COVID-19

Foley defends Sandgren decision, despite positive test

But he said the same courtesy would not be shown to tennis superstar Andy Murray unless he could provide a negative test before heading for Victoria.While Sandgren tested positive to COVID-19 Mr Foley said he was shedding the virus after a previous infection and was no longer infectious.“Mr Sandgren is not infectious. He’s infection is historical and he’s shedding the virus,” he said.“So, he’s met the rigorous health criteria that has been set.“The arrangement is that he’s met criteria that has been set. Provided that he sticks to the rigorous quantitative arrangements that are now in place, which we have every expectation that he and all the other players and officials will, we look forward to a stellar event.”But Mr Foley said no exceptions would be made for Murray who returned a positive test days before he was due to head to Melbourne.

“We’ve been clear from the start, anyone who tests positive is not able to be part of the program coming into Melbourne and Australia,” he said.“I understand Mr Murray’s organisation has released a statement indicating that he is quarantining at home in the United Kingdom. Mr Murray and the other 1240 people as part of the program need to demonstrate that if they’re coming to Melbourne they have returned a negative test, and then once they get here, they have to test rigorously every day and they need to be part of the 14-day quarantine program.“So should Mr Murray arrive, which we’ve seen no indication that he will, he will be subject to those same rigorous arrangements as everyone else.”Under the Australian Open quarantine arrangement 1240 players, support staff and officials need to quarantine for 14 days before taking part in the tournament.They must also provide a negative test before being accepted into quarantine.“Every single one” of the more than 1200 players and staff will need to be tested before they can get on the plane, then will be required to be “rigorously” quarantined under “special arrangements”, Mr Foley added.STATE RECORDS ZERO NEW CASESThere were no new cases of coronavirus recorded on Friday as more than 15,000 people were tested in the past 24 hours.Two cases were detected in the state’s hotel quarantine. There are 28 active cases of COVID-19 across the state.A low positive result was reported to DHHS on Thursday, however multiple follow up tests have returned negative results.DHHS believe the results of follow up tests suggest the original result is either a false positive or persistent shedding from a historic infection. The case is not linked to a known case or known exposure site.A determination on the case is expected to be made today by the Expert Review Pannel.Meanwhile Queensland recorded one historic COVID-19 case on Friday, as the state’s hotel quarantine system continues to come under fire.Queensland authorities are still trying to piece together how a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 spread through a hotel quarantine facility, as they reveal the extraordinary measures they’re taking.

Days after it was revealed six cases of the UK variant of the virus were linked at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, the state’s top cop said environmental swabbing of the hotel had been completed.NSW marked its second day of zero community cases — the first time the state has recorded two consecutive day of no cases since December 15.In Victoria, health Minister Martin Foley said on Friday morning he understood the frustrations felt by many Victorians trapped in interstate red zones or home-quarantine, as more than 1200 tennis players and their entourage freely flew into Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open.
“I understand and have great sympathy for the circumstances that many Victorians find themselves in at the current time,” Mr Foley said.“We are constantly working through processes and constantly reviewing risks associated with red zones within five local government areas in Brisbane and local government areas in Greater Sydney and as those risks change, we will change our advice, based on public health advice.”“I understand the frustrations and dislocations this is causing.” But Mr Foley did not apologise for the public health processes to keep the community safe. “I apologise for the dislocation this has caused … but I make no apology for keeping Victoria safe and keeping Victoria open,” he said. The state government has processed 20,841 travel permit applications in 24 hours, with 120,833 recorded in total. A total of 1886 exemptions have been granted. PURPOSE-BUILT QUARANTINE FACILITY CONSIDERED

A purpose-built emergency centre that could house thousands of people is being considered by the state government.Daniel Andrews will raise the idea with the Prime Minister and other state premiers when national cabinet meets again next month.Mr Andrews said purpose built facilities across the country could be used for various purposes including as quarantine centres as emergency accommodation during natural disasters.The Premier said facilities could be built quickly, but wouldn’t replace existing quarantine arrangements.
“2020 has shown us that things can come at you that couldn’t reasonably be foreseen in terms of the scope and scale,” he said.“Some of these facilities that, at scale could house larger numbers of people in a secure and to the highest standard, they may well be very important in the future. “When we have bushfires, when we have all sorts of other challenges, perhaps having a series of facilities that can house 1000 people or 2000 people wouldn’t be the worst thing to do.”It comes as Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk revealed a plan to use mining camps as quarantine centres instead of hotels.Ms Palaszczuk said she would ask national cabinet to consider housing returned travellers and quarantine staff at mining camps to protect Queensland’s cities.

Mr Andrews said he supported the plan and said he had previously sought Commonwealth approval to use Australian Defence Force facilities in Victoria for quarantine purposes.“The answer was no, that they would not be suitable,” he said.“If Anastasia can find another facility that she can make work then that’s fine. We’d always look at different options, particularly when you’re talking about volume.“There are limits on just how many people you can get into CBD hotels.”Federal authorities previously considered using Defence bases to quarantine returned travellers, but the idea was rejected because most only have communal accommodation facilities.That would pose a significant health risk as travellers could not be easily isolated.
A review of the hotel quarantine system, presented to the national cabinet late last year, suggested the government could consider using the Learmonth RAAF base in Western Australia and immigration detention facilities, as well Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.The review, authored by former top public servant Jane Halton, said it would be “beneficial to consider a national facility for emergency or surge situations”.“With a large number of Australian citizens and permanent residents currently offshore, the need to significantly increase arrival numbers, including for business and agricultural purposes, and the changeability of the COVID-19 situation, consideration should also be given to the establishment and maintenance of a national facility in reserve to facilitate large scale evacuations from international ports, if or when required,” it said.It is understood the federal government has reservations about sending returned travellers to quarantine facilities in regional areas, given it would be more difficult to safely move them from airports.WORKERS HEAD BACK TO THE OFFICE ON MONDAYThousands of workers will return to Melbourne’s CBD for the first time in ­almost a year, sparking hopes of a city revival.Mask rules will also be ­relaxed from Monday after Premier Daniel Andrews said there was no evidence of local transmission of coronavirus across Victoria. He said 25 per cent of government workers and 50 per cent of private sector employees could now return to offices across the state. Many have been working from home since March.Mining giant BHP will begin returning workers to its Collins Street HQ voluntarily from Monday. Its chief human resources officer Athalie Williams welcomed the government’s announcement. “This will be incredibly ­important for the many businesses and working people who rely on a thriving CBD, and many of our people who are looking forward to the ­opportunity to reconnect with their colleagues and the city itself,” Ms Williams said. Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the return to work would be a huge boost for businesses. “We want to bring back the buzz to Melbourne and workers play a huge role in the ­vibrancy of our city,” she said. Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry acting chief executive Dugald Murray welcomed the move as a “step in the right direction”, but noted it did not ­expect to see a “meaningful” influx of workers until after Australia Day. “When we get back to the office, let’s all make a special effort to support the many shops, restaurants, cafes and bars that have been doing it tough for so long,” he said.
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