World news – Coronavirus updates LIVE: Victorian CHO Brett Sutton to front state’s hotel quarantine inquiry; NSW mystery case emerges as Australian death toll stands at 816


Melbourne’s restrictions should stay in place until September 28 even if the city reaches a 14-day average of 50 cases or less this week, an epidemiologist has suggested.

Speaking on Sunrise, Professor Tony Blakely said, although it was likely Melbourne’s 14-day average – which is currently at 52.9 – will drop below the necessary 50-case mark this week, he would not recommend Victoria brings forward its next stage of reopening the city, will occur in regional areas this week.

« [It would be] lovely to get a bit more liberty now, but the liberties [also] come when we get to five or less cases for the end of October, » he said.

« It might be better to aim at staying in lockdown for another two weeks and then bring the next date forward. That is probably what I would advise. »

Research by some of the nation’s most senior scientists has found that more than 60,000 cases of coronavirus in Australia could have gone undetected, potentially adding to calls to ease restrictions sooner.

The federal government-funded study by a team of researchers including Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth, estimates that by July – before Victoria’s peak in cases – 71,400 people may have contracted the virus. At the time, there were only 11,190 officially confirmed cases in Australia.

Professor Elizabeth Gardiner at the John Curtin School of Medical Reseach at Australian National University. Credit:Jamie Kidston / Supplied

Of those screened by researchers in June and July, 0.28 per cent had COVID-19 antibodies, the study found, which means they had contracted coronavirus. Antibody testing can tell if a person has ever been infected with a virus, as antibodies remain in the blood for many months after a person recovers from infection.

Official federal government modelling released in April said Australia’s testing program was catching 93 per cent of all symptomatic cases. However, the new study suggests 85 to 90 per cent of all cases were not being picked up.

The University of NSW will shed 256 full time-jobs – or 3.8 per cent of the university’s workforce – through forced redundancies after only half-filling its target of almost 500 jobs through a voluntary program.

A UNSW spokeswoman said the university had covered 80 per cent of a $370 million financial gap for 2021 through general savings and using reserves ($115 million), but had to find another $75 million in staff costs.

UNSW will lose 3.8 per cent of its workforce under staff cuts to be announced today.Credit:Louise Kennerley

Its workplace change paper will be released to staff today and contains proposals to deal with the remaining 10.5 per cent, or $39 million.

“The Workplace Change paper outlines how to best support and drive the critical core areas of research, teaching, and student experience, while at the same time continuing the commitment to the goals of Strategy 2025,” she said.

The university will hold meetings with staff to talk to the impact of the proposals. “All areas of the University will be affected in some way,” the spokeswoman said.

“Directly affected staff have had conversations with their managers to ensure that they are aware of the possible implications for their roles. UNSW deeply regrets the impact on staff who will lose their jobs.”

Queensland theme parks Dreamworld and WhiteWater World will reopen to the public today after their doors closed almost six months ago at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Gold Coast attractions were closed on March 23, but Dreamworld will reopen from 10am and WhiteWater World from 11am on Wednesday, under a specialised COVID-Safe Plan.

However, as a part of the COVID-Safe Plan, some attractions will remain closed: Mad Jungle Jam, Play School Art Room iPads, Corroboree Face Painting Experience, Corroboree Virtual Reality Experience, Animal Experiences, LEGO Interactive Building Area and LEGO Mini Figure Station.

In addition, WhiteWater World is now a seasonal water park, due to low demand in the cooler months, and will operate from early September until late January annually and across some peak weekends on either side – where demand and warmer weather allows.

The theme parks reopen ahead of the September school holidays, but The Big Red Car and Flowrider attractions have been permanently retired as a result of the theme park’s review.

“We have got an incredibly exciting roadmap ahead, with construction of our $32 million multi-launch coaster commencing in the near future, creating over 250 local construction jobs, » Dreamworld chief operating officer Greg Yong said.

Major refurbishment works are also underway on Dreamworld’s SideWinder roller coaster and WhiteWater World’s Pipeline Plunge complex.

