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Covid-19 News Updates


Melburnians allowed to work in regional Victoria

Melburnians allowed to work in regional Victoria

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (pictured) has clarified Melburnians will be allowed to work outside the metro area now that regional Victoria has entered the next stage of its path to COVID-19 recovery

Workers will however need permits from their employers in regional Victoria, and the Premier emphasised the rule 'if you can work from home, you must' still applies.

"I can confirm that people can travel to regional Victoria for work more broadly and are not bound by the committed industries requirements in Melbourne," he said.

"When a person from metropolitan Melbourne is in regional Victoria, the metropolitan Melbourne restrictions apply to them.

"Even though they're not in in metropolitan Melbourne the rules follow them to their work in regional Victoria. For example they can't be going out to a restaurant for dinner."

He said the announcement mostly applies to Melburnians living close to the border with regional Victoria, although it won't be exclusive.

"This was not so much an issue while their place of work was not open, but now that it is open we think this is a reasonable balance," he said, noting that people still can't go to work even if they have the mildest of symptoms.

The clarification comes ahead of the second step to recovery slated for Melbourne this Sunday, including the establishment of social bubbles, the incorporation of more workplaces into the permitted industry list, and some new openings for education.

The trigger for this next step to go ahead is that Victoria stays within a band of 30-50 daily cases, and today the numbers are well below that at 15.

"This shows without any doubt that our strategies work when these numbers are coming down," Premier Andrews said.

"We are very pleased with these numbers and very grateful for all the hard work and sacrifice and the commitment that every single Victorian has shown.

"You can't achieve these outcomes, you can't get to that COVID-normal without an amazing effort by the vast majority of Victorians, and to each of them I say thank you."

Updated at 11:30am AEST on 23 September 2020.

SA border with NSW to reopen from midnight tomorrow

SA border with NSW to reopen from midnight tomorrow

From midnight on Thursday residents of New South Wales will be able to enter South Australia without having to complete 14 days of self-isolation.

However, the border reopening is conditional on NSW not recording any cases of community transmission before midnight tomorrow.

SA Premier Steven Marshall said the decision will be a relief to those who have been dislocated from friends, family, and business opportunities because of the border restrictions.

"We know that this has been a massive burden on the business community and also on families and individuals, but we did this to keep South Australia safe," said Marshall.

Further, Marshall said the decision was made by the state's Transition Committee this morning after assessing the COVID-19 situation in NSW.

"They were furnished with all the necessary information from New South Wales with regards to what had occurred over the weekend," said Marshall, referencing the situation where a Sydney taxi driver worked for nine days while infectious.

Residents of NSW who have entered the state prior to midnight on Thursday will still be required to complete the mandatory 14 days of self-isolation.

"For people who have already arrived or people that arrived right up until midnight tomorrow night, they will still be required [to self-isolate]," said Marshall.

"There is a different risk profile, and it's important that we observe this restriction and keep it in place."

SA Chief Public Health Officer Dr Nicola Spurrier says there is some risk in reopening to NSW, but this can be overcome by travellers abiding by basic hygiene measures and getting tested for COVID-19.

"There is always going to be some risk involved with this pandemic, but we can't just wrap ourselves in cotton wool forever," said Dr Spurrier.

"It's important that we can come out of this and that we can go about our normal lives and that we can start to enjoy things again."

NSW has recorded two new cases of COVID-19 today, but both are returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine.

Updated at 11.44am AEST on 22 September 2020.

Byron Bay, Lismore and more to be added to QLD border bubble

Byron Bay, Lismore and more to be added to QLD border bubble

Residents of 41 postcodes in New South Wales will be able to head north of the border when Queensland expands its border bubble from 1 October.

From 1am on 1 October, a number of NSW Shires will be added to QLD's border bubble including Byron Shire, Ballina Shire, the City of Lismore, Richmond Valley and Glen Innes.

Residents of these areas in NSW will be able to apply for a border pass in order to travel freely around the border zone, as far north as Beenleigh.

"I think this is a great effort to consider how we can make our border zones more effective," says QLD Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

"These areas have a lot in common with Queensland, they usually do a lot of their business in Queensland, so we believe this is the right measure to take."

The announcement from the Premier comes as QLD prepares to reopen its borders to travellers from the Australian Capital Territory this Friday.

The easing of restrictions will allow Canberrans to fly into the state, not drive, as NSW more broadly is still considered a COVID-19 hotspot.

Today's announcement comes as Queensland records no new cases of COVID-19, meaning there are just 16 active cases of the coronavirus in the state.

