Parents smacked down as virus cases increase again
Selfish Victorian parents have been lashed for ignoring social distancing after school holidays began today, as the state's coronavirus cases continue to mount.
The number of Victorian cases has increased by 56 overnight, with 411 people testing positive so far.
Schools closed beginning today but childcare and kindergartens remain open for now.
Premier Daniel Andrews this morning said those numbers would keep increasing if Victorians continued to "live their lives as normal" and ignored tough social distancing rules to stop the spread of the "deadly" virus.
"The cases continue to grow," he told Triple M.
"I can inform you that we are up to 411 cases, that is 56 new cases overnight and they are going to keep going up and up, particularly if some people in the Victorian community don't start taking this seriously.
"There are people out there that are not distancing, who are living their lives as normal.
"They are not, if you like, respecting the fact this is deadly and if it continues to spread and people don't do the right thing then people will die."
Mr Andrews also hit out at parents who were still allowing play dates and social activities after the schools closed.
"Kids can't go to the shopping centre, kids can't stay at their mates place," he said.
Mr Andrews has three children aged 13 to 18 and said they were self-isolating.
"They are having the best part of three weeks where they are not seeing their friends, they are not going to Chadstone shopping centre.
"They are not doing all the usual things … because there is nothing usual about this situation."
It comes as Victorians are being told to cancel backyard barbecues, think twice about trips to the hairdresser and shop online as authorities look to tighten the state's unprecedented lockdown.
The national coronavirus cabinet will meet tonight to consider a second stage of closures after pubs, clubs, gyms, cinemas and churches were all forced to close for the first time in history on Monday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Mr Andrews have put the community on notice, warning a broader shutdown is coming unless people respond to the measures already in place to stop the rampant spread of the virus.
It comes as the Gold FM Breakfast show did not broadcast this morning due to a COVID-19 scare.
Host Christian O'Connell said the radio station went into a lockdown, preventing them from going to air.
"The station has had to go to a 24 hour emergency corona lockdown," he posted to Twitter.
"Building evacuated and station shutdown for 24 hours. Show will be back tomorrow."
He said the show that went to air this morning was a "taped special", which had been pre-recorded in the case of an evacuation.
Meanwhile, a NAB employee was revealed to have falsified coronavirus test results, resulting in hundreds of employees being evacuated from NAB's Bourke St office and fearing for their health.
NAB management was advised on March 17 that a staff member who worked at the 700 Bourke St office had tested positive to COVID-19, at which point staff were asked to work remotely and the office was pandemic cleaned.
It was later determined by management that testing information provided by the employee was falsified.
In a memo to NAB staff, it was noted that the staff member's employment had been terminated.
"Reflecting the severity of this matter, the colleague will not be returning to NAB," the statement said.
"We certainly regret the uncertainty this caused for our colleagues in 700 Bourke St, particularly those working closely with the colleague in question.
"Of course vacating the building was the right decision with the information we were provided a precautionary measure to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone who works at 700 Bourke St."
WHAT'S NEXT AFTER LOCKDOWN'S FIRST PHASE?
Tonight's national cabinet will also consider measures to support renters, and workforce and supply chain issues impacting the health system.
Mr Morrison said coronavirus was a "once in a 100-year" public health and economic crisis.
"For many, young and old, 2020 will be the toughest year of our lives," he said.
"We are a strong nation and a strong people, but in the months ahead this will put us all to the test like, at no time since the Second World War."
Mr Andrews yesterday blasted "selfish" Victorians for putting vulnerable people at risk by ignoring demands to remain 1.5m away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.
"There are many Victorians who are acting selfishly. If that continues, then people will die," he said.
"You won't be able to go to the pub, because the pub is shut. That doesn't mean you can have all your mates around to home and get on the beers."
"Whether you want to call it mateship, or being a good Australian, or complying with your civic duty, I don't care what you call it, just do it."
