LIVE: Coronavirus Victoria: 70,000 Australian virus cases potentially undetected

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As many as 70,000 Australians could’ve been infected with COVID-19 since the pandemic began and gone undetected, a new test has found.

As many as 70,000 Australians could’ve been infected with COVID-19 since the pandemic began and gone undetected, researchers have predicted.  

A team at the Australian National University (ANU) have developed a new blood test that captures previous exposure to coronavirus, with initial results suggesting many more Australians have been exposed to the virus than detected.

“Our best estimate is that around 0.28 per cent of Australians – one in 350 – had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 by that time (just before Australia’s second wave of outbreaks),” Associate Professor Ian Cockburn, who co-led the research, said.

“This suggests that instead of 11,000 cases we know about from nasal swab testing, about 70,000 people had been exposed overall.”

The testing was conducted between June 2 and July 17, before Melbourne was struck by the virus again and testing had increased in response to the nation’s second wave.

It measures the antibodies produced by the body after being infected with COVID-19.

Director of The John Curtin School of Medical Research, Professor Graham Mann, said that the test is “another weapon in our armoury to combat further waves of the virus”.

But deputy chief health officer Nick Coatsworth, who also participated in the research, said that the numbers estimated don’t necessarily “correspond to reality”.

“It’s not going to change our policy. We base our restrictions policy on the number of acute cases of COVID-19. That’s diagnosed by PCR and nasal swab, not by antibody tests,” Dr Coatsworth told reporters this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Melburnians attempting to flee their locked down city for regional Victoria could be slapped with a brand new, “huge” $4957 fine. 

Deputy Commissioner, Regional Operations Rick Nugent said the fine would apply to every adult within a vehicle – so if a family was caught breaking the rules, for example, both parents would be slapped with individual fines.

Follow our live rolling coverage below.

Live Updates

4h agoSeptember 16, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Victorian man charged after trying to enter NSW in taxi

Phoebe Loomes

A Victorian man has been charged after he tried to cross into NSW in the back of a taxi.

The man, who didn’t have a permit to cross the border, had made numerous attempts to enter NSW, and was fined $1000 for crossing the border over the weekend, NSW Police said in a statement.

Just before 10pm last night police at a border checkpoint on the Hume Highway in South Albury stopped a taxi trying to cross into NSW and talked with the driver and passenger.

Their checks found the male passenger, 26, didn’t have a valid permit to enter NSW and had “attempted to cross the border several times previously”.

“Additionally, the man had been given a PIN at Central Railway Station on Saturday (12 September 2020) and instructed to return to Victoria, when he was unable to produce a permit,” NSW Police said.

The man was arrested and taken to Albury Police Station where he was charged with not complying with a noticed direction.

He was granted strict conditional bail and is due in Albury Local Court on October 12.9:31 amSeptember 16, 2020HIGHLIGHT

70,000 Aussie virus cases could’ve gone undetected

Natalie Brown

As many as 70,000 Australians could’ve been infected with COVID-19 since the pandemic began and gone undetected, researchers have predicted.

A team at the Australian National University (ANU) have developed a new blood test that captures previous exposure to coronavirus, with initial results suggesting many more Australians have been exposed to the virus than detected.

“Our best estimate is that around 0.28 per cent of Australians – one in 350 – had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 by that time (just before Australia’s second wave of outbreaks),” Associate Professor Ian Cockburn, who co-led the research, said.

“This suggests that instead of 11,000 cases we know about from nasal swab testing, about 70,000 people had been exposed overall.”

Picture: Australian National University

The testing was conducted between June 2 and July 17, before Melbourne was struck by the virus again and testing had increased in response to the nation’s second wave.

It measures the antibodies produced by the body after being infected with COVID-19.

Director of The John Curtin School of Medical Research, Professor Graham Mann, said that the test is “another weapon in our armoury to combat further waves of the virus”.

But deputy chief health officer Nick Coatsworth, who also participated in the research, said that the numbers estimated don’t necessarily “correspond to reality”.

“It’s not going to change our policy. We base our restrictions policy on the number of acute cases of COVID-19. That’s diagnosed by PCR and nasal swab, not by antibody tests,” Dr Coatsworth told reporters this afternoon.8:36 amSeptember 16, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Sutton unaware of major hotel flaw

Natalie Brown

Melissa Iaria, NCA NewsWire

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton was unaware private security was being used to guard hotels quarantining returned travellers until there were outbreaks, an inquiry has been told.

Professor Sutton says until there were outbreaks, he had no reservations about the quarantine program.

“After the outbreaks, I heard of the allegations about security in the media and, considering the issue now, I can see the risks created by the use of that workforce,” he told the inquiry, via his statement.

Picture: NCA NewsWire/Daniel Pockett

“I was not involved in the making of that decision. Until there were outbreaks, I was not in fact aware that they were using security guards.”

Prof Sutton says he raised the issue of having mandatory emergency accomodation for returned travellers, based on the New Zealand model, in the third week of March, with the key Australian decision-making committee for health emergencies.

But the idea wasn’t progressed.

Read the full story here.7:41 amSeptember 16, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Cafe owner sues Victorian government

Rohan Smith

Lawyers for the mum trying to overturn Victoria’s curfew say “there has never been a case in the history of this country of this nature” and that the curfew should be quashed immediately.

Barrister Vanessa Plain, acting in the Victorian Supreme Court for Mornington Peninsula cafe owner and aspiring Liberal MP Michelle Loielo, said the matter was “unprecedented” and the decision by the court will have “unique ramifications for the community”.

Picture: Jake Nowakowski

Ms Loielo filed a writ in the Supreme Court on Tuesday that argues the Daniel Andrews Government’s 9pm-5am curfew is invalid, irrational and illogical.

