Melbourne curfew to be lifted as restrictions ease
Melbourne's controversial curfew will be lifted from 5am tomorrow as part of the city's second step from coronavirus restrictions after Victoria recorded 16 new cases of coronavirus and two deaths.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced the slight easing of restrictions after the resignation of Health Minister Jenny Mikakos on Saturday.
Under the changes, 127,000 people will go back to work in various industries and those caught engaging in unlawful gatherings will be hit with a new fine of almost $5000.
Outdoor gatherings of five people from two households will be allowed.
Students will also return to school back at school ahead of schedule on October 12, with all primary school pupils, special school students and VCE, VCAL students return to on-site learning.
Childcare will reopen, with the permit system scrapped.
Weddings with a limit of five people, including the couple and two witnesses, are now allowed in outdoor spaces.
Outdoor pools will open, and personal training can resume with a maximum of two people and their trainer.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton warned Victorians "this whole strategy could fall apart" if people did not follow the new restrictions.
"Private unlawful indoor gatherings, where people are often close together, talking, laughing and ... not wearing masks - that cannot happen at this stage," he said.
Mr Andrews said the move to the third and last steps from lockdown will no longer be defined by dates in the calendar, with the next step now brought a week forward to October 19.
Care facilities and hospital patients can now have one visitor for up to two hours a day. For patients aged younger than 18, parents or carers can visit with no time limit.
Melburnians will have to wait at least three weeks until they can see loved ones outside the five-kilometre zone, with the Premier confirming the radius limit still applies under the new rules.
Melbourne's 14-day rolling average of 22.1 cases is well below the benchmark set by the government to move to stage two of easing restrictions.
There have been no new cases recorded in regional Victoria.
Mr Andrews has warned there will be more COVID-19 cases in 2021, but assured Victorians that an increase in cases won't mean that restrictions are instantly brought back in.
Mr Andrews said the aim of the state's suppression strategy was to get case numbers as low as possible and then to deal with spikes in cases as they arise.
"When the inevitable cases come forward in December or February next year, we won't necessarily, that doesn't trigger the instant re imposition of some of the restrictions we're talking about here," he said.
"There is a tolerance there and that's why we have to be ready and the numbers have to be low in the first instance."
CHINESE GIVEN EXPERIMENTAL VACCINES
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese have been given experimental, emergency-use COVID-19 vaccines by the government since July, despite concerns over their safety and efficacy.
China was initially criticised for giving the vaccine to their top executives and leading researchers before human test trials.
But in recent months, according to The Associated Press, they've given the jab to many more citizens under an emergency-use designation approved in June.
Chinese health officials say they've almost wiped out coronavirus but want to ensure that it never comes back.
Zheng Zhongwei, of China's National Health Commission, claimed that China gained the "understanding and support" of the World Health Organisation before starting to administer the vaccines.
Zheng has said that some people in "high risk" professions - like frontline medical personnel - have been eligible to receive the vaccine since July 22.
But outside health experts say it's dangerous to green light vaccines prior to last-stage trials, the New York Post reported.
Zheng said there have been no serious side effects in the clinical trials.
"We've made it very clear that the COVID-19 vaccines we put into emergency use are safe," Zheng said. "Their safety can be ensured but their efficacy is yet to be determined."
Zheng said that all those injected under emergency use are being closely tracked for any adverse health effects.
Sinovac Biotech is among a number of companies in the global race to produce a viable vaccine.
The company is running Phase 3 human trials in four countries and ramping up production to 300 million doses per year at a new manufacturing facility south of Beijing.
When China's government launched the emergency use program in July to vaccinate groups of essential workers, Sinovac's chief executive says the company supplied tens of thousands of doses, even as trials were still underway.
About 90 percent of Sinovac's employees chose to receive injections of CoronaVac, which is one of eight Chinese vaccine candidates in human trials.
WHY DAN ANDREWS WON'T RESIGN
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has said he "won't resign" and hasn't spoken to his former Health Minister Jenny Mikakos since she quit on Saturday in the wake of the hotel quarantine inquiry.
He told a press conference he did not ask her to quit, and he had not spoken to her before she resigned and he has not spoken to her since she handed in her resignation.
Mr Andrews said he "doesn't run from challenges" but believed Ms Mikakos had done the right thing.
"I believe that was the appropriate course of action for her to take," he said.
"I believe Jenny's made the right choice, but she made that choice."
"She sent me a text … It was simply to inform me of the fact that a letter [of resignation] had been sent. I did not speak to her and I have not spoken to her since."
Mr Andrews said he would be back on Sunday, with "good news" and details of how Victoria could start to move forward as case numbers continued to drop.
He praised her for her "hard work" and service, and said Martin Foley would become the Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services and Minister for the Coordination of Health and Human Services COVID-19.
"I am focused on getting on and making sure that we've got very positive news for people tomorrow," Mr Andrews said.
Mr Andrews said he had confidence in her on Thursday, despite now saying he thought her resignation was the right course of action.
Mr Andrews said Victorians would talk on Sunday about what October would look like, as they are "ahead of schedule" in getting case numbers down.
But he stressed Victoria would not be opened up completely.
"We're not throwing the doors open tomorrow," he said.
"The place is not opened up tomorrow and I've tried to be really clear about that.
"And people can be optimistic and really positive about the fact that these numbers are coming down."
He did say there would also be a "very substantial investment" to help Australians get a job and get the Victorian economy growing again.
"We will deliver as never before," he said.
Mr Andrews said he can't comment on Ms Mikakos' statement that she disagreed with parts of his evidence to the hotel quarantine inquiry on Friday.
He said those questions should be put to Ms Mikakos after saying her statement did not include "detail".
Mr Andrews also said the ultimate accountability lies with him.
"I'm committed to the job that I've got, and it's a very, very significant job," he said.
"And I work hard every day to make sure I do the best I possibly can.
"That's what I'm focused on.
"What I will do after the board of inquiry's report has come down is I will take the action necessary to ensure these sorts of errors can never happen again. That's the role I've got."
MIKAKOS ACCUSED OF INCOMPETENCE
Ms Mikakos, who has been accused of incompetence during her role in overseeing the state's troubled response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was said to have been "thrown under the bus" by Mr Andrews at the inquiry.
Former House Speaker Bronwyn Bishop was the first to attack Mr Andrews for his performance at the inquiry, and made the comments about Ms Mikakos.
Ms Bishop told Sky News: "When I watched some of that failure to give any information today - perhaps an attempt to throw the health minister under the bus - I was just stunned about how evasive the whole thing was."
During his evidence to the inquiry yesterday, he said that Ms Mikakos headed up the program which is responsible for 99 per cent of the infections in Victoria's second wave.
Ms Mikakos has said she was sorry for what had happened in Victoria but didn't believe she was responsible.
A thread: Today we announced our roadmap to reopening Victoria in a safe, steady & sustainable way. @VicGovDHHS partnered with @unimelb & @UniNewEngland to help predict when it’s safe to ease restrictions. #springst— Jenny Mikakos MP #StayHomeSaveLives (@JennyMikakos) September 6, 2020
"I am deeply sorry for the situation that Victorians find themselves in," she said in her resignation statement.
"In good conscience, I do not believe that my actions led to them. I thank Victorians for the privilege of serving them. I thank the Premier, my colleagues, my loyal staff, the Labor Party and the broader Labor movement for their support."
"I have never wanted to leave a job unfinished but in light of the Premier's statement to the Board of Inquiry and the fact that there are elements in it that I strongly disagree with, I believe that I cannot continue to serve in his Cabinet," she said in a statement this morning.
"I have never shirked my responsibility for my department but it is not my responsibility alone. I am disappointed that my integrity has sought to be undermined."
Her move to step down comes a day after the end to the inquiry, that failed to discover who was behind the decision to contract private security guards to the hotel quarantine scheme.
Mr Andrews told the Coate inquiry during his two-and-a-half hour grilling that he saw Ms Mikakos as"primarily responsible" for the hotel quarantine program.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and health unions had called for Ms Mikakos to be sacked or to resign over her role in the affair.
The porous nature of the hotel quarantine scheme that failed to contain COVID-19 among returning international travellers led to Victoria's second wave which has killed more than 750 people and smashed the state's economy.
Ms Mikakos was appointed Minister for the Coordination of Health and Human Services during the COVID-19 pandemic on Mr Andrews' crisis council, while also being responsible for the state health portfolio.
Ms Mikakos claimed she was unaware private security were employed as part of the program until two months after it began.
That news came as NSW recorded just one new case of COVID-19 in 24 hours - a returned traveller in hotel quarantine.
PM: MANUFACTURING WILL HELP US REBUILD
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flagged infrastructure and manufacturing as the industries that will help Australia continue to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his speech as the guest speaker at the South Australian Liberal party's annual general meeting on Saturday, Mr Morrison highlighted the country's successful response to the health crisis.
He said Australians endured a "hard and tough year" and likened their resilience to those of World War II and the Great Depression.
"It's the twin crisis of health and economic challenge and I was proud of Australians to be able to talk about Australia, that we are doing better than almost any other country in the world when you put those two things together," Mr Morrison said.
"You have to balance both of those things and I think Australians understand that. There have been set backs, the situation in Victoria for example, but the success we've had for suppressing the virus compared to other countries has been extraordinary."
Discussing the federal government's response and road map to recovery, Mr Morrison mentioned the importance of renewable energy and gas, the COVID-19 vaccine, jobs and support for businesses.
"It's about the fight back, the road back and it will be supported. You'll see it more in the budget which will be announced in a week's time," he said.
"Our plan is not just about providing the comforting support of record levels of income support. It's also about the process of boosting and stimulating infrastructure projects and the skills investments.
"This road back is all about making sure businesses can do business easier to put people back into jobs.
"(Space, defence and agriculture) all have great opportunities for Australia's recovery and rebuild for the future.
"Then there's the longer term plan - because we want businesses to grow in an economy where they can succeed and be more competitive and take on the rest of the world."
Mr Morrison said the most important plan was to build for the future and ensure Australia had reliable, affordable energy to support viable manufacturing industries.
"You cannot have a viable manufacturing sector in the decades ahead unless you're prepared to embrace gas as you transition forward.
"Defence industries are an important part of that industrial element of our economy and we have deliberately put defence industries in our procurement as part of our manufacturing plan in this country which builds job not just now but for decades to come."
PM TAKES RISK WITH CHINA
Mr Morrison is likely to further test relations with China after speaking to the UN General Assembly.
Mr Morrison argued the international body faces significant challenges in responding to the pandemic and to disputes over territory and maritime issues.
He said although the UN is "not perfect" it must "continue to deliver for us and all nations" over the next 75 years by serving member states' interests.
"The UN is its members, not its committees, processes, institutions or officials," Mr Morrison said.
"Today there are 193 UN member states. With more voices and challenges comes complexity, negotiation, processes, bureaucracy that would test any organisation.
"We want these multilateral institutions to continue to deliver for us and all nations. So we're committed to ensuring they are fit for purpose, that they're effective, that they're open and transparent and, most importantly, that they are accountable to the sovereign states that form them."
Mr Morrison argued that sovereignty does not mean "turning inwards" and will caution against a "retreat into the downward spiral of protectionism".
He continued to push the cause for a multilateral approach to "serve all countries rather than any single power".
Australia has previously raised the ire of China by demanding an independent review into the COVID-19 virus, which originated in Wuhan. That has impacted political and trade relations.
He argued the UN needs to do all it can to understand COVID-19 as part of that international review.
"Australia strongly advocated for this review. The virus has inflicted a calamity on our world and its peoples. We must do all we can to understand what happened, for no other purpose than to prevent it from happening again," the Prime Minister said.
He issued a declaration that countries who develop a successful coronavirus vaccine "must share it", declaring that "some might see short-term advantage or even profit" in refusing to do so.
"I assure you to anyone who may think along those lines, humanity will have a very long memory and be a very, very severe judge … Australia's pledge is clear: if we find the vaccine, we will share it. That's the pledge we all must make."
JAPAN 'DETERMINED' TO HOST OLYMPICS DESPITE PANDEMIC
The country's newly elected prime minister told the United Nations General Assembly on Friday that Japan is "determined" to host the postponed Olympic Games in 2021 despite the coronavirus pandemic.
"In the summer of next year, Japan is determined to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as proof that humanity has defeated the pandemic," Yoshihide Suga said in his first international address since taking office last week.
"I will continue to spare no effort in order to welcome you to Games that are safe and secure," added Mr Suga in the video message.
Coronavirus forced the historic decision to delay the Games earlier this year.
