Detection of ‘low positive’ case sparks concerns

Victoria has no new COVID cases but authorities are investigating after a “low positive” case was detected.

Victoria recorded no new cases of coronavirus on Friday as more than 15,000 people were tested in the past 24 hours.

Two cases were detected in the state’s hotel quarantine.

There are 28 active cases of COVID-19 across the state.

A low positive result was reported to DHHS on Thursday, however multiple follow up tests have returned negative results.

DHHS believe the results of follow up tests suggest the orginal result is either a false postive or persistent sheeding from a historic infection.

The case is not linked to a known case or known exposure site.

A determination on the case is expected to be made today by the Expert Review Pannel

Meanwhile, a purpose-built emergency centre that could house thousands of people is being considered by the state government.

Daniel Andrews will raise the idea with the Prime Minister and other state premiers when national cabinet meets again next month.

Mr Andrews said purpose built facilities across the country could be used for various purposes including as quarantine centres as emergency accommodation during natural disasters.

The Premier said facilities could be built quickly, but wouldn’t replace existing quarantine arrangements.

“2020 has shown us that things can come at you that couldn’t reasonably be foreseen in terms of the scope and scale,” he said.

“Some of these facilities that, at scale could house larger numbers of people in a secure and to the highest standard, they may well be very important in the future.

“When we have bushfires, when we have all sorts of other challenges, perhaps having a series of facilities that can house 1000 people or 2000 people wouldn’t be the worst thing to do.”

It comes as Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk revealed a plan to use mining camps as quarantine centres instead of hotels.

Ms Palaszczuk said she would ask national cabinet to consider housing returned travellers and quarantine staff at mining camps to protect Queensland’s cities.

Mr Andrews said he supported the plan and said he had previously sought Commonwealth approval to use Australian Defence Force facilities in victoria for quarantine purposes.

“The answer was no, that they would not be suitable,” he said.

“If Anastasia can find another facility that she can make work then that’s fine. We’d always look at different options, particularly when you’re talking about volume.

“There are limits on just how many people you can get into CBD hotels.”

Federal authorities previously considered using Defence bases to quarantine returned travellers, but the idea was rejected because most only have communal accommodation facilities.

That would pose a significant health risk as travellers could not be easily isolated.

A review of the hotel quarantine system, presented to the national cabinet late last year, suggested the government could consider using the Learmonth RAAF base in Western Australia and immigration detention facilities, as well Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.

The review, authored by former top public servant Jane Halton, said it would be “beneficial to consider a national facility for emergency or surge situations”.

“With a large number of Australian citizens and permanent residents currently offshore, the need to significantly increase arrival numbers, including for business and agricultural purposes, and the changeability of the COVID-19 situation, consideration should also be given to the establishment and maintenance of a national facility in reserve to facilitate large scale evacuations from international ports, if or when required,” it said.

It is understood the federal government has reservations about sending returned travellers to quarantine facilities in regional areas, given it would be more difficult to safely move them from airports.

WORKERS HEAD BACK TO THE OFFICE ON MONDAY

Thousands of workers will return to Melbourne’s CBD for the first time in ­almost a year, sparking hopes of a city revival.

Mask rules will also be ­relaxed from Monday after Premier Daniel Andrews said there was no evidence of local transmission of coronavirus across Victoria.

He said 25 per cent of government workers and 50 per cent of private sector employees could now return to offices across the state.

Many have been working from home since March.

Mining giant BHP will begin returning workers to its Collins Street HQ voluntarily from Monday. Its chief human resources officer Athalie Williams welcomed the government’s announcement.

“This will be incredibly ­important for the many businesses and working people who rely on a thriving CBD, and many of our people who are looking forward to the ­opportunity to reconnect with their colleagues and the city itself,” Ms Williams said.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the return to work would be a huge boost for businesses. “We want to bring back the buzz to Melbourne and workers play a huge role in the ­vibrancy of our city,” she said.

Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry acting chief executive Dugald Murray welcomed the move as a “step in the right direction”, but noted it did not ­expect to see a “meaningful” influx of workers until after Australia Day.

“When we get back to the office, let’s all make a special effort to support the many shops, restaurants, cafes and bars that have been doing it tough for so long,” he said.

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