Updated at 10.32am AEST on 22 September 2020.

Victorian live music scene given $13m life support

Victorian live music scene given $13m life support

More than 100 live music venues in Victoria will receive cash grants to stay afloat during lockdowns and beyond, in a State Government scheme that is also designed to offset the costs of patron caps when COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

In addition, the state's $1.7 billion live music sector will be uplifted by cash grant schemes for industry professionals to create music, as well as planning controls that are more supportive of the scene.

Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley announced yesterday that 106 live music venues across the state would share in grants totalling $9 million in the first allocations under the Victorian Live Music Venues program.

Venues include the Northcote Social Club, Queenscliff's Blues Train, Westernport Hotel in San Remo, Castlemaine's Theatre Royal, Loop in Melbourne's CBD, Grace Darling in Collingwood, Richmond's Corner Hotel, the Night Heron in Footscray, the Hotel Warrnambool and the Wool Exchange in Geelong.

The grants will support venues that have closed to help stop the spread of coronavirus to cover urgent overheads and put COVID-safe measures in place, while also helping them to reopen and host events when it is safe to do so.

The Victorian Government plans to announce a second round of cash allocations to other eligible venues in due course.

A state-first planning policy will also further protect Victoria's live music venues during the pandemic and beyond, with permanent planning controls whereby councils will have strengthened power to protect significant music precincts when redevelopments are proposed.

Under these new controls, councils will be able to identify these live music areas and consider the social, economic and cultural importance of live music venues as they make decisions on local planning permits.

Another measure announced yesterday is the $3 million Victorian Music Industry Recovery program, offering grants of $4,000 to $50,000.

The funds will be for artists, managers, promoters, bookers, road crew and other workers to keep creating music, undertake professional and business training and develop COVID safe ways of working.

Recognising that summer is usually a bumper period for the music industry, the program will focus on activities taking place from December onwards.

It includes dedicated streams for First Peoples and Deaf and Disabled applicants. Applications will open at noon on Monday, 21 September and close on 22 October 2020.

A further $1.2 million has been allocated to 10 music organisations and peak bodies to deliver professional and business development programs to a diverse range of Victorian music industry professionals.

Among the initiatives is Push Records, a new youth-led record label and training program by The Push; a wellbeing training and mentorship program for roadies and live music events professionals by CrewCare.

The scheme also includes a creative development program for First Peoples musicians and industry workers by Songlines Aboriginal Music Corporation.

"In ordinary times, Victorian music venues hosts tens of thousands of gigs each year reaching millions.  We don't want to lose Victoria's music scene," Premier Andrews said.

"We'll continue to support our venues, our musicians, and the many workers who bring this $1.7 billion industry to life are able to reopen stronger than ever and welcome us back for a COVID Normal summer."

"Our music scene is much loved across the state and envied the world over. This support will protect our grassroots venues, save jobs and music businesses, and keep local music playing well beyond this pandemic," added Minister Foley.

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne said live music venues were the "heart and soul of Melbourne and towns across the state".

"Going forward, councils will have to consider these new planning controls as they make decisions on local planning permits," he said.

These support mechanisms are part of $90 million in funds from the Victorian Government for the creative industries to help them get through the pandemic, and are also in tune with a hospitality initiative to promote and prepare industry for outdoor dining

Today the government is also expected to launch the latest $200,000 round of the Pride Events and Festivals Fund.

Organisations are invited to apply for grants of up to $10,000 for events and projects for LGBTIQ communities which can be run online before 30 June 2021. 

The Pride Events and Festivals Fund is now in its third year. For the first time, all events must be able to take place online and be held in line with current coronavirus restrictions at the time of the activity.

Updated at 11:14am AEST on 21 September 2020.

COVID-infected Sydney taxi driver worked for nine days, visited South Coast venues

COVID-infected Sydney taxi driver worked for nine days, visited South Coast venues

Residents of seven Sydney suburbs who caught Silver Service taxis recently will need to check for COVID-19 symptoms after it was revealed yesterday that a taxi driver worked over nine days while infectious.

The individual, who is believed to have caught the virus at Liverpool Hospital, worked on September 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 in Moorebank, Bankstown, Chipping Norton, Liverpool, Lidcombe, Warwick Farm and Milperra.

NSW Health reports the individual "pleasingly" had the COVIDSafe App, which is being used to help identify contacts.

The person also visited several venues in Western and South Western Sydney and the South Coast.

