Almost 80 Victorian workplaces fined for breaching Covid safety guidelines since start of stage 4 lockdown | Health

Nearly 80 Victorian workplaces have been issued with notices for failing to provide Covid-safe environments for their staff since stage four restrictions were introduced in July, Daniel Andