An alarming hotspot map reveals how COVID-19 has spread to almost all of Sydney – as experts warn New South Wales is on the verge of being hit by a second wave on the same scale as the one ravaging Victoria.
Victoria’s deadly outbreak grew by a record 723 cases and claimed 13 lives on Thursday – the darkest day in Australia since the fight against the virus began.
The number of cases in NSW pales in comparison to those being dealt with by its southern neighbour.
But the latest red zone map shows new cases appearing over the past 10 days in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and on the Northern Beaches – after the city’s outbreak had initially been contained to the west.
One of those cases was in Curl Curl – marking the first case of community transmission on the Northern Beaches since April 27.
Victorian authorities meanwhile are in a position where the only course of action is to ensure the state is ready for an onslaught of hospital-bound coronavirus patients, a senior government source said.
‘One senior figure in government in Australia has suggested to me that Victoria is too far gone – that it does not have the structures in place to quell the virus through contact tracing,’ Sky News Political Editor Andrew Clenell said on Thursday.
‘Now it just has to make sure it has to have enough ventilators, beds and personal protective equipment.’
While the daily infection totals in NSW have yet to exceed 20 over the past fortnight, a former federal government official has warned a single ‘super spreader’ event could trigger a Victorian-style outbreak.
‘NSW is not in a good place,’ Grattan Institute health economist and former secretary of the federal health department Stephen Duckett told nine.com.au.
‘Every day that goes by you’ve got a risk. While the virus is circulating there is always the chance there will be a super spreader event and then you will be in strife.’
Professor of epidemiology at the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute John Kaldor said the cases which posed the largest risk were those not linked to known cases or outbreaks.
The percentage of cases in NSW not linked to known cases is only about 10 per cent, but Professor Kaldor said the virus can ‘move in ways you are not predicting’.
The warnings come as allegations of neglect emerged from the coronavirus-riddled Epping Gardens Aged Care home in Melbourne’s north.
Doctors have claimed patients were left dead in their beds for as long as six hours, The Australian reported.
On Monday, the ratio of staff-patient at the facility – which has yet to respond to the allegations – was reportedly one to 14 – when the normal ratio in public hospitals is one to four or five.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted the nursing home for comment.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said earlier on Thursday he supported the introduction of new measures to slow the virus’s spread in Melbourne, stating case numbers in the ‘Victorian wave’ were very concerning.
‘We have now been in this lockdown for some weeks and we are not getting the results we would hope for. And as a result the further measures that are taken are certainly necessary,’ Mr Morrison said.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday banned residents of the Colac-Otway, Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, and the Borough of Queenscliff local government areas from receiving visitors at home from Friday.
He also extended compulsory mask wearing to the rest of Victoria from 11.59pm on Sunday.
‘It’s inconvenient, it’s challenging, but it’s essentially stage four for Melbourne and it’s something we can do in regional Victoria without causing significant economic cost but get a really significant public health benefit,’ Mr Andrews told reporters on Thursday.
He also warned Melbourne’s crippling lockdown will likely be extended if case numbers continue to rise.
‘Ultimately, every Victorian, I think deep down knows and appreciates that unless everyone plays their part this lockdown will not end anytime soon,’ Mr Andrews said.
Thursday’s figure is more than double Wednesday’s 295 infections and far exceeds the state’s previous record of 532 cases on Monday.
The additional 13 deaths on Thursday in Victoria takes the state’s death toll to 105 and national figure to 189. The fatalities are three men and three women in their 70s, three men and two women in their 80s, and two men in their 90s.
Mr Andrews said 10 of the 13 deaths were aged care residents. There are 913 active cases in aged care facilities and a total of 5,885 active cases across the state.
He took the opportunity to criticise the anti-mask community, and warned people who film themselves arguing with police at lockdown checkpoints that they face a $10,000 fine.
‘I think they will be charged on summons. That will be a matter for others and I do not determine those matters but there is the on the spot $1652 fine and if you go through a court process it is much closer to $10,000 so it is a pretty significant penalty,’ he said.
Mr Andrews reiterated the importance of following health directives, urging the community to look out for one another.
‘This is not about human rights, this is about human life. This is not about some obscure nonsense you’ve read on a website.’
There are 312 Victorians battling coronavirus in hospital and 34 patients are fighting for their lives in intensive care.
The 723 cases on Thursday is more than the 697 cases recorded in the United Kingdom on Tuesday. The UK has reported 45,961 deaths since the pandemic begun.
Mr Andrews commended the majority of residents in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire for following the mandatory face mask rule, which was introduced one week ago.
‘And I’m deeply grateful for each of them for doing that. It’s inconvenient, it’s challenging, but it’s essentially Stage 4 for Melbourne,’ he said.
The premier said extending mandatory face coverings to the rest of Victoria would provide a positive health benefit, without significant economic losses.
‘It’s something we can do in regional Victoria without causing significant economic cost, but getting a really significant public health benefit,’ he said.
‘I know that may seem counter-intuitive, and many things in this virus are. But some of the transmission is household-to-household,’ Mr Andrews said.
Regional Victoria has 255 active cases, with 159 in six local areas around Geelong.
Mr Andrews said there were 30 Australian Defence Force teams door-knocking in Victoria on Wednesday and 269 homes were visited.
A number of coronavirus-infected residents were not home.
‘Now, I don’t want this to be seen as criticism or blame, but I’m obliged to point out that there were a number of people who were not home,’ he said.
‘They will be referred to Victoria Police.’
Mr Andrews said one resident was actually at work instead of isolating at home.
‘They weren’t home, but a family member was, and the family member helpfully pointed out that that person, a positive coronavirus case, was, in fact, at work,’ he said.
There were 19,921 coronavirus tests since Wednesday’s update.
Mr Andrews, who said more than one in five Victorians have tested for the virus, thanked residents who have come forward for testing.
‘And what that means is we can track the virus, we can put our best efforts to work to try and contain the spread beyond you and your close contacts.
‘But, of course, if you’re not coming forward and getting tested, we simply don’t have that knowledge.
‘And it’s impressive to think that we have one of the highest testing rates anywhere in the world. More than one in five Victorians have been tested.’
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos described Thursday’s record coronavirus cases as ‘disappointing’.
Ms Mikakos said more hospitalisations and deaths are inevitable.
‘I implore Victorians to continue to follow the rules. I know it’s tiresome, people are getting weary, but it is important that everyone continues to follow all of the legal restrictions,’ she said.
‘And that includes those in regional Victoria now.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison encouraged Australians across Victoria and the country to comply and work cooperatively with the requests being made by authorities.
‘The most concerning part of the information released today was that there were a further 13 deaths,’ Mr Morrison said.