But with continued spikes in infection worldwide, there are ongoing questions about whether the event will be possible next year.
Organisers and Olympic officials have insisted the Games will go on, with International Olympic Committee vice president John Coates saying on Friday "this has to happen," citing athletes who would be devastated by a cancellation.
But medical experts have warned that the massive international event could be difficult to hold if the pandemic is not under control by next summer.
And enthusiasm for the Games appears to have waned in Japan, with polls over the summer finding just one in four Japanese want to see them happen, and most backing either a further postponement or outright cancellation.
Officials are discussing a long and complex list of possible coronavirus countermeasures that they hope will make it possible to hold the Games, even if a vaccine is not available.
CURFEW LEADS TO STREET PARTIES, LOCKDOWN RALLIES
Hundreds of drinkers were seen partying in the streets of Central London as they spilt out of pubs and packed trains after police enforced the new 10pm curfew.
Footage from Oxford Circus in central London last night showed punters swelling into the streets as pubs and bars all shut at once
A BBC reporter described the scenes as "an impromptu party" showing how the UK capital is "as busy as before lockdown", according to The Sun.
Video showed crowds shouting and drinking - while appearing to ignore social distancing guidelines.
Other pictures showed people filling escalators and packing into the London Tube shoulder-to-shoulder as they headed home.
The shocking scenes came the same day Londoners were warned the capital had officially joined the government's coronavirus watchlist.
The London Mayor yesterday said the city is at a "tipping point" after a spike in cases.
Sadiq Khan, who met with PM Boris Johnson earlier this week, told the Guardian: "One of the things that I said to the prime minister is: I think we should be following what's happening around the country and stopping social mixing of households, and I say that with a heavy heart."
On Saturday morning, local time, anti-lockdown protesters flooded Trafalgar Square including Jeremy Corbyn's brother to demonstrate against the country's coronavirus restrictions.
Thousands descended on central London carrying signs, placards and flags at the rally.
Demonstrators, who were not wearing face masks or social distancing, were seen shouting: "We will win," according to The Sun.
Holding signs saying "We Do Not Consent" and "Stuff the Stupid Rules", thousands of people had gathered in the square to protest against the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
The protest comes a week after a separate event which saw more than a dozen officers injured when a "small minority" targeted police and more than 32 arrests were made.
US SURPASSES SEVEN MILLION COVID CASES
The US has surged past seven million confirmed coronavirus cases and recorded at least 203,000 deaths as of Saturday, local time.
California became the first of the 50 states to surpass 800,000 cases.
It comes as health experts warn that North America could see an explosion of cases over the autumn and winter months.
On Friday, local time, 55,054 new cases of COVID-19 were reported according to Johns Hopkins University, which is the highest single-day reporting of new cases since August 14 when the US reported 64,350 new cases in 24 hours.
It comes as US President Donald Trump continues to campaign for re-election, with just 39 days left.
Mr Trump appears to dismiss coronavirus concerns at his rallies and events, where he appears maskless and crowds are often packed together - a scenario his own government experts have warned against.
Mr Trump is travelling the country and making campaign promises ahead of the November 3rd election date.
Last night local time he flew to a Make America Great Again night-time rally in Virginia.
The state's Democratic governor meanwhile announced that he and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19.
"As I've been reminding Virginians throughout this crisis, COVID-19 is very real and very contagious," Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement.
New York, which contained the nation's worst COVID-19 outbreak, has reported more than 1,000 new cases for the first time since early June.
EUROPE'S SECOND WAVE PERSISTS
Germany has posted its highest daily number of new cases since April and an illegal wedding has been blamed for sending a German city into partial lockdown after a third of more than 300 guests tested positive for COVID-19.
In Spain, intensive care units have reached their maximum capacity, surgeries are overwhelmed, the military is on standby and people are dying daily of COVID-19.
"We are again seeing many patients dying. Nationally we are seeing over a hundred dying each day and the number is growing," Jose Curbelo, a senior doctor at the Princesa hospital in Madrid, said.
Madrid and its surrounding area is once again the worst hit region in Europe, registering an infection rate of nearly 746 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past two weeks, nearly three times the national average. Of the 500 coronavirus deaths recorded in Spain over the last seven days, 177 were in the capital.
Russian deaths have reached a two-month high.
Originally published as Melbourne curfew to be lifted as restrictions ease