Victoria achieves three weeks without a new COVID-19 case

Exactly 21 days separated the state recording its fourth coronavirus case on January 31 (a Melbourne woman in her 20s who returned from China) and its fifth case (also a returned traveller) on February 22.

Back then there had not been any instances of local transmission in Victoria. The state’s most recent case – its 20,345th – was confirmed back on October 30.

Health officials are investigating a weak positive test result, the Department of Health and Human Services said via Twitter. The case may be a false positive or historic reinfection. The person is expected to have another test on Friday.

There were eight new cases confirmed nationwide on Thursday, five in NSW and three in Queensland, but all were returned travellers in hotel quarantine, making it a day of zero new local cases for Australia.

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Police descended on St Kilda beach on Thursday night after “several thousand people” flocked to the foreshore as temperatures soared.

At least one person was subdued with capsicum spray and arrested after refusing to wear a face mask, Police Commissioner Shane Patton told radio station 3AW. He could not say if that person was fined.

“We did have some public order issues there for sure,” Mr Patton said. “There were several incidents of disregard for public behaviour. It was a very busy, hot night … there were some issues.”

Mr Patton said it was “really difficult from an enforcement perspective” to fine people for failing to wear face masks at the beach, as they were often drinking water and walking in and out of the ocean.

“We had some feedback from the government in respect to that,” he said, referring to Premier Daniel Andrews’ promise to take up the issue with the force.

“We have reinforced with our members through internal communications they need to continue enforcing masks.”

A caller to 3AW likened St Kilda beach on Thursday night to Los Angeles’ Venice beach.

“We were down there last night and I’ve never seen anything like it. There were thousands of people … and we’d be lucky if 2 per cent were wearing masks,” caller David said.

“It was just out of control. I’ve never seen anything like it to the point that it was like Venice beach on steroids.”

Mr Patton said he would review how many police were deployed to St Kilda after Thursday night’s chaotic scenes. “We should not be describing St Kilda beach like Venice beach,” he said.

A 48-hour hard border closure between Victoria and South Australia came into effect on Thursday night after traces of the virus were found in wastewater in Portland and Benalla.

The fragments were deemed significant because wastewater samples from both regional towns, which are located on major freight routes, were clear of the virus just last week.

SA border closure rules

Exemptions from the ‘hard’ border closure that applies from 11.59pm on Thursday night for 48 hours include:

  • Freight drivers;
  • Those with medical or emergency reasons; 
  • Urgent animal welfare; and
  • As authorised by law.

Permit scheme exemptions for travel into Victoria applying from Saturday 11.59pm will include:

  • Emergency services workers or a worker providing essential services;
  • Agricultural work:
  • To receive medical care (including coronavirus testing), obtain medical supplies or compassionate reasons; and
  • To shop for essential supplies

Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng said the viral fragments found in Benalla and Portland could either be from an active case, or a recovered case who may still be shedding the virus.

“It’s always difficult to interpret,” he said. “It is possible that a recovered case for Melbourne has visited these areas.”

Anyone who has been in Benalla or Portland since Sunday should get tested immediately if they have any symptoms, he said.

Earlier this year viral fragments were detected in wastewater at Anglesea and Apollo Bay, but no positive cases were found.

South Australia has 22 active coronavirus cases linked to a hotel quarantine outbreak. More than 4000 people are in isolation, while South Australians enter their second day of a hard lockdown aimed at stemming the spread of the cluster ahead of Christmas.

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