'Concerning': Teen tourist COVID positive after faulty test

 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has warned those living in NSW-Victorian border towns not to travel to other parts of the state, after a Victoria tourist tested positive for COVID-19.

The teenager holidaying in Merimbula was not from a Melbourne hot spot, and underwent testing before coming on a NSW holiday.

Ms Berejiklian said the case was "concerning" and the risk of contagion in NSW remained "extremely high", with tougher measures still on the table for NSW if the border town bubble measures put the rest of the state at risk.

NSW Chief Medical Officer Dr Kerry Chant said the teenage boy's initial negative result was an error, and he was informed he tested positive while in Merimbula.

"The only event the family did outside the family group was visit the Tathra Hotel," Dr Chant said, adding the hotel was following social distancing requirements.

A Victorian tourist visiting the Tathra Hotel has tested positive for COVID-19.
A Victorian tourist visiting the Tathra Hotel has tested positive for COVID-19.

Dr Chant praised the boy and his family, who travelled to NSW on July 4. for following all of the guidelines and getting tested before travelling.

"Their actions have been exemplary and did exactly what we wanted them to do," she said.

"There will occasionally be these errors - what I'm more focused on is that the Tathra Hotel had a COVID safety plan, they had a list of 80 people," she said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said eight new cases were recorded in NSW overnight. Picture: Getty
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said eight new cases were recorded in NSW overnight. Picture: Getty

Overnight, NSW recorded eight new cases of coronavirus, seven of which are in hotel quarantine. The eighth case is a woman in her 30s from southwest Sydney, who had close contacts with workers at Liverpool Hospital.

One person from the Victorian border town Wodonga has also tested positive for the virus.

Ms Berejiklian warned parts of NSW could face tougher restrictions to prevent cross-border infections, with details set to become clearer tomorrow.

"I am extremely worried. I want everyone to be on notice, I don't want anyone to be surprised about what we might need to do in the next few days.

"As we know it only takes a few cases, a few actions by a few people for things to really spiral out of control."

She said harder border permits could also be considered.

"We have had additional testing for border communities which is great … to date the results have been good but we can't guarantee that in the next 24, 48 hours," Ms Berejiklian said.

"If we find that what we've allowed to occur compromises the safety of everyone else in NSW … we may consider another border north of Albury or reconsider the border measures entirely," she said.

Returning NSW residents will have to self isolate for 14 days, and police will be checking in to make sure the restrictions are followed.

The government is also considering putting returning NSW residents in compulsory hotel quarantine, which they will have to pay for.

She said she was also concerned about NSW businesses not complying with public health orders, and that compliance would be "stepped up", especially for hospitality businesses.

Police stop and question drivers at a checkpoint on July 8 in Albury, Australia. The NSW-Victoria border closed at midnight, Wednesday 8 July. It is the first. Picture: Getty
Police stop and question drivers at a checkpoint on July 8 in Albury, Australia. The NSW-Victoria border closed at midnight, Wednesday 8 July. It is the first. Picture: Getty

VICTORIA RECORDS TRIPLE-DIGIT CASES

Victoria has recorded another 134 cases overnight, after a record 29,424 tests yesterday.

Speaking to the media, Victorian Premier Daniel Andews said the state could start to emerge from its lockdown in six weeks if the number of infections starts to dive.

"If we all work together over these next six weeks, as painful and frustrating and difficult as that will be, we will be able to get to the other side of this say-at-home period … and repair the damage to the economy that this virus is doing."

There are currently 860 active cases in the Victoria, 41 are being treated in hospital and seven of those in intensive care.

Premier Daniel Andrews addressing the media in Melbourne today.
Premier Daniel Andrews addressing the media in Melbourne today.

Mr Andrews said a total of 75 cases had now been identified in the nine public housing towers under a hard lockdown but would not confirm if restrictions there would end in five days. Testing of all 3000 people is in those towers is expected to be completed today

"I think every Victorian knows and understands this is real, this is serious, it's not over.

"Pretending that it is will simply make a difficult situation into tragic set of circumstances."

From midnight tonight, every Melbourne local government area will be subject to stage three restrictions, as well as Mitchell Shire in the city's outer north.

Victoria Police will step up enforcement of regional travel bans, with authorities set to monitor travel hubs and regional areas to prevent outbreaks outside greater Melbourne.