NSW’s elective surgery waiting list has blown out to more than 100,000 patients that will take at least six months to clear after national cabinet’s moratorium on non-urgent operations triggered an unprecedented backlog.

A staggering 10,563 patients were overdue for their elective surgeries on June 30, nearly 20-times the number of overdue patients on the same day in 2019, the latest Bureau of Health Information report shows.

Roughly 8000 non-urgent surgeries performed every month in NSW were effectively wiped-out by national cabinet’s suspension of all non-urgent and some semi-urgent procedures on March 26 to prepare hospitals for potentially overwhelming numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Operating theatres are running at up to 115 per cent their pre-COVID activity levels to get through the state’s waiting list that hit 101,026 patients on June 30 – a 20 per cent jump (an additional 16,896 patients) compared to June 30 last year. Patients needing cataract surgeries, total hip replacements, and ear, nose and throat surgeries were waiting up to 55 days beyond the clinically recommended timeframe, the report released on Wednesday showed.

His ever-youthful appearance has been the subject of much confusion/envy, so perhaps it checks out that Paul Rudd, 51, has been cast as a millennial in a New York State public health advertisement doing the rounds online this morning.

In the ad, the Ant-Man actor says his « homie », New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, has been « going off about how us millennials need to wear masks ».

« So ‘Cuoms’ asked me. He’s like, ‘Paul, you’ve got to help, what are you, like 26?’ And I didn’t correct him. »

On that traffic this morning, we should note Melburnians trying to escape to holiday homes after the easing of restrictions in the country will face hefty fines and beefed-up police road checks amid fears they could spread the coronavirus.

In regional Victoria from tomorrow, residents can have visitors to their homes, restaurants and cafes can have seated indoor and outdoor dining, beauty services can reopen and people can gather in groups of 10 outside. However, Premier Daniel Andrews has warned Melburnians cannot not travel to the regions without a lawful reason.

« We cannot have people making unnecessary and unlawful trips to regional Victoria and potentially taking the virus with them, » he said yesterday, warning fines would be issued and an increased number of cars stopped.

We want to know what you’re seeing on the roads this morning, if you’re travelling for a valid reason. Let us know.

Traffic is reportedly building at coronavirus checkpoints out of Melbourne this morning, ahead of the significant easing of lockdown restrictions in regional Victoria at midnight tonight.

Bacchus Marsh resident Jamie told radio station 3AW this morning he had never seen the Western Freeway checkpoint so busy, but those looking to break the rules would still find a way.

« On the way out all you do it take the Hopetoun Park exist and just drive around, » he said.

« I’ve been here over 10 years and I’ve never seen the other road that busy before. »

The Andrews government faces a new class action on behalf of workers retrenched during the coronavirus second wave, amid claims the hotel quarantine bungle forced thousands out of work.

A statement of claim filed in the Victorian Supreme Court this week is one of three cases against the government, dragging Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and Jobs Minister Martin Pakula into a civil claim expected to attract thousands of litigants who recently lost work.

Premier Daniel Andrews and key ministers face legal action stemming from hotel quarantine failures.Credit:Getty Images

The lead plaintiff in the class action against the government is 21-year-old Jordan Roberts, who was retrenched from a Tullamarine warehouse on August 14 – less than a fortnight after stage-four restrictions were imposed on metropolitan Melbourne.

Mr Roberts told The Age he was devastated by losing his job, and was struggling to pay the bills after taking out a loan for a new car. « I understand my boss is also struggling and he’s also finding it difficult to make ends meet. I’ve been looking for other work but there’s just nothing out there, » he said.

In a separate Supreme Court writ filed on Tuesday, Premier Daniel Andrews faces a challenge to his contentious decision to impose a curfew across Melbourne by restaurateur and Liberal Party member Michelle Loielo, who argues the measure is disproportionate, unreasonable and a violation of human rights.

Here’s what is making news on the front pages of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald today.

NSW’s elective surgery waiting list has blown out to more than 100,000 patients that will take at least six months to clear after national cabinet’s moratorium on non-urgent operations triggered an unprecedented backlog.


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