Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval numbers are up. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s approval numbers are up. Picture: AAP

'Serious concern': Grim reality of Aussie COVID-19 surge

Victoria's 75 new coronavirus cases is a matter of "serious concern," the Prime Minister has said.

However, the number of new locally acquired infections is "not surprising, given the nature of the outbreak we're seeing (in Victoria) at the moment," Scott Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said he would talk to Premier Daniel Andrews about a potential suburban lockdown of the state's COVID-19 hot spots.

"It's ultimately up to the premier of Victoria what further steps are taken along those lines," he said.

"The premier and I are very adamant that we do what is necessary to contain this outbreak.

"Victoria will lead that approach and they will be the final arbiter of what steps they take, but we can leave no stone unturned," Mr Morrison said.

The Prime Minister said he will be considering "all options" for further support to Victoria if required.

A member of the COVID-19 testing team holds a vile with a swab from a test conducted at a pop-up testing facility during a COVID-19 testing blitz in the Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows.
A member of the COVID-19 testing team holds a vile with a swab from a test conducted at a pop-up testing facility during a COVID-19 testing blitz in the Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows. Getty Images

It came as Morrison has again urged Annastacia Palaszczuk to open her state's borders, saying the "biggest losers" from locking out interstate travellers are Queenslanders out of work.

"The people of Queensland need their economy to re-fire and resurge," Mr Morrison said. "There are Queenslanders who aren't in jobs which need their borders open."

Despite Victoria's surge in coronavirus cases, the Prime Minister said he continues to push for open borders.

"I've been very consistent in advocating to all the Premiers and Chief Ministers regardless of what side of politics they come from that it's important to get these borders open.

"While we have a serious outbreak in Victoria … Victoria has our full support," he said.

"I'll be speaking the (Victorian) premier again later today, and we will put every resource that we need to deal with that outbreak."

Of Victoria's recorded 75 new COVID-19 cases, one was linked to hotel quarantine, 14 were linked to known outbreaks, 37 were detected through routine testing and 23 were under investigation, the state's Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said today.

Mikakos said many of the new cases were overwhelmingly from the hotspot suburbs.

"We've got many cases across the inner northern suburbs and the western suburbs of Melbourne, but not exclusively and it's important to reiterate to the community that you are not immune from catching coronavirus by virtue of the postcode that you live in," she said.

"There is now a link that has been established between the North Melbourne family outbreak and the Brimbank family up break. Four of the new cases have been linked to this outbreak, and the department is investigating the exact nature of the link there."

MORRISON'S APPROVAL JUMPS

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has posted record approval ratings, as many world leaders flounder amid the coronavirus crisis.

According to an exclusive Newspoll published in The Australian, Mr Morrison's approval skyrocketed as the ­Coalition maintained its slim lead over Labor nationally as both parties entered the final week of campaigning for the by-election in the NSW seat of Eden-Monaro.

The numbers showed a continued strengthening in popular support for the Prime Minister.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is currently looking good to Australian voters according to the latest Newspoll. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is currently looking good to Australian voters according to the latest Newspoll. Picture: AAP

 

Mr Morrison's personal approval has risen two points to 68 per cent with his dissatisfaction rating falling by the same amount to 27 per cent. But the Coalition's primary vote is unchanged at 42 per cent, with the party maintaining an 51-49 lead in the two-party preferred vote.

The Eden-Monaro by-election was triggered by the resignation of former Labor MP Mike Kelly because of ill health.

Despite a branch-stacking scandal engulfing Victorian Labor, the party's primary vote support at federal level has risen slightly, by one point to 35 per cent. Mr Morrison's net approval rating is the highest since he became leader in August 2018.

 

A man gets tested for COVID-19 in Melbourne. Australian voters have given Scott Morrison’s handling of the crisis a tick of approval. Picture: Getty Images
A man gets tested for COVID-19 in Melbourne. Australian voters have given Scott Morrison’s handling of the crisis a tick of approval. Picture: Getty Images

 

He has increased his margin over Anthony Albanese as preferred prime minister, lifting two points to 58 per cent.

Mr Albanese was unchanged 26 per cent, while sixteen per cent of voters didn't back either leader.

Support for the Greens has dropped one point to 11 per cent, as did voter backing of Pauline Hanson's One Nation, which also fell a point to three per cent.

GLOBAL VIRUS CASES HIT 10 MILLION

It comes as worldwide confirmed coronavirus infections hit the 10 million mark on Sunday (local time) as voters in Poland and France went to the polls for virus-delayed elections.

New clusters of cases at a Swiss nightclub and in the central English city of Leicester showed that the virus was still circulating widely in Europe, though not with the rapidly growing infection rate seen in parts of the US, Latin America and India.

While concern in the US has focused on big states like Texas, Arizona and Florida reporting thousands of new cases a day, rural states are also seeing infection surges, including in Kansas, where livestock outnumber people.

Bars in Los Angeles and six other Californian counties were ordered to close again on Sunday by the state governor as the United States battles to quell a surge in coronavirus cases.

"Due to the rising spread of #COVID19, CA is ordering bars to close in Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, San Joaquin, and Tulare," Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Twitter.

New coronavirus cases have been surging in more than half of US states, reaching record highs.

The US handling of the outbreak has drawn concern from abroad. The European Union seems almost certain to bar Americans from travelling to the bloc in the short term as it draws up new travel rules to be announced shortly.