Ms Plain said there are questions of “credibility” that the Premier must answer.

“There is serious doubt as to whether there is a legitimate basis for the curfew,” she said.

She said “millions of healthy citizens” were being unnecessarily impacted by the decision to lock metropolitan Melbourne down after dark.

Read the full story here.7:37 amSeptember 16, 2020HIGHLIGHT

PM banned from entering Queensland

Natalie Brown

Samantha Maiden

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be banned from entering Queensland for the duration of the state election campaign unless he is prepared to pay $2800 to quarantine for 14 days in a government facility.

Nearly seven weeks after he last entered the sunshine state, there is no sign that the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will lift the border bans before the October 31 election.

Picture: NCA Newswire/Martin Ollman

Queensland’s border ban will effectively stop the Prime Minister, Labor leader Anthony Albanese and any other frontbenchers from entering the state for the duration of the election unless they are prepared to spend a fortnight in quarantine.

Read the full story here.7:09 amSeptember 16, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Experts back QLD’s call to keep NSW out

Natalie Brown

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) have backed Queensland’s definition of a COVID-19 hotspot – a definition which has resulted in the state’s hard border stance.

The expert health panel sent state premiers its proposed definition of a hotspot today.

In a copy obtained by 7 News, the AHPPC’s statement defines a “COVID-Free Zone as an area that has no locally acquired cases that pose a risk to the community in the previous 28 days”.

Picture: Tertius Pickard/NCA NewsWire

The definition, which will be discussed at National Cabinet this Friday, means NSW will continue to be classified as a hotspot, with residents banned from entering Queensland.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian this morning said Queensland’s potential plans to adopt a 14-day no community transmission benchmark before reopening roads was simply swapping an “impossible” threshold with a “highly unlikely” one.

“At this point in time, NSW doesn’t have any hotspots,” Ms Berejiklian said told reporters.

“We have cases which are concerning [and] we have unknown cases in the past that we’re trying to chase as well. But if you look at the overall picture and what we’re up to, there wouldn’t be a reason why those borders should still be in place.”

The NSW leader said it was wrong to “make decisions based on one case or two cases” because it often took several days to test the genomics.6:41 amSeptember 16, 2020HIGHLIGHT

CHO commends ‘titantic effort’ of Victorians

Natalie Brown

Deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth is speaking now, and has commended the “titantic efforts” of Victorians in fighting the virus.

“The numbers are clearly improving on a national level and most pleasingly in Victoria and the 7-day rolling average of course dipped below 50 cases per day – 49.6, came in just under 50,” Dr Coatsworth told reporters.

“But very positive news and a testimony to the titanic efforts of the Victorian community in Melbourne and surrounds under the Stage 4 restrictions and regional Victoria as well.

“And certainly pleasing to see that some of those restrictions that regional Victorians have been living under are starting to be lifted.”

Dr Coatsworth said Australia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic – despite Victoria’s second wave – “remains an exemplar for the world and testimony to our public health units, the tireless work of our public health professionals, the adaptabilities and flexibility of our test trace isolate systems and of course the capacity of our healthcare system”.

“One of the best in the world and one that has been able to provide care for Australians when and where they need it if they suffer from COVID-19,” he said.6:09 amSeptember 16, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Deputy CHO to give COVID-19 update at 3:30pm

Natalie Brown

Deputy chief health officer Nick Coatsworth is set to give a national coronavirus update in just under 30 minutes.

In terms of new cases today, Australia has had just over 50 – with 42 in Victoria, 10 in NSW and one in Western Australia.

We’ll bring you the key details from Dr Coatsworth’s update here.

Picture: David Gray/Getty Images5:57 amSeptember 16, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Hundreds of jobs to go at ANU

Natalie Brown

Australian National University announced today that 465 jobs will be lost due to the financial impacts of COVID-19.

Some 250 staff have planned to or already accepted voluntary redundancies, with a further reduction needed of 215 positions.

The university said it will need to save $103 million each year up until 2023, having already saved $13.5 million from deferred pay rises.

“The changes required are painful, and the changes we make must leave the University in a state that will allow us to thrive in the years to come,” ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt told staff today.

“The stark reality is: we need to save money, and this will mean spending a lot less, both on our non-salary expenditure, but also on salaries.

“This is not a course of action we wanted to take, but it is our only viable option going forward if we want to remain a sustainable, stable university.

“The need for our University and its mission is clear, and we must make sure we can deliver on that mission, and not be a hollowed-out shell of our former selves.”5:37 amSeptember 16, 2020HIGHLIGHT

Victorian outbreaks with highest number of active cases

Natalie Brown

Victoria’s DHHS have released their daily breakdown of the state’s coronavirus cases.

Non-aged care outbreaks with the highest number of active cases include:

  • 12 active cases are currently linked to Footscray Hospital (13 cases total)
  • 10 active cases are currently linked to Bulla Dairy Foods in Colac (20 cases total)
  • 9 active cases are currently linked to Vawdrey Australia Truck Manufacturer (64 cases total)
  • 8 active cases are currently linked to Wydinia Kindergarten in Colac (16 cases total)
  • 5 active cases are currently linked to Dandenong Police Station (15 cases total)

Of the 991 active cases in Victoria overall, 948 are in metropolitan Melbourne – which is under stage 4 restrictions – and 37 are in regional Victoria – which is under stage 3 restrictions.

All eight of today’s deaths – six of which occurred prior to yesterday – are linked to known outbreaks in aged care facilities.

The average number of cases diagnosed in the last 14 days for metropolitan Melbourne is 49.6 and regional Victoria is 3.5.

The total number of cases from an unknown source in the last 14 days is 81 for metropolitan Melbourne and one for regional Victoria.

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