PM warns against hugs as second wave fears mount
NSW is bracing for the grim possibility that a second COVID-19 wave similar to the one ravaging Melbourne could be soon wreaking havoc here.
As shaken Victorian Premier Dan Andrews yesterday revealed his state had recorded a shocking 288 new cases, a testing centre was set up at a southwest Sydney pub amid fears of a fresh cluster. The new Sydney cases have been linked to The Crossroads Hotel in Casula, after two people tested positive.
The National Cabinet announced new measures regarding travel and a quarantine review, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned against complacency, particularly when it came to social distancing.
"It's important to maintain the discipline of the social distancing behind closed doors, not just out in the public space," the PM said.
"This is a lesson outside of the Victorian experience.
"When we're at home and there are people around, we still have to practise the social distancing. It is still not OK for hugs and handshakes."
With the average age of people with coronavirus infections currently much lower than during the first peak in March, Mr Morrison urged "particularly younger" Australians to do the right thing.
"We will do everything we can to ensure the protections are in place … but the community also has a role to maintain their discipline when it comes to social distancing," he said.
Mr Morrison also announced that the number of Australian residents and citizens allowed to return from overseas would be cut by more than half to ease demand on the hotel quarantine system.
"The decision that we took to reduce the number of returned travellers … was to ensure that we could put our focus on the resources needed to do the testing and tracing," he said.
From Monday, about 4000 fewer Australians will be able to enter the country each week.
NSW will maintain its current cap of 450 international arrivals a day for now.
State and territory leaders also agreed to all move toward a system of charging returned travellers for their two-week stay in hotel quarantine, with more details expected to be announced by the NSW government in coming days.
National cabinet agreed to a national review of the hotel quarantine system, to be led by former Health Department secretary Jane Halton.
It comes as NSW Health announced that a Melbourne man in his 20s who had recently crossed into NSW tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday.
He was staying in a caravan park in the Sutherland Shire when he presented for testing, fuelling fears that NSW had been too late closing its border with Victoria.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said it would be at least a month before experts could determine how far the Melbourne outbreak had spread in NSW.
"We know that the usual incubation period is about a week, so within a week we may be able to see something," he said.
"But it will take … even four incubation periods to know whether this is under control."
Professor Kelly said targeted testing on the NSW border and in regional Victoria would help determine if enough had been done to lock down the infection in Melbourne: "That is what we need to keep a close focus on.''
Victorian officials warned yesterday that the worst was yet to come, as police revealed more than 60 fines had been issued to people breaching the tough health orders designed to keep the rest of the country safe.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said two people were noticed ordering 20 KFC meals at 1.30am in outer Melbourne, which led to the discovery of a party with 16 people hiding in the backyard. They were all issued with fines.
In a statement after the meeting, the National Cabinet noted there had been a "relaxation in community attitudes towards social distancing in some states and territories".
"The Victorian outbreak has shown that social distancing rules must be maintained at least until a vaccine or effective treatment is found," the statement said.
REVIEW TO PLUG HOLES IN HOTEL QUARANTINE
Police have defended their handling of security at Sydney's quarantine hotels after a woman was able to walk out this week before later being arrested.
The incident occurred as Scott Morrison on Friday announced a national review of the hotel quarantine scheme.
The Prime Minister said the review was not prompted by breaches of quarantine, but the country's Chief Medical Officer Dr Paul Kelly said that even one breach could be "catastrophic".
The review will examine the training provided to security, hotel and health staff in hotel quarantine, compliance with the health orders and cost.
The National Cabinet yesterday also signalled charging returning travellers a universal price for the 14-day quarantine instead of individual states picking up the hotel bill.
Mr Morrison said the review would be conducted by former secretary of the federal Health Department, Jane Halton, who sits on the COVID-19 co-ordination commission.
The PM shot down suggestions it was initiated because of breaches in hotel quarantine, such as those among security guards at Melbourne's Rydges on Swanston and the Stamford Plaza who have been blamed for the city's current crisis.
"The review is not being initiated because of that suspicion, (it) is being initiated on the basis of good advice from the medical expert panel and good practice."
A 63-year-old woman, who this week left the Marriott Hotel while a security guard checked her claim that her job as a flight attendant meant she had a health exemption, was arrested at Sydney Airport. She was returned to the hotel to finish her quarantine and fined $1000.
NSW Police said 30,000 returning travellers had been processed in quarantine since March 29 "without incident".
DEREGULATION PLAN TO BOOST BUSINESS
NSW will consider deregulation proposals making it easier to start a new business and speed up planning and development approval times to lift the economy out of the coronavirus crisis.
A wide range of opportunities to boost business growth as the country reopens after lockdown were presented to leaders at National Cabinet yesterday as part of an economic update from Productivity Commission chair Michael Brennan.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said state leaders were "very welcoming" of Mr Brennan's presentation identifying where deregulation could boost jobs.
"It went across a series of areas from heavy-vehicle arrangements, planning and development approvals, ease of starting a new business," Mr Morrison said.
The PM said the update focused mostly on state and territory approval and business regulation processes.
"(Mr Brennan) gave a good summary of a lot of the work that is already taking place … whether they be in Queensland, NSW or WA or anywhere else," he said.
"His point was if you want to have a stronger recovery, then your economy needs to have flexibility and the regulation that can constrain that flexibility can constrain job creation and the economic performance of the country."
State and territory leaders agreed to refer the points suggested to their treasurers for further consideration.
While states consider deregulation, the federal government is less than two weeks away from unveiling its own plan to support businesses still struggling due to COVID-19.
It is understood the wage subsidies for workers in struggling businesses will continue beyond September when JobKeeper was slated to wrap up, with a new test applied to determine who can qualify.
Mr Morrison said the details of the government's decision would be set out during a mini-Budget update on July 23.
"Just as when we initiated what has been the largest ever level of income support any government has ever provided to the Australian community at any time, it was targeted for those who needed it most," Mr Morrison said.
"The next phase of support will also be targeted nationally to those who need it most."
Originally published as PM warns against hugs as second wave fears mount