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Victoria records 725 cases of coronavirus

Victoria has reported 15 deaths and 725 new cases of coronavirus, its highest total ever.

The figures are worse than the previous records of 723 new cases and 13 deaths on Thursday. 

A man in his 30s has become Australia’s youngest person to die from the disease. No information has been released about him except for the fact that he is not a healthcare worker.

The other people who died were three men and one woman in their 70s; three men and three women in their 80s; and three men and one woman in their 90s. 

Twelve of the 15 deaths and 250 new cases were recorded in aged care homes which are under severe strain.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced that non-urgent elective surgery, which has already been suspended in Melbourne, will now also be cancelled in all of Victoria to free up nurses and doctors.

‘This is a regrettable decision but it is very important one in order to preserve sufficient capacity in our entire health system,’ he said. 

Melbourne has been in stage-four lockdown since Sunday with schools shut, weddings banned, and citizens restricted to within a 5km radius of their homes. 

Between 8pm and 5am, residents are only allowed to leave their house for work and essential health, care or safety reasons.

Thousands of businesses including pubs and shops have been ordered to close from 11.59pm on Wednesday, putting 250,000 people out of work. 

At the same time, stage three restrictions that allow people to only leave home for work, exercise, care and essential shopping will be introduced across Victoria. 

From Thursday, all essential workers in the city will be required to show a permit if pulled over by police to prove they are allowed to leave their homes.

Some workers, such as nurses and police officers, can use their official identification while others have to apply for the permit online, which must be signed by themselves and their employer.

Businesses caught issuing permits to workers who do not meet the requirements face fines of up to $99,123, while individuals can be fined up to $19,826.

Only essential workers will be allowed to send their children to child care with a permit.

‘There will be many, many families who will not be able to access child care as they normally would and that is essential to driving down movement, it is essential to driving down these numbers,’ Mr Andrews said.

Liberal MPs have accused the Premier of running a ‘police state’ due to the amount of permits required.

‘The decision by Daniel Andrews to require child [care] permits is terrifying and another sign that he has turned Victoria into a Police State,’ wrote James Newbury, MP for Brighton.  

On Tuesday night, Premier Daniel Andrews tweeted three photos showing the city’s streets empty and thanked Victorians for sticking to the rules.

The premier shared seven photos across two posts – including some showing the Tullamarine Freeway and the M80 Ring Road.

Both are normally filled with traffic and act as major arteries going in and around central Melbourne. 

In the caption, Mr Andrews wrote simply: ‘Thank you.’

It comes as federal Education Minister Dan Tehan unveils a rescue package for childcare in the state.

Parents will be given an extra 30 days of allowable absences so they can keep their children enrolled even if though cannot send them to care unless they are essential workers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the initiative would secure childcare spots, while ensuring no centres closed or jobs were lost.

‘We are providing a triple guarantee for childcare in Victoria, supporting thousands of Victorian parents and hundreds of jobs,’ the Prime Minister said.

‘Parents will not be required to pay a gap fee when their children are not attending and we will continue to pay their subsidies to childcare facilities.’ 

Victoria recorded 439 new cases on Tuesday and another 11 deaths, bringing the national toll to 232.

Mr Morrison said there had been unacceptable outcomes in the most severely affected care homes.

‘There’s over 430 aged care facilities in Melbourne and what we’ve had is some horrible outcomes in a couple,’ he said.

‘There’s been about half a dozen that have been in an acute sense but the balance, even those with COVID cases, have been managing very well.’

Victorians who have used up all their sick leave can get $1,500 from the federal government if they have to self-isolate for two weeks.

The pandemic leave will also be on offer in other states that declare a state of emergency.  

Unions and Labor have been pushing for a national scheme, stressing the need to prevent outbreaks triggered by workplace transmission.

‘That option is there for other states and territories where they believe they need to move to that stage,’ Mr Morrison said.

 

Queensland will close to people from NSW and the ACT from 1am on Saturday despite Canberra having no active cases and not recording a new infection for almost a month.

NSW recorded 12 new cases on Tuesday, with all linked to known sources.

Mr Morrison said about a quarter of Victorians with coronavirus were not home when Australian Defence Force, police or health officials visited.

‘That’s just not on,’ he said.

Heavy fines will be in place for sick Victorians refusing to stay home as Australia’s harshest lockdown begins in the beleaguered state.  

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