Staff from the private sector including airlines, telecommunications companies and banks, as well as 1,000 additional Australian defence force personnel, will be deployed to help Victoria’s efforts to contain Covid-19 after 270 new cases of the virus were identified overnight.
It is so wildly infectious. It moves so fast. It’s cunningDaniel Andrews
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, on Tuesday outlined the “comprehensive response” required to stay a step ahead of the “wicked enemy” over the coming weeks, including ensuring hospitals are prepared, given that there are 1,803 active cases of the virus in the state.
“That is incredibly challenging when we see the number of cases presenting each day,” Andrews said.
“A bigger team [is needed]. This is a wicked enemy. It is so wildly infectious. It moves so fast. It’s cunning in some respects where people can be infectious for quite some time and not know it – not have symptoms or, if they have symptoms, they’re so mild.”
The state’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said the health system was preparing for an additional 200 hospital patients in coming weeks.
There are now 26 patients in intensive care, nine more than on Monday, and of those, 21 are critically ill and on ventilators. There are 81 people in hospital with the virus.
“If people are deteriorating, now is the time to make an early referral of linkage with acute care or the tertiary care system,” Sutton said.
“They’ll want to see these patients early. They’ll want to be on top of clinical management early. It’s important to see these patients early if they’re deteriorating to avoid the worst outcomes – intensive care or death.”
He added: “I think we’re on the wrong side of the curve now to really be talking about the nitty-gritty of elimination.
“All of metro Melbourne is a concern … but the north-west corridor is still where transmission is occurring.”
Andrews said the “massive team of people” being employed to help Victoria prepare –including staff from banks, Medibank, Telstra, Qantas and Jetstar – would be trained in a number of roles, with more detail to come.
“There will be around 1,000 additional ADF [defence] personnel that will join us in the days, weeks, probably over the balance of the next three or four weeks,” Andrews said.
“To give you a sense of the tasks they’ll be performing … it will be things along the lines of State Control Centre planning, logistics and intelligence reporting, public health response, principally focused on data management and analysis.
The premier said as the team grew it would free up Victoria police to focus on defending the hard border between metropolitan Melbourne, Mitchell shire and regional Victoria.
Of the active cases, 147 are linked to Al-Taqwa college in Truganina. There are a growing number of cases in health and aged care, with 28 linked to the Menarock aged care facility in Essendon and 13 associated with the Glendale aged care facility in Werribee.
“It’s a challenging situation with aged care,” Sutton said. “Sometimes those residents are looked after in place. If the isolation, single rooms, ensuite bathrooms are available and those patients, residents, can be managed on site, that’s done.”
But in other facilities with shared bathrooms or difficulties managing the movement of residents, they would be transferred “as has been the case with Menarock aged care”.
Meanwhile, New South Wales is grappling with a cluster that has emerged from the Crossroads Hotel in Casula, south-west of Sydney, which has now reached 28 cases and includes a 50-year-old Melbourne man who visited the pub on 3 July.
Separately, 18 Queenslanders who visited the Crossroads Hotel have now been tested, with the results yet to be confirmed. It prompted Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to announce that from Wednesday the state’s border would close to travellers from two New South Wales Covid-19 hotspots associated with the outbreak, Campbelltown and Liverpool.
Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said until Tuesday, all hotspots were located in Victoria but that now the two areas of NSW were also of concern. “Currently the whole State of Victoria remains a hotspot,” Dr Young said. “We are watching this situation very closely, and we remind people to remain alert but not alarmed.”
Queensland’s border restrictions mean people who have been in a Covid-19 hotspot within the last 14 days will no longer be able to quarantine in Queensland and will be turned away at the border.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, said on Tuesday: “There is no way that NSW will have zero cases during a pandemic. It’s not going to happen and we shouldn’t expect that.
“The reason we are in especially high alert in NSW is, of course, what’s happened in Victoria.
“The geographic proximity of our states, the fact that there were some challenges with quarantine [hotels] potentially going back some months, means that we have that risk that there’s been a level of community transmission in NSW for some time.”