Australia news LIVE: Temporary COVID relief payments for Australians in lockdown; Victoria’s cases continue to grow

Australia news LIVE: Temporary COVID relief payments for Australians in lockdown; Victoria’s cases continue to grow

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  • Melbourne’s quarantine facility will tackle ‘new variants’: epidemiologist
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Melbourne’s quarantine facility will tackle ‘new variants’: epidemiologist

Clinical epidemiologist Nancy Baxter was speaking on the Today show a short while ago.

She said Melbourne’s new dedicated quarantine facility, set to be built near Avalon Airport, would help tackle leaks from hotel quarantine. This is because she expects people from countries with mass outbreaks or new variants of COVID-19 to be sent to the open-air facility, whereas those coming into Australia who are vaccinated or from countries that are low-risk would still be sent to hotels.

Avalon Airport is set to house a 500-person quarantine facility.Credit:Joe Armao

“Right now where the leaks seem to be coming from … [is] people that go into hotel quarantine, they don’t have the virus, and they’re catching it from someone else in hotel quarantine and they don’t become positive until they’re actually home,” Professor Baxter said.

“So we never know that they have caught it until they’re at home, they suddenly get symptoms and they have exposed a whole bunch of people. And then we’re in the mess Melbourne is in.”

Professor Baxter added that the Victorian government would be breathing a sigh of relief that two cases of “stranger-to-stranger transmission”, which were used to help build the case for the state’s extended lockdown, were reclassified as false positives.

“Those two [cases] were the ones that had the most fleeting contact,” she said. “So there was a lot of concern about how contagious this was. I think maybe we can relax a little bit.”

Calls for third mass vaccination hub in NSW

Leaders in southern parts of NSW, where residents are on alert after a Victorian family travelled before testing positive to COVID-19, want to see a faster vaccine rollout.

Federal Labor MP Stephen Jones, who holds the seat of Whitlam covering NSW’s Shellharbour and surrounds, says he believes the city of Wollongong deserves a mass vaccination hub.

Labor MP Stephen Jones says regional areas need more mass vaccination hubs.Credit:Alex Ellinghuasen

“I’d have done it differently, I’d have had more mass vaccination hubs,” Mr Jones told ABC’s Q&A program on Thursday night, adding that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are safe and world-class.

“The closest mass vaccination hub to Wollongong is Sydney. We are the third biggest city in NSW. You’ve got to travel two hours [north] to Sydney to get to the closest hub, so I would have put them in large regional areas.”

In mid May, NSW Health revealed it was looking to open a second mass vaccination clinic, in addition to the Sydney Olympic Park hub where more than 5000 vaccine doses are being administered each day.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said at the time that investigations were being made regarding a possible second mass clinic “in or near” Newcastle – the second largest city in the state.

In response to a question on Q&A on Thursday night about having multiple COVID vaccine hubs in regional and country areas, Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said the country’s rollout “seems a very clunky exercise”.

“There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it at times and it depends on which part of Australia you’re from,” Mr Bradbery said.

“When we had the situation down here where we had the possible spread of infection, the community did respond pretty fast and the local hospital became a focal point as well as setting up other testing centres.

“So it is possible to act fast but when it comes to the vaccination, that’s another story.”

The regional mayor wants to see a tidy-up of messaging about the vaccine rollout, including the reporting of clotting cases and the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I’ve got a greater chance of being eaten by a shark off Wollongong Beach than I have dying of a COVID vaccination,” Mr Bradbery said.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for your company. It’s Friday, June 4.

It’s set to be a busy day with a national cabinet meeting and Melburnians waking up to their second week of lockdown. Before we begin our rolling coverage, here’s what you need to know.

  • Melburnians are hoping their state’s hotel quarantine troubles will ease with the news a draft deal has been done on a dedicated quarantine facility near Avalon Airport. The open-air facility is expected to house 500 travellers.
  • New disaster payments for people out of work due to coronavirus lockdowns are set to be signed off by national cabinet later today.
  • In NSW, NRL legend Bob Fulton’s state funeral will be held in Sydney this morning.
  • We’ve learnt Queen Elizabeth II will roll out the red carpet for US President Joe Biden later this month for the pair’s first face-to-face meeting.
  • And a “heartbreaking” hip injury has forced Australian tennis star Ash Barty out of the French Open.
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