All Victorians will have to wear a mask in public from next week after the state recorded 723 new coronavirus cases and 13 deaths on Thursday.
Premier Daniel Andrews warned that 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.
From 11.59pm on Sunday, residents in regional Victoria will be required to wear a face mask when they leave their homes.
Mr Andrews also announced coronavirus restrictions would be extended beyond metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire to six local government areas, where residents will not be allowed to visit other homes.
Victoria reported an additional 13 deaths on Thursday, taking 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.
From 11.59pm on Thursday, residents from the Colac-Otway, Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, and the Borough of Queenscliffe local government areas will not be allowed to have guests at their homes.
Hospitality venues will remain open.
‘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.
‘People are not necessarily keeping their distance in their family home. It’s a natural thing, you let your guard down.
‘Hugs and kisses and handshakes, not necessarily adhering to the protocols that are a feature of hospitality, cafes, restaurants, pubs being open. They are supervised environments.’
Regional Victoria currently has 255 active cases, with 159 in six local areas around Geelong.
Mr Andrews said there were 30 Australian Defence Force teams doorknocking 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 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.
Victoria reported nine additional fatalities on Wednesday. Seven of the fatalities were linked to private aged care facilities in the state.
The aged care crisis remains a major driver of the state’s death toll and high case numbers
‘The aged care numbers, the increase in each of those facilities on a daily basis will be a significant contributor, including the staff in those facilities and our other outbreaks, especially the larger ones, are another significant contributor,’ Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said on Wednesday.
Following state and federal intervention, residents are being transferred from the worst-affected homes, including 80 at St Basil’s Homes for the Aged in Fawkner and 34 at Epping Gardens Aged Care Facility.
Kirkbrae Presbyterian Homes in Kilsyth has had 30 residents transferred out, while 21 people from Outlook Gardens Aged Care Facility in Dandenong North have been transferred to Mulgrave Private Hospital.
Mr Andrews on Wednesday said nurses from hospitals had been redeployed to short-staffed nursing homes, with 400 shifts already filled.
Up to 50 South Australian nurses will also travel to assist Victoria’s hospital and aged care staff.
Thursday’s record comes after two days of declining figures. The number of new cases dropped to 295 on Wednesday from 384 on Tuesday and 532 on Monday.
Every Victorian who tests positive to COVID-19 should expect a knock on the door from the military, the premier has warned, as the state bolsters efforts to contain outbreaks.
Australian Defence Force personnel and public health workers have been visiting the homes of known positive cases who could not be contacted, but from Thursday they will begin doorknocking all confirmed cases.
Federal health department secretary Brendan Murphy warned that Victorians should brace for more deaths from aged care facilities every day.
‘There will be more (deaths),’ he said.
Mr Andrews reiterated the government’s ongoing message that Victorians must stay home if they are at all unwell, in order to drive down case numbers and prevent further outbreaks.
Victoria Police on Thursday morning said they issued 88 fines to individuals who breached the chief health officer directions.
Of the 88 fines issued in the last 24 hours, 26 were for failing to wear a face covering when leaving the home.
Six men were fined after they were found at a short term rental property in Mornington Peninsula.
The group said they were there for a work related meeting but when police arrived the group were drinking alcohol and watching television.
There were 11 infringements handed at vehicle checkpoints, where 21,833 cars were checked.
Victoria Police also conducted 5,650 spot checks on people at homes, businesses and public places across the state.
In NSW, health authorities are fearing for a spike in coronavirus clusters as cases spread to Sydney’s densely populated eastern suburbs.
NSW recorded an additional 18 infections on Thursday. Two of the newly diagnosed cases are returned travellers currently in mandatory hotel quarantine.
Two are linked to the funeral gatherings cluster, four are associated with the Thai Rock Wetherill Park cluster and another four are connected to The Apollo restaurant in Potts Point.
Six new cases are under investigation.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will ban all visitors from Sydney from Saturday after two teenagers with coronavirus dodged quarantine.
Olivia Winnie Muranga and Diana Lasu, both 19, and an unidentified friend, arrived together in Brisbane from Melbourne on Tuesday, July 21.
All Victorian residents were banned from entering Queensland from July 9, but the women were able to enter the Sunshine State by stopping off in Sydney.
The teens allegedly travelled on Virgin Australia flight 863 from Melbourne to Sydney, to make it appear like they hadn’t come from Melbourne.
Shortly afterwards they boarded flight VA 977 to Brisbane.
They are also accused of making false declarations on their border paperwork which asks passengers if they have visited Victoria in the past 14 days.
South Australia has imposed tougher border controls with Victoria, meaning residents can no longer return and tighter limits for towns near the edge of the two states.