The infection surges prompted Vice President Mike Pence to call off campaign events in Florida and Arizona, although he will still travel to those states and to Texas this week to meet with their Republican governors.

 

 

Those three governors have come under criticism for aggressively reopening their economies after virus lockdowns despite increasing infections in their states. After confirmed daily infections in the US hit an all-time high of 40,000 on Friday, Texas and Florida reversed course and closed down bars in their states again.

Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey reversed himself and allowed cities and counties to require face masks in public even though he hasn't been seen wearing one.

"This is not a sprint, this is a marathon," said Dr Lisa Goldberg, director of the emergency department of Tucson Medical Centre in Arizona.

"In fact, it's an ultra-marathon."

 

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar stressed that "the window is closing" for the US to take action to effectively curb the coronavirus.

Mr Azar pointed to a recent spike in infections, particularly in the South. He says people have "to act responsibly" by social distancing and wearing face masks, especially "in these hot zones."

Speaking on US television, Mr Azar argued that the US is in a better position than two months ago in fighting the virus because it is conducting more testing and has therapeutics available to treat COVID-19.

But he acknowledged that hospitalisations and deaths could increase in the next few weeks.

Globally, confirmed COVID-19 cases passed the 10 million mark and confirmed deaths neared half a million, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University, with the US, Brazil, Russia and India having the most cases.

The US also has the highest virus death toll in the world at over 125,000. Experts say all those figures significantly undercount the true toll of the pandemic, due to limited testing and missed mild cases. U.S. government experts last week estimated the U.S. alone could have had 20 million cases. Workplace infection worries increased after Tyson Foods announced that 371 employees at its chicken processing plant in the southwestern corner of Missouri have tested positive for COVID-19.

European leaders were taking no chances in tamping down new clusters. German authorities renewed a lockdown in a western region of about 500,000 people after about 1300 slaughterhouse workers tested positive. Swiss authorities ordered 300 people into quarantine after a "superspreader" outbreak of coronavirus at a Zurich nightclub.

 

Africa's confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued to climb to a new high of more than 371,000, including 9,484 deaths, according to figures released Sunday by the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country must focus on bolstering the economy as it exits lockdowns, even as the number of coronavirus cases still keep on climbing. On Sunday, India reported additional 19,906 confirmed cases, taking its total to nearly 529,000 with 16,095 deaths. The pandemic has exposed wide inequalities in India, with public hospitals being overwhelmed by virus cases while the rich get expert treatment in private hospitals.

China reported 17 new cases, all but three of them from domestic transmission in Beijing. But authorities say a campaign to conduct tests on employees at hair and beauty salons across the city has found no positive cases so far.

 

 

UK CONSIDERS FIRST LOCAL LOCKDOWN

The British government, meanwhile, is considering a lockdown for the central English city of Leicester amid a spike of COVID-19 cases - the first time that a single UK area would face such an extreme measure during the pandemic.

The Sunday Times first reported that a lockdown could come within days after 658 new cases were recorded in the Leicester area in the two weeks up to June 16. British Home Secretary Priti Patel acknowledged in a BBC interview on Sunday (local time) that ministers were considering the move.

 

A member of the military stands at the gate of a COVID-19 testing centre in Leicester. The government could lock the city down, amid new virus cases. Picture: Getty Images
A member of the military stands at the gate of a COVID-19 testing centre in Leicester. The government could lock the city down, amid new virus cases. Picture: Getty Images

"There will be support going into Leicester and in fact the health secretary was in touch with many of us over the weekend explaining some of the measures, the support on testing, resources that will go into the local authority as well," Patel said. "With local flare-ups it is right we have a localised solution."

But Ms Patel gave no indication of the number of people who could be affected by the local lockdown being discussed or whether the surrounding area would be affected. Leicester has a city population of 330,000.

Locals play cricket in a Leicester park. The British government is considering a local lockdown after a spike in coronavirus cases in the city. Picture: Getty Images
Locals play cricket in a Leicester park. The British government is considering a local lockdown after a spike in coronavirus cases in the city. Picture: Getty Images

 

The spike comes amid fears that the disease has been spreading through the city's large Asian community, who often live in multi-generational households. The local outbreak underscores the disproportionate hit that the pandemic has had on Britain's minority communities.

Britain has Europe's worst confirmed coronavirus death toll, with some 43,600 dead and Prime Minister Boris Johnson's conservative government has been strongly criticised for what has been seen as a slow, chaotic response to the pandemic.

Britain is now slowly emerging from a total national lockdown imposed on March 23, with plans to ease things further by early next month. That reopening plan has rested on the notion that local outbreaks could be tamped down through aggressive programs to track, test and trace those infected. Now with a test case in the offing, it is becoming clear that carrying out such a plan may not prove so simple.

 

The English city of Leicester is facing a lockdown after a spike in coronavirus cases. Picture: Getty Images
The English city of Leicester is facing a lockdown after a spike in coronavirus cases. Picture: Getty Images

 

Keith Neal, emeritus professor of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham, said defining the lockdown area would be "one of the biggest problems," as local authority boundaries can run down the middle of a street.

People will be confused as to who is in the lockdown and who is out, he said. "Locking down at the regional level would be seen as unfair or worse, as Leicester City has really very little to do with rural Lincolnshire," he said.

"People do not identify with their regional boundaries and many would not actually know where they are."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as PM's approval rating high as US virus cases spike


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