Cars sit in a line near a police checkpoint in Albury, Australia. NSW residents returning from Victoria will need to self isolate for 14 days, while Victorian residents are banned from travelling to NSW unless they have a permit. Picture: Getty
Cars sit in a line near a police checkpoint in Albury, Australia. NSW residents returning from Victoria will need to self isolate for 14 days, while Victorian residents are banned from travelling to NSW unless they have a permit. Picture: Getty

MOTORISTS RUSH VIC-NSW BORDER

The six-week lockdown beginning at midnight tonight across Melbourne has sent thousands rushing for border permits ahead of the stage three restrictions.

Traffic this morning was gridlocked at the NSW-Victoria border as motorists attempt to cross through checkpoints manned by police and the ADF.

Residents living on the Victorian side of the Albury Wodonga border town have been waiting in line for about an hour to get into NSW to go to work now the border has closed.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said at some checkpoints there were queues up to four kilometres and some vehicles had been turned around because drivers were from virus hot spots.

The Hume Highway is now the only main entry point for cars from Wodonga to Albury, with the main freeway closed to all traffic except freight.

Any Victorian resident trying to get to NSW via Albury is being directed to the Hume Highway, which has been limited to a single lane.

NSW residents travelling south to Victoria are able to travel freely, but will have to show ID, a permit or supporting documents to return home after work today.

There are 55 border crossings between NSW and Victoria, prompting health minister Brad Hazzard to describe patrols as a "mammoth task."

The NSW/VIC border at Echuca/Moama closes due to a second wave Covid 19 outbreak in Victoria. NSW police check drivers arriving on the NSW side of the border in Moama. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
The NSW/VIC border at Echuca/Moama closes due to a second wave Covid 19 outbreak in Victoria. NSW police check drivers arriving on the NSW side of the border in Moama. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

PERMIT WEBSITE CRASHES

NSW Police today warned those wishing to cross into NSW should expect delays after the Service NSW website crashed on its launch last night.

NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller this morning said 44,000 people had applied for an exemption to cross the border, after news that five million Melburnians would return to a six-week lockdown to contain their COVID-19 outbreaks.

The Service NSW permits will be valid for 14 days from the date of issue and apply to all borders: land, air and sea, as well as river crossings.

The exemption was available from 7pm on Tuesday but it was only working for just over an hour before the 'apply' button disappeared, making it impossible to use.

"Your permit will indicate if you need to self-isolate for 14 days, get tested for COVID-19 or any other conditions," the website said.

"In most instances, if you're arriving in NSW from Victoria you will need to self-isolate for 14 days."

It is understood certain permits will not require the 14-day isolation period, likely for people who live in border towns or are healthcare workers.

People who have experienced delays in securing a permit can demonstrate their eligibility in the interim to cross the border to Police by carrying relevant documentation based on a category of exemption, a ServiceNSW spokesman said.

POLICE, ADF FLOOD BORDER CHECKPOINTS

Around 650 police officers, joined by the military, descended on the border yesterday near the southern town of Albury, to help enforce the lockdown.

Since midnight on Tuesday, authorities have been patrolling the area and speaking with vehicles that brave the journey from Wodonga through to Albury.

No one can enter NSW from Victoria, unless they meet exemption criteria. This includes being a NSW resident returning home, a cross-border resident, person providing critical services and those accessing medical services. Fines apply for those who breach the Public Health Orders.

The high-visibility operation includes General Duties officers from across the state, as well as Traffic and Highway Patrol Command and other specialist units, such as the Rescue and Bomb Disposal Unit.

Around 350 Australian Defence Force personnel will be deployed on Thursday to assist police.

Passengers alight the XPT train from Albury at Sydney Central train station today. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper
Passengers alight the XPT train from Albury at Sydney Central train station today. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

TRAIN PASSENGERS TOLD TO QUARANTINE

Confusion was rife among passengers arriving at Sydney Central Station this morning on the last train from Melbourne with complaints mounting over health directions and quarantine rules.

Upon departing the train, passengers were mustered into a testing room with nurses and police where their temperature was checked and they were required to answer questions on where they had visited in Victoria.

Inner West resident Josie Hartmann was staying in Wagga Wagga at a friend's place with her daughter Inka, 2, and had booked the 11-hour train ride home two weeks ago.

She was not told to quarantine by nurses, despite being seated in a carriage with grandfather Jack Rutherford and grandson Lachlan Rutherford, who were told they have to quarantine for two weeks.

Mr Rutherford said the holiday with his grandson to a relative's home in Castlemaine was booked weeks ago for Lachlan's eleventh birthday, but the trip was cut short.

