniel Andrews said outbreaks would happen “time to time”.

“We can have outbreaks though if they’re well handled.”

Covid-19 investigators tracking and tracing the spread, and the blanket testing of mildly symptomatic people were critical to keeping the virus under control.

“If we don’t have people coming out for testing we don’t pick up cases until it’s too late.”

As the economy was being re-opened, health authorities were worried about staff returning to workplaces.

“One of the last things that will come off is this notion that if you can work from home, you must work from home,” Mr Andrews said.

“It’s one of the Chief Health Officer’s most significant concerns.

“It’s absolutely critical to us keeping control of this.”

The building six-month blitz includes $1.18 billion on education infrastructure – 10 new schools, 57 school upgrades, portable buildings, disability modifications and maintenance.

It will create more than 1600 construction jobs and create space for 21,000 extra students, the Government announced.

There will also be $500 million for public and community housing, with an upgrade of 23,000 dwellings and 168 new ones.

The fund will also improve sports facilities, CFA and SES stations, disability accommodation, mental health and aged care facilities and waterways as well as repair roads and railway stations.

Meanwhile, cafes, restaurants and pubs can serve meals to up to 20 customers at a time from 1 June.

The limits will increase to 50, and then to 100 by the second-half of July – if community transmission numbers remain low.

“We need to be really clear though: this is not a done deal. These timelines will depend on how we’re tracking,” Mr Andrews said.

Further Government stimulus packages would be announced in other sectors, he said.

Police continue to fine people flouting social-distancing rules as part of Operation Sentinel.

On 15-17 May, 47 infringements were issued, including a group of friends partying in a short-term rental as well as a gathering at a Noble Park fast-food outlet car park around midnight.


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