Covid-19 Australia: Victoria records 473 cases as enforcement blitz launched on construction sites


Victoria has recorded 473 new Covid-19 cases overnight as authorities launched a ‘zero tolerance’ enforcement blitz on the state’s construction workers and warned the industry could be shut down if they keep flouting lockdown rules. 

Only 202 of the new cases have been linked to known outbreaks. 

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas on Monday announced authorities would target the industry after an alarming number of cases were linked to Victorian worksites.

Fifty compliance teams will be deployed to worksites across the state to ensure workers are following mask orders and social distancing properly.

He said 20,000 priority Pfizer appointments would also be made available to construction site workers over the next two weeks.  

‘This joint operation will have a zero-tolerance approach,’ he said. 

‘Most of the construction industry is doing the right thing but there are examples where it is not being done.’ 

He said the average construction worker was spreading the virus about 20km from the source of the outbreak, compared to 4km for clusters linked to supermarkets.

Victoria has recorded 473 new Covid-19 cases overnight with Daniel Andrews promising to reveal a roadmap out of lockdown within the next week

VICTORIA’S CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY COMPLIANCE BLITZ 

A four-week compliance blitz will be carried out by the state government’s Industry Enforcement and Engagement Operation.

About 20,000 priority Pfizer appointments will made available to construction workers at all sites across Victoria from Monday until September 26.

The Ford Campbellfield site, the Heidelberg Repat, Eagle Stadium in Wyndham, and the former Bunnings in Melton will open for walk-ups for construction workers from 8am until 11am over the next fortnight. 

Anyone who works at a site where civil works, building or construction activities take place will be eligible.

‘Our construction industry is critical to our state, but what is even more important is vaccinating each and every Victorian so we can slow the spread of the virus,’ state treasurer Tim Pallas said.

‘The construction sector’s ability to remain open is on a knife’s edge, and to ensure they can keep building, people need to get vaccinated and follow the rules.’ 

A construction site at Box Hill in Melbourne’s east has been linked to 120 cases just a fortnight after first being announced as a Covid-19 exposure site. 

The state treasurer said the industry’s right to continue operating was on a ‘knife-edge’ and warned construction workers could lose their essential worker status if they did not start taking the outbreak seriously. 

‘The construction industry is young and it is mobile – they often visit multiple sites in any given week,’ he said.

‘They then return home to all areas of metropolitan Melbourne, particularly to the north and western suburbs.

‘The construction sector’s ability to remain open is on a knife’s edge, and to ensure they can keep building, people need to get vaccinated and follow the rules.’ 

Mr Pallas did not reveal how many construction companies had already been caught breaching health orders, but said nearly 6,000 site inspections had been carried out since the start of the outbreak.

Victoria’s Covid-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said 338 cases – the vast majority of the state’s new infections – were found in Melbourne’s north.

He said the virus was spreading most rapidly in areas such as Craigieburn, Roxburgh Park, Meadow Heights, Broadmeadows and Glenroy.

The announcement came as Premier Daniel Andrews promised to reveal a roadmap out of lockdown within the next week.

The premier has flagged the state government will receive detailed modelling from the Burnet Institute in coming days, before the ‘caveated’ blueprint is laid out ‘in about a week’s time’.

The modelling will allow health authorities and ministers to formulate plans about what businesses can open and when, on the path to fully vaccinating 80 per cent of Victoria’s eligible population.

The premier has flagged the state government will receive detailed modelling from the Burnet Institute in coming days, before the 'caveated' blueprint is laid out 'in about a week's time'

The premier has flagged the state government will receive detailed modelling from the Burnet Institute in coming days, before the ‘caveated’ blueprint is laid out ‘in about a week’s time’ 

It comes despite the number of Covid-19 cases continuing to grow with the state recording its highest daily tally on Monday since the outbreak began.

Monday’s new cases take the number of active infections across the state to 3,507. 

There were 49,037 tests conducted and 30,032 vaccines administered in the last 24 hours. 

The state government has previously announced a minor easing of restrictions when the state hits 70 per cent first-dose coverage, including an extra hour of outdoor activity and the expansion of the five-kilometre travel radius to 10km.

By Sunday, 66.2 per cent of the eligible Victorian population had received at least their first dose.

A plan to return students to classrooms, including upgrading ventilation in schools and staggered entry times, will form part of the more comprehensive roadmap.

Health authorities are currently investigating a significant outbreak at a Melbourne school, with The Age reporting its principal repeatedly flouted lockdown rules by inviting parents to send their children.

The modelling will allow health authorities and ministers to formulate plans about what businesses can open and when, on the path to fully vaccinating 80 per cent of Victoria's eligible population

 The modelling will allow health authorities and ministers to formulate plans about what businesses can open and when, on the path to fully vaccinating 80 per cent of Victoria’s eligible population

Deputy Chief Health Officer Dan O’Brien said the outbreak at the Fitzroy Community School in North Fitzroy had grown to at least 30 cases involving students and staff.

‘It looks like the case numbers are at least 30 but it’s growing from there,’ Mr O’Brien said. 

The independent, ‘alternative’ primary school had posted links to numerous articles on its website about the dangers of lockdowns to the mental health of children and the minimal risk of Covid-19 to children,

The Age reported an email it obtained from the principal, Timothy Berryman, sent to parents in early June that encouraged parents to send their children to the school as Victoria remained in lockdown. 

‘I cannot in good conscience continue to request that you continue to keep your children at home,’ the email read. 

‘Please feel free to send your child to school if you feel that this is best for them or best for your family balance. I do not write this lightly, as this does breach government imposed directives for schools.’ 

The federal government has embarked on a three-week vaccination blitz of the areas, sending an extra 417,000 Pfizer and Moderna doses to Victoria

The federal government has embarked on a three-week vaccination blitz of the areas, sending an extra 417,000 Pfizer and Moderna doses to Victoria 

Mr Berryman was later warned that his encouragement to parents was in breach of health directive at the time but in late July, he continued to suggest they send their children to the school. 

‘I am again offering you all the option of sending your children to school,’ he wrote. 

Children aged from 12 to 15 years will be able to get a Pfizer vaccination in Victoria from Monday.

Schools and COVID-hit areas are also preparing to welcome a series of pop-up vaccination hubs to boost coverage rates, with the program to begin over the next two weeks.

The state government has previously announced a minor easing of restrictions when the state hits 70 per cent first-dose coverage

The state government has previously announced a minor easing of restrictions when the state hits 70 per cent first-dose coverage

At least 30 students and staff tested positive at Fitzroy Community Centre at Fitzroy North, Melbourne

At least 30 students and staff tested positive at Fitzroy Community Centre at Fitzroy North, Melbourne

Of the 392 new cases reported on Sunday, 255 were from Melbourne’s north and another 89 came from the western suburbs.

The federal government has embarked on a three-week vaccination blitz of the areas, sending an extra 417,000 Pfizer and Moderna doses to Victoria.

Meanwhile, most Victorian trains remain suspended on Monday as 300 V/Line employees isolate after five positive tests among drivers and operational staff.

Coaches are replacing most services. 

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