They were booked on a train home on Thursday, which had to be changed last minute, due to the border closure.

"We booked on the sleeper initially, but instead we came back on this rotten thing," Mr Rutheford said." We didn't get any sleep, we weren't prepared."

Because the pair stayed in Eltham, a suburb in outer Melbourne for one night, they will have to quarantine for 14 days.

"We weren't aware until we got off the train. They had a huge list of postcodes that had to quarantine with pretty much every suburb on it."

DANIEL ANDREWS GRILLED ON SUNRISE

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has denied giving Black Lives Matter protesters the go ahead after a second wave of COVID-19 cases forced Melbourne into lockdown again.

During an appearance on Sunrise, Mr Andrews said it would've been impossible to arrest thousands of protesters and that doing so would've placed people more at risk.

"Do you regret going ahead with the Black Lives Matter protest?" Sunrise co-host David "Kochie" Koch asked.

Mr Andrews said the protests were not to blame for the recent spike in COVID-19 cases around Victoria.

"No one gave the go-ahead. Logic tells you shouldn't do that," Mr. Andrews said.

"I was clear they shouldn't do that. I was clear they should not be protesting, it is the virus we should be working against.

Firefighters in protective suits deliver food to the Towers in North Melbourne. Picture: David Crosling
Firefighters in protective suits deliver food to the Towers in North Melbourne. Picture: David Crosling

"No one got it at the rally. There are four people that attended the rally that have had it. Police were pretty clear, I was crystal clear, don't protest. Unless you are going to lock up 10,000 people … Think about the close contact involved with that."

He said a judicial inquiry is ongoing in order to establish what exactly went wrong, after Kochie likened the state government's hotel quarantine program to "Victoria's Ruby Princes".

"No one wanted to be in this position, I am frustrated, I called Victorians. I am angry with what has gone on in some parts of the response, unacceptable, and ultimately on this we are prepared to have this completely away from us thousands of people will get a virus and dying, this is sadly the policy decision we have to make," Mr. Andrews said.

'ON THE CUSP OF SOMETHING VERY, VERY BAD'

The Andrews Government implemented the six week lockdown in a desperate gamble to contain COVID-19, with the Premier warning Victoria was "on the cusp of something very, very bad."

The state hit a record of 191 cases on Tuesday. Contact tracing teams are so stretched they are on the verge of collapse and the state opposition vented its fury for the botched hotel quarantine operation that has fuelled the outbreak.

Nurses and allied health staff from NSW have rallied to support their Melbourne counterparts, with 60 offering to go to Melbourne to help treat a growing number of patients in hospital wards and intensive care units.

Already, 70 contact tracers working from NSW Health in Sydney have been assisting Victoria. NSW is also testing swabs from the southern state.

Mr Hazzard said he was relieved Melbourne, which is experiencing the worst community spread since the pandemic hit Australia, had been locked down.

Military and police will now surround Melbourne for six weeks, to enforce the lockdown announced on Tuesday by Mr Andrews.

Melbourne metropolitan residents and in the Mitchell Shire north of the city will be able to leave home only for essential supplies, exercise or care.

NSW ON HIGH ALERT

In NSW, the state recorded just seven new cases on Tuesday, with six in hotel quarantine and one man who tested negative before release from a hotel then testing positive at home in Newcastle.

Other NSW ministers cautioned that the lockdown would be a "nuclear" blow to the state's economy, and wanted NSW to avoid the same scenario.

"Our plan is always about going forward and continuing to lift restrictions," Deputy Premier John Barilaro said. "We cannot afford for the economy to go backwards."

Privately, there are several NSW ministers who believe Victoria's own failings through a poorly-managed hotel quarantine program and a lax testing regime is behind the state's slide into a second wave.

The hotel quarantine program, which was outsourced to private security operators, is linked to a significant number of the cases.

There has also been evidence that more Victorians were refusing testing while NSW residents were swabbed in record numbers.

Premier Andrews said on Wednesday all of those contractors linked to hotel outbreaks

"are no longer playing a part in our hotel quarantine arrangements".

"The management, supervision and chain of command - so that command and control model of that - noting of course that we have a pause, we're now seeing hotel quarantine, returned travellers move out of hotel quarantine and none coming in and that period of time may need be to extended beyond the two weeks.

"I've written to the PM on that. That is all being run by Corrections Victoria and the Corrections Commissioner is confident with the arrangements that have been put in place."



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