"If you don't, then people will die, and you know who dies? The most vulnerable people in the Victorian community. Do the right thing, do the smart thing, do the decent thing."
"If you don't, you have got every reason to believe Victoria Police will catch you, and you will be punished."
Fines of $20,000 for individuals and $100,000 for businesses are in place for those caught flouting new coronavirus rules - such as holding mass gatherings or failing to self-isolate after returning from overseas.
There will be spot checks on the street, with 5000 police specifically deployed by Victoria Police in a special coronavirus taskforce.
Disruptions are likely for many months due to the crisis, as the number of reported cases continues to increase.
Mr Andrews said he had no plans to follow Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory and shut the state's borders - but that could change if the threat to life increases.
School holidays are already in chaos, with families urged to dump non-essential plans.
"The fact that there might need to be other steps doesn't diminish how big a change this is - we have never done this before in any of our lifetimes," Mr Andrews said.
But one Victorian Christian school has snubbed state government directives, refusing to bring the Easter school holidays forward and telling families that God is not surprised by the coronavirus pandemic.
And in the UK, the British public is only allowed to leave their homes to buy food, medicine, or do essential work, as the country goes into full lockdown.
STAY AT HOME FOR OUR HOSPITAL HEROES
Doctors and nurses putting their lives on the line to save yours are pleading for Victorians to stay at home and obey vital coronavirus social distancing rules.
As the state is locked down due to concerns Victorians are not taking their isolation responsibilities seriously, Royal Melbourne Hospital staff have delivered a blunt plea they hope will hit home:
"We stayed at work for you. So you stay at home for us."
Needed on the front line in roles certain to bring them into contact with COVID-19 over the coming weeks, medical staff do not have the luxury of social distancing measures to protect them.
But RMH director of emergency medicine Mark Putland said simply staying at home and limiting the spread of infection was a matter of life and death - thousands of times over - for ordinary Victorians.
"People can genuinely save lives by doing this," Dr Putland said.
"We can do extraordinary things for a certain number of people, but there is a certain limit beyond which we just can't help anymore people if they all come at the same time.
"We need to ask everyone else to not put us in more risk, to not make our work in vain. We are here to do this work, but we need others to do their bit as well so it is possible for us to do ours."
As efforts focus on building the capacity of the state's hospitals Dr Putland said great encouragement was being taken from the results of nations such as Korea and Germany, where early distancing measures have been highly effective in slowing COVID-19.
"We are ahead of a lot of the world here in Victoria by taking these measures and having the state on lockdown before we have actually had a death in Victoria from coronavirus.
"A lot other places left it much later than this and then they did not get the benefits of it.
"It gives us the only chance we have got to make a difference to how hard this disease hits our community.
"We are very grateful we have the privilege of being able to do something really constructive and to stand in the front line and try to fight this thing.
"But I don't want other people to think they can't do something too - they can, just by sitting at home. By isolating themselves they can contribute in a really meaningful way."
- Grant McArthur
QUEUES START EARLY AT CENTRELINK
Melburnians are already queuing outside Centrelink offices across the city, attempting to access new stimulus payments.
Some people who are facing unemployment for the first time in their lives have lined up more than four hours before doors are due to open.
Prahran, 6.45am Tuesday. After yesterday’s farce, there are already 15 in the queue outside the Centrelink office (the first was here at 4.30am). Again, a potential social distancing risk but these people feel they have no choice. It opens at 8.30am. 😔 #coronavirusaustralia pic.twitter.com/wYQtaBK3gB— Paul Dowsley (@pauldowsley7) March 23, 2020
In Prahran, some have lined up since 4.30am when doors don't open until 8.30am.
It comes as the MyGov website crashed yesterday as more than 95,000 jobless Australians attempted to apply for coronavirus income support.
COURTS CLOSE, PUBS EMPTY AS SHUTDOWN BEGINS
Victoria's magistrate courts will undergo a partial shutdown from Tuesday with an automatic three-month adjournment to hundreds of listings.
