No new cases in Victoria as Brisbane lockdown decision looms

Victoria has recorded no locally acquired cases of COVID-19 for the 34th consecutive day, as residents across Greater Brisbane wait to hear if the region’s three-day lockdown will end as planned today.

The national fallout from Brisbane’s two coronavirus clusters continued on Wednesday with the Byron Bay’s Blue Festival cancelled for a second year after a NSW man, linked to the Queensland outbreak, tested positive on Tuesday night.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard signed a public health order cancelling the festival, scheduled to take place on the Easter long weekend from Thursday through to Monday as exposure sites in NSW grow.

Scenes from 2015 Bluesfest: this is the second year in a row the festival has been cancelled.Credit:Edwina Pickles

Two new local cases were recorded in Queensland on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases across two distinctive clusters to 19.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is set to make an announcement on whether the Brisbane lockdown will lift as scheduled at 5pm Queensland time on Thursday.

It comes as Victorian-bound passengers from Queensland were left fuming this week over a bungle that saw them sent to hotel quarantine and subsequently released.

Passengers onboard Qantas flight QF635 said they were detained on Monday night at the Holiday Inn Hotel at Melbourne Airport, despite seeking multiple assurances from Victorian authorities that they would not face quarantine once Brisbane became a coronavirus red zone while they were mid-flight.

Following media coverage of the ordeal, COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria – the government agency overseeing hotel quarantine programs – said on Wednesday it was “working through the process” of releasing people from the hotel to return home.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a second wastewater alert was issued for Melbourne’s western suburbs after viral fragments were detected last week.

Residents of Hoppers Crossing, Tarneit, Truganina and Werribee have been urged to monitor for symptoms and get tested with any symptoms of COVID-19 after samples were found between March 22 and March 29.

It comes a day after an alert was issued for Melbourne’s south-east.

Beaconsfield, Berwick, Clyde North, Cranbourne East, Cranbourne North, Guys Hill, Hallam, Hampton Park, Harkaway, Narre Warren, Narre Warren North, Narre Warren South, Officer and Upper Beaconsfield are all on alert after viral fragments were found in wastewater samples between March 21 and March 25.

As Victorian authorities closely monitor the number of new COVID-19 cases in Queensland and NSW, local businesses have been warned of a three-week coronavirus compliance blitz starting this week.

A government spokeswoman said 500 additional businesses will be visited by authorised officers during the crackdown, meaning 3900 businesses will be check over the next three weeks to ensure COVIDsafe plans are being followed and staff and customers are properly using QR codes or sign-in systems.

Supermarkets and seafood and butcher businesses are the focus this week in the lead-up to Easter. Queen Victoria Market has been specifically named as a hotspot, where businesses that have previously been found to be non-compliant will be followed up with.

Victorian businesses are being warned to make sure QR codes are being used correctly ahead of an enforcement blitz.Credit:Eddie Jim

Retail, hospitality, licensed venues, warehousing, distribution centres and commercial cleaning services have all been flagged for increased monitoring.

The government has also revealed it obtained data from accommodation app Airbnb to identify popular Easter holiday spots to target for compliance including Bass Coast, Mornington Peninsula, East Gippsland and Yarra Ranges, the Surf Coast, Geelong, Glenelg, Bellarine Peninsula, Colac-Otway, Warrnambool, Ballarat, Alpine, Hepburn and the Grampians region.

Acting Minister for Police and Emergency Services Danny Pearson indicated businesses may not be immediately fined for a first breach.

“We know most businesses are doing the right thing, but we’ll be out in force over the next few weeks to make sure COVIDSafe plans are in place and being adhered to – supporting high-risk industries and workplaces stay safe, stay open,” he said.

A total of 19,430 tests were processed on Wednesday.

  • With Mard Ward, Sarah McPhee, David Estcourt and Lydia Lynch

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