Anyone who attended the following venues for a least one hour during the following times is considered to be a close contact and must get tested and isolate for 14 days since they were there. They must stay isolated for the entire period, even if a negative test result is received, as 14 days is the maximum time it generally takes for COVID-19 to develop:

  • Campbelltown Golf Club, Glen Alpine - 16 September, 2pm-4.30pm
  • Milton Ulladulla Ex Servos Club - 12 September, 2pm-6.15pm
  • Carlo's Italian Restaurante Bar & Seafood, Ulladulla - 12 September, 8pm-9.30pm
  • Bannisters Pavilion Rooftop Bar & Grill, Mollymook - 13 September, 12.30pm-2.15pm
  • Mama Wok, MacArthur Square Campbelltown - 9 September 1:30pm-2:30pm

Anyone who attended these venues within the indicated timeframes for less than one hour is considered a casual contact, as are those who attended the following venues at the specified times:

  • Picnic Point Bowling Club 18 September, 3pm-6pm
  • Campbelltown Golf Club course Glen Alpine 16 September, 9.30am-2pm
  • Wray St Oyster Shed Batemans Bay 12 September,12 pm-1 pm

As of yesterday NSW Health was treating 78 COVID-19 cases, including two in intensive care, one of whom was being ventilated. 86 per cent of cases being treated by NSW Health are in non-acute, out-of-hospital care.

Buffet restaurant fined for lax COVID Safe practices

SafeWork NSW revealed yesterday that a Korean BBQ restaurant in Strathfield was fined $5,000 for having an open buffet where diners shared crockery, cutlery and food.

When SafeWork NSW inspectors visited Butchers Buffet on 11 September, they observed patrons accessing plates, condiments, serving utensils, bowls and trays of food as well as shared utensils on tables.

There was no safety marshal in place or stated limits on the maximum number of customers allowed on the premises. Chairs and tables were not adequately spaced, and CCTV footage showed patrons were not physically distancing when helping themselves at the buffet.

SafeWork NSW's director for work health and safety metro, Sarina Wise, said these sorts of breaches defied logic.

"Self-serve buffets and pandemics simply don't mix, creating a source of potentially contaminated items," Wise said.

"No self-serve buffet style food service areas are allowed including communal bar snacks and communal condiments.

"Sharing items on a buffet is clearly a direct line for COVID transmission."

In addition to the risks posed by buffets, hospitality businesses across the board are being warned against complacency, after inspectors from Liquor & Gaming NSW, SafeWork NSW and NSW Fair Trading last week issued 23 new fines for COVID breaches.

Inspectors from the three agencies reported a string of breaches relating to:

  • Gaming machine spacing
  • Spacing between tables and chairs
  • Not having a COVID-19 Safety Plan
  • Not being registered as COVID safe

We're calling on the public to hold businesses to account; if you visit a venue and find yourself back to back or shoulder to shoulder with other patrons, if you see poor hygiene or no sign in processes, report it via the COVID safety feedback portal on nsw.gov.au,"  Wise said.

The following businesses were fined last week:

  • Albion Hotel - Parramatta
  • Ashfield Bowling Club - Ashfield
  • Butchers Buffet - Strathfield
  • Cafe on Monash - Gladesville
  • Commercial Hotel - Kingsgrove
  • Collector Hotel - Parramatta
  • Crown Hotel - Parramatta
  • Erciyes Turkish Restaurant - Redfern
  • General Bourke - Parramatta
  • Glasgow Arms Hotel - Ultimo
  • Indian Leaf - Redfern
  • La Famiglia Ristorante & Pizzeria - Jindabyne
  • Lotus Barangaroo - Barangaroo
  • Maya Da Dhaba - Redfern
  • Mohr Fish - St Ives
  • Rosehill Hotel - Rosehill
  • Oscars Sports Hotel - Bankstown
  • Rosehill Hotel - Rosehill
  • Royal Hotel - Darlington
  • Ship Inn - Sydney
  • Southern Cross Hotel - St Peters
  • St Jude Café - Redfern
  • Thredbo Alpine Hotel
  • Zushi Restaurant - Barangaroo

Updated at 10:11am AEST on 21 September 2020.

Major gatherings on the cards as WA goes 160 days without community transmission

Major gatherings on the cards as WA goes 160 days without community transmission

As we ease into warmer weather Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan wants to see major gatherings go ahead in his State, but in a COVID Safe way.

That is why, as of today, major events like festivals and community fairs will be permitted as long as they are approved by relevant health authorities and local governments.

COVID event plans and guidelines will be issued to organisers, tailored to support a base of more than 500 people.

The plans will identify public health measures to ensure the safety of patrons including physical distancing requirements of two square metres per person, hygiene and cleaning regimes, and staff management.

