Victorian deputy premier mocks plan to create Covid 'school bubble'

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Victoria’s deputy premier has blasted a ‘riduclous’ plan to create a ‘schools bubble’ to get children back in the classroom.

The state recorded 445 new Covid-19 cases and two deaths, including a man in bhis 20s, on Tuesday in the sixth week of lockdown with only 129 linked to the outbreak.   

Deputy Premier James Merlino on Tuesday hit out at a proposal by the Victorian Opposition to turn schools into Covid-safe ‘bubbles’ where they could freely play sport, music and go to assemblies.

‘There are elements of their so-called plan such as the bubble that fly in the face of public health advice,’ he said.  

‘For goodness sake, we’ve got secondary schools that have 1,500 to 3,000 students. 

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‘It’s not just the students, it’s the teachers, all the staff, and their families – it’s just a ridiculous idea from an opposition that doesn’t have much regard for education.’

Year 11 and 12 students in Victoria have still yet to find out when they can return to the classroom.

Mr Merlino said the state’s back-to-school strategy was ‘well-advanced’ and officials were working on a plan this week to return to on-site learning. 

‘Believe me, I want to get kids back to face to face learning as quickly as possible,’ he said.

‘I left three kids at home and every day they’re asking me, Dad, when are we back at school? I want to get kids back to school as quickly as possible.’

Health officials said 85 per cent of the new cases are under the age of 50, 563 are children under nine, and 647 aged 10 to 19.

The deputy leader also hit out at a principal in inner-city Fitzroy who encouraged parents to send their children into school during Victoria’s lockdown.

The Fitzroy Community School has been linked to 31 Covid-19 cases after refusing to close its classrooms.

Mr Merlino labelled its principal Timothy Berryman ‘irresponsible’.

‘We’ve got more than 2,200 schools in Victoria. That’s more than one million students. Imagine if every single principal was as irresponsible as this one,’ he said.  


Video: 324 cases in Victoria (ABC NEWS)

‘Imagine the case numbers and the hospitalisations.’

The state’s single-dose vaccination rate has reached 67.5 per cent, with one million jabs in arms expected across Victoria by Wednesday.

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SNAPSHOT OF VICTORIA’S CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK 

NEW CASES

* 445 new locally acquired cases

* Two deaths, bringing death toll from current outbreak to six

– a Hume man in his 20s died at home

– a Brimbank woman in her 80s died in hospital

* 129 cases linked to outbreaks, source of 316 cases unknown

– 74 per cent of cases in northern suburbs, including 175 in the Hume LGA, 64 in Moreland and 36 in Whittlesea

– 83 cases in western suburbs, including 38 in Wyndham, 16 in Melton, 14 in Brimbank, 15 in Hobsons Bay

– 20 cases in southeast, including six in Casey, five in each Dandenong and Port Phillip and four in Glen Eira

– three cases in regional Victoria, including a Ballarat construction worker, a V/Line driver who lives on the Surf Coast, and a Mitchell Shire case

– four cases linked to Fitzroy Community School, 33 cases in total

* 10 suburbs urged to get tested with first sign of symptoms: 3064, 3047, 3048, 3061, 3059, 3046, 3060, 3029, 3030, 3025

* 3799 active cases in the state

* 158 people in hospital, 45 in intensive care with 23 on ventilators

* 42,694 tests in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning

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* 85 per cent of all cases are aged under 50

– 563 cases in children aged nine and under

– 647 cases in people aged 10 to 19

– 906 cases in people aged in their 20s

– 683 cases in people aged in their 30s

VACCINATIONS

* 36,615 vaccine doses administered on Monday at Victorian-run hubs

* 67.5 per cent of the eligible population has received first dose

* Of the cases in hospital, one person is fully vaccinated, while 91 per cent are not vaccinated and eight per cent partially vaccinated

EXPOSURE SITES

* More than 968 exposure sites including an early learning centre in Meadow Heights and a Port Melbourne apartment complex.