In a note to lawyers on Monday night, Chief Magistrate Lisa Hannan said all criminal hearings across the state's magistrates' courts, except filing hearings, committal mentions, and committal hearings, would be adjourned until June 15.
Accused on summons or bail will no longer need to attend filing hearings, provided they are represented by a lawyer.
In civil matters lawyers and interested parties have been directed not to attend court.
Contested committal hearings and Koori court matters have already been suspended across the state.
Four practice directions to lawyers were published on the court's website.
The directions, which take effect from 9am on Tuesday, were widely praised by lawyers as a sensible step to protect court users.
Chief magistrate Hannan said the move was taken because of health and safety concerns over COVID-19 and the need to reduce the number of people attending court.
Read more on Victoria's partial shutdown.
AUSSIE BREAKTHROUGH BRINGS HOPE FOR VACCINE
A stop gap "passive vaccine" for COVID-19 will see antibodies harvested from the blood of patients who have recovered from the virus injected into vulnerable people.
It comes as losing your sense of smell has emerged as one of the first signs of COVID-19.
Meanwhile University of Queensland researchers are looking for 100 healthy volunteers to take part in clinical trials of a candidate vaccine for COVID-19 in the middle of the year.
The Doherty Institute in Melbourne is working on a new rapid COVID-19 test that takes just 30 minutes to get a result an improvement on the three hours it takes now.
VICTORIANS' TOP CORONAVIRUS SHUTDOWN QUESTIONS ANSWERED
Victoria's new lockdown rules are set to change life as we know it across the state.
From hairdressers to weddings, kids' birthday parties and bike rides, we asked the state government 50 questions about how Victorians should go about their lives during the coronavirus crisis.
We compiled their answers, which assume people are healthy and haven't been overseas or in contact with any confirmed coronavirus cases.
Read the full list here.
- Have a question we haven't asked? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have reportedly been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound confirmed the Games will be held at a later date, most likely in 2021.
CAMPING CANNED TO AVOID 'AMAZING TRAGEDY'
Any Victorians thinking about slipping away for a holiday to escape the coronavirus lockdown can think again.
Premier Daniel Andrews has issued a blunt warning that non-essential travel means no holiday travel.
Stay home is the message. Or the community could face "quite amazing tragedy", he said.
And Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville warned that road blocks could be used to stop people disregarding the advice.
Campgrounds and caravan parks were "highly contagious" when there were shared bathrooms and showers, Ms Neville said.
"We're very conscious around camping and caravanning grounds. The are potentially high risks with people sharing showers and bathrooms etc.''
Yesterday, campgrounds, including Walkerville Foreshore in Gippsland, were closed or closing, but caravan parks which have permanent and long-term occupants, most in self-contained cabins or caravans, were still open for business.
The Discovery Parks chain said that as an accommodation provider, its parks were an essential service in a time of crisis.
Parks Victoria closed down the accommodation and camping at Tidal River at Wilsons Promontory National Park on Sunday.
More updates about access to other campsites around the state were expected in coming days.
But Mr Andrews said families should not go away now that children were on holiday.
"It'll be a very different school holiday than usual,'' Mr Andrews said.
"And it needs to be. Because if we don't start taking these things seriously then we will be talking about quite amazing tragedy.''
The travel alerts come as regional airline Rex said regional flights in Victoria would stop from April 6.
Rex operates services out of Melbourne and Mildura to six locations in New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.
The Ambulance Victoria fixed-wing fleet, run by Rex subsidiary Pel-Air Aviation, will continue to operate.
Melbourne's trains and trams and the V/Line network are still running on normal timetables.
Extra cleaning has been introduced and passengers were urged to stagger their travel times to help with social distancing.
Victorian parks operated by Discovery, Top Parks and Big 4 were still open for business although many guests had returned home.
In a statement, Discovery Parks said changing travel restrictions meant some people found themselves in need of accommodation.
"We also have communities of caravanners currently on the road and requiring a safe place to stay,'' the statement said.
STIMULUS PACKAGES GIVEN GREEN LIGHT
The multi-billion dollar coronavirus Economic Response Package was given the final tick of approval in the House of Representatives about 11pm on Monday night.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the economic measures, being described as the most significant since wartime, were designed to build a bridge to recovery on the other side of the virus.
"We know that the economic situation has deteriorated as every day passes," he said in a late night press conference at Parliament House.
"The Australian people can be assured that tonight their parliament reached across the political divide.
"We face an enemy that is under no flag and has no face.
"We must deploy every weapon in our arsenal to defeat it."
The Treasurer said he expected about a million Australians to receive the coronavirus Supplement.
- Tamsin Rose
AFL PLAYERS OFFER MASSIVE PAY CUT
AFL players have volunteered a 50 per cent pay cut, effective immediately.
On one of footy's darkest days, the game's 850 players agreed to halve their wages until May 31 - the competition's proposed restart date.
If the 2020 season is abandoned, players will agree to even more drastic salary reductions.
It came as entire football departments were stood down under Fair Work provisions. Some are likely to be made redundant in coming days.
US STOCKS FALL AMID CONGRESSIONAL FIGHT ON STIMULUS
Wall Street fell on Monday (local time) as US Congress wrangled over a massive stimulus package while the Federal Reserve unveiled new emergency programs to boost the economy including with unlimited bond buying.
The scale of the Federal Reserve's moves impressed investors, but stocks still fell in the first few minutes of trading as worries continue to rise about the economic pain being caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Central banks are doing what they can to support the economy as more states and communities close down, but investors want to see the US government do its part as well.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO AFL FANS' MEMBERSHIPS?
Footy fans will have to wait to see if memberships they have paid for will be refunded after the AFL season was suspended.
As the AFL and clubs work through the fallout of the already shortened season being put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, the league is yet to decide what to do about memberships.
In a statement, the AFL last night said it was working through.
"The AFL and the clubs main concern is for members and supporters to continue to take the relevant precautions to ensure their health and wellbeing is paramount,'' it said.
"The AFL will work with the clubs to ensure their members are well informed, and the clubs will continue to communicate with their members throughout this temporary suspension of the season.''
AFL Fans Association president Gerry Eeman said supporters wanted clarity.
"Fans don't want a refund, they want the option to get a refund,'' he said.
"Because a lot of fans realise that their clubs are in danger of folding but if you have no money yourself, it's a luxury they cannot afford to treat it like a donation.
"Some will … but people that have just lost their jobs and don't have much money to feed their family need the option to get a refund.''
In a memo to members, Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett yesterday said he doubted the AFL season would resume "before July at the earliest".
"That, therefore, means the income generated by the competition and the clubs has been dramatically reduced,'' he said.
"For Hawthorn, we continue to receive revenue from memberships and some sponsorship.
"I thank every member who has pledged their support to the club, it is more crucial than ever.''
It comes as the Yarra Junior Football League reconsidered its decision to start its season earlier than the AFL recommended commencement date of May 31, in response to coronavirus fears.
The Picola and District Football Netball League has decided to "postpone'' its season until May 2 and reconsider its position on April 17 "subject to the status of the COVID-19 pandemic''.
- Peter Rolfe
ITALIAN POLITICIANS 'LOSE THEIR S---'
Politicians in Italy, where nearly 60,000 people have coronavirus and 5500 have died, are going nuts trying to browbeat their defiant constituents into obeying a national lockdown amid coronavirus.
"I'm getting news that some would like to throw graduation parties. We will send over the police - with flamethrowers," president of Campania Vincenzo De Luca says in a video.
Four other Italian mayors and politicians can be seen lambasting folks for breaking the rules during the global crisis,
In a country famed for being overrun by tourists and party goers, the new normal - lock down and be safe - is obviously not coming easily to many people.
MORE CORONAVIRUS NEWS
Originally published as Parents smacked down as virus cases increase again