COVID event plans will not be required for events that form part of the usual business for places where there is an existing COVID-19 public building approval in place.

"There are so many fantastic events coming up or being proposed, and I'd like to see this go ahead in a COVID Safe way," said Premier McGowan.

"We want people to feel confident about going to their local community fair, or even a music festival, which up until now has not been able to occur.

"Under this new system, music festivals can now be assessed and could be approved pending assessment of plans by the Department of Health."

The announcement comes as WA has gone more than five months, or 160 days, without community transmission of COVID-19.

The state currently has three active cases of COVID-19, all of whom are in hotel quarantine.

Updated at 4.45pm AEST on 18 September 2020.

Queensland reopening to ACT travellers, still closed to NSW

Queensland reopening to ACT travellers, still closed to NSW

Travellers from the Australian Capital Territory will be allowed to enter Queensland from next Friday 25 September, but the State will remain closed to New South Wales.

Canberrans will have to fly into the state, not drive, as NSW is still considered a COVID-19 hotspot.

According to Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles the decision was made following extensive conversations with the Chief Medical Officer in Canberra.

"That means people from the ACT will again be able to visit Queensland," said Miles, recognising the Territory has not had a new case of COVID-19 since July.

"We've been saying for some time now that for Queenslanders, Queensland is good to go. Well now, for Canberrans, Queensland is good to come.

"Now is the time we would urge them to start thinking about coming up to Queensland for a holiday. This is timed to coincide with the school holidays in the ACT, it's a great chance for people to come and visit friends and relatives or go to the reef, go to Cairns, go to one of our wonderful tourism hotspots."

The announcement comes two days after South Australia dropped its border restrictions with the ACT on the condition that travellers arrived by plane.

Queensland reported no new cases of COVID-19 today, and there are currently 25 active cases of the coronavirus in the state.

Updated at 1.07pm AEST on 18 September 2020.

NSW eases border restrictions for regional Victorians

NSW eases border restrictions for regional Victorians

Those living in communities on the New South Wales and Victorian border are now able to move more freely across state lines after restrictions were eased yesterday.

As such, border community residents are able to travel within the region for any reason with a current permit.

In addition, those residents that travel into NSW are not be obliged to comply with current stay-at-home orders imposed in Victoria while north of the Murray River.

NSW has also expanded its definition of the border region to now include Pleasant Hills, Lockhart, Benalla, Bright, and Mount Beauty.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard says restrictions are able to be eased because the threat of COVID-19 transmission in regional Victoria is reduced.

"We are able to ease restrictions on the border given the reduced risk of COVID-19 transmission in regional Victoria," said Hazzard.

"NSW and Victoria border communities have been extremely resilient during this one-in-100 year pandemic as we continue to fight the challenges of COVID-19."

The easing of restrictions on border communities comes as Victoria recorded just 28 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, the state's lowest daily total in three months.

There were five new cases of the coronavirus in NSW yesterday, while QLD and WA recorded one new case each.

Updated at 10.05am AEST on 18 September 2020.

Telehealth breakthroughs for Emerald Clinics, MedAdvisor

Telehealth breakthroughs for Emerald Clinics, MedAdvisor

With telehealth services experiencing tremendous growth due to the pandemic, two ASX-listed medical technology have announced new milestones today. 

Perth-based Emerald Clinics' (ASX: EMD) Openly platform will be adopted by a COVID-19 recovery team at one of the USA's most prestigious research hospitals, while Melbourne-based MedAdvisor will launch its ePrescribing software function thanks to Australian Government approval.

Emerald Clinics has entered into a professional services agreement with the precision recovery team at New York's Mt Sinai Hospital, where it will provide remote monitoring and consulting services as part of the ongoing development and global delivery of Openly.

The platform provides digital health and wellness screening including the use of biometrics to check for vital signs via smart phone devices, with support from Emerald Clinics' clinical team. On 15 September, the group announced Openly had been registered as a Class 1 medical device with the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Clients using Openly can adjust their configurations to receive alerts when certain survey responses or other health information is entered by a user.

Whilst the company does not anticipate the financial consideration for its alerts payment system at Mt Sinai Hospital to be material, Emerald's CEO Dr Michael Winlo says it will provide real-world experiences and the expertise of the precision recovery team to enhance the capabilities of the Openly platform.

"We're thrilled to be working with such an innovative and world-leading organisation to advance remote patient care," says Winlo.

The team is currently managing more than 1,600 COVID-positive, COVID-suspected and COVID-recovering individuals remotely.

"COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way that we provide high quality medical care and thrust the use of technology in healthcare to the forefront," says the team's director, Assistant Professor David Putrino.

"Where possible, management of mild to moderate COVID cases should happen in the home, and we have been working to develop innovative technologies and clinician workflows that enable healthcare professionals to keep sick patients safe at home."

Australian first for MedAdvisor

Closer to home, Australian Digital Health Agency has approved ePrescribing for medical software group MedAdvisor, which will help connect GPs, pharmacists and patients as they navigate the roll out of eScripts across the country.

The Federal Government accelerated the roll-out of ePrescribing after the COVID-19 pandemic restricted patients' ability to access their prescribers or pharmacies, and the development is expected to facilitate remote medicines management and accurate dispensing in the healthcare market.

"MedAdvisor is delighted to be the first in the Australian market with a digital app solution that helps patients keep track of and organise all their eScripts," says MedAdvisor CEO and managing director Robert Read.

"The national rollout of ePrescribing provides patients with convenience, access and choice - something we've been long time advocates for."

Read says recent studies in countries that already use e-prescribing show that more than 80 per cent of patients prefer e-scripts to paper.

"By providing continued excellence in customer service, combined with hyper-convenient patient experiences, local pharmacists can strengthen their loyal customer base and better compete with online pharmacies," he says.

The MedAdvisor platform utilises tokens as a streamlined, private and secure way to handle eScripts. Much like an airline ticket, tokens can be tapped into MedAdvisor and then automatically organised into a digital script wallet that can be easily sent right to a pharmacy's dispensing workflow.

The roll-out is expected to start imminently in Victoria before going national later this month.

"With the rise of telehealth and digital consults during this COVID-19 pandemic and the changes to prescribing temporarily allowed by the Government, prescribers have needed to send digital images of scripts directly to pharmacies via fax or email, which adds significant administrative burden for both prescribers and pharmacies, and poses the risk of prescribers channelling patients to specific pharmacies," says Read.

"The introduction of ePrescriptions will solve these issues and put the control back in the patient's hands."

This Australian development is on the back of MedAdvisor recently going live with digital health programs in the USA in the fourth quarter of FY20, and launching an app in the UK through its key partnership with Day Lewis Pharmacy more recently.

MDR shares were up 4.76 per cent at $0.44 at the time of writing, while EMD shares were down 2.27 per cent at $0.086 each.

Updated at 11:44am AEST on 17 September 2020.

Dreamworld and WhiteWater World reopen in time for school holidays

Dreamworld and WhiteWater World reopen in time for school holidays

After six months of closures, Ardent Leisure's (ASX: ALD) Gold Coast theme parks Dreamworld and WhiteWater World have reopened to the public this morning, in time for Queensland school holidays.

The two neighbouring parks were forced to close down back in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated health risks to patrons, but both are up and running as of 10am today.

Both parks will operate under an approved COVID Safe plan, meaning a number of popular attractions will remain closed, physical distancing will be enforced in-park, and hand washing facilities and sanitiser will be readily available.

In addition, WhiteWater World is now a seasonal water park, meaning it will only operate from early September until late January annually and across some peak weekends.

Back in August Ardent Leisure announced the reopening of its theme parks was made possible thanks to the Queensland Government's COVID-19 Industry Support Package and Queensland Tourism Icons Program 2020.

However, today's reopening comes months after competitor Village Roadshow (ASX: VRL) was able to open the gates to its Gold Coast-based theme parks Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World, Wet'n'Wild and Paradise Country.

VRL reopened back in late-June under an approved COVID Safe plan and at 50 per cent capacity.

The enforced closures of Ardent Leisure's theme parks and cinemas in the US due to COVID-19 restrictions resulted in the company reporting a full year loss of $136.6 million.

Total reported revenue for the Dreamworld operator decreased by $85 million to $398.3 million in the full year, also due to COVID-19 restrictions on trade.

Ardent Leisure also suffered from an impairment charge of $15.4 million on property, plant and equipment in its theme parks division, and a charge of $2 million relating to its Main Event family entertainment centre business.

The reopening also comes nearly two months after Ardent Leisure pleaded guilty over three charges relating to the 2016 Thunder River Rapids Ride tragedy.

Each of the three charges over breaches of the QLD Work Health and Safety Act (2011) attract a maximum penalty of $1.5 million, meaning the company could now be slugged with $4.5 million in fines.

Shares in Ardent Leisure are up 1.10 per cent to $0.46 per share at 10.36am AEST.

Updated at 11.08am AEST on 16 September 2020.

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