 

While the latest tally is a slight drop from Monday’s 473 infections – the highest daily total in this outbreak – authorities have warned people to remain vigilant as tearooms in essential workplaces pose the greatest risk of transmission.    

Officials have launched a crackdown on construction workers amid concerns the state’s Covid crisis has become a pandemic of the young and vaccinated, with alarming new data revealing the regions with the lowest jab numbers. 

The latest federal data from September shows Melbourne City Council area has the lowest vaccination rate of any LGA with a first dose rate of 54.2 per cent followed by the Hume region at 55 per cent, according to Covid Live. 

Statewide, only about 40 per cent of eligible Victorians are fully vaccinated and around 65 per cent have had their first dose – after 36,615 vaccines were administered in the past 24 hours. 

The lagging vaccination rate places Victoria more than three weeks behind NSW in reaching the 70 per cent double dose target, which the northern state expects to hit in mid-October. 

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Meanwhile, compliance and vaccination blitzes have been launched across the Victorian building industry, with the sector put on notice it could lose its ability to keep working during lockdowns.

Some 13 per cent of the state’s cases have been traced to building sites, with tradies lashed at Monday’s Covid briefing for regularly ignoring lockdown rules and spreading the virus 20km across Melbourne. 

The industry will be subjected to an extraordinary ‘zero tolerance’ Covid crackdown with fifty compliance teams deployed to sites across the state to ensure workers are following mask orders and social distancing properly. 

VICTORIA’S ‘SCHOOL BUBBLE’ PROPOSAL 

The state opposition has proposed immediately allowing Year 11 and 12 students back into the classroom as part of a ‘Covid bubble’ scheme.

The plan would mean students could play sport, music or gather for assemblies as they would have before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Victoria’s Opposition says schools should be ‘safe havens’ to promote students’ physical and mental wellbeing.

‘It is time to treat schools as safe havens where all activities to promote social and physical wellbeing are encouraged,’ Opposition Education spokesman David Hodgett told the Herald Sun.

‘With community sport not being allowed, and children being limited in the activities they can do, we need to allow students full range of activities once inside the school grounds.’ 

From July 1, on-the-spot fines for authorised worker breaches increased to up to $1817 for individuals and up to $10,904 for businesses.  

Meanwhile, Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs – where all but 38 of the infections recorded on Monday reside – will be subject to a three-week vaccination blitz.   

Health Minister Martin Foley said 87 per cent of active cases were aged under 50, with 585 aged under 19.

‘This continues to be a pandemic of the young and the unvaccinated,’ he told reporters on Monday.

Mr Foley said 89 per cent of the 157 Victorians fighting COVID-19 in hospital were unvaccinated, while 11 per cent had received one dose. 

COVID-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar said an increasing number of cases had been linked to the construction industry, which is also subject to a vaccination blitz and compliance crackdown from Monday.

He identified tearooms of essential workplaces as the ‘most dangerous place’ to contract the virus, given people drop their guard and their face mask to eat and drink.

Mr Weimar said there were six COVID-19 cases connected to an outbreak of V/Line staff, with transmission having occurred in the train driver’s break room.

VICTORIA’S CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY COMPLIANCE BLITZ 

A four-week compliance blitz will be carried out by the state government’s Industry Enforcement and Engagement Operation.

About 20,000 priority Pfizer appointments will made available to construction workers at all sites across Victoria from Monday until September 26.

The Ford Campbellfield site, the Heidelberg Repat, Eagle Stadium in Wyndham, and the former Bunnings in Melton will open for walk-ups for construction workers from 8am until 11am over the next fortnight. 

Anyone who works at a site where civil works, building or construction activities take place will be eligible.

‘Our construction industry is critical to our state, but what is even more important is vaccinating each and every Victorian so we can slow the spread of the virus,’ state treasurer Tim Pallas said.

‘The construction sector’s ability to remain open is on a knife’s edge, and to ensure they can keep building, people need to get vaccinated and follow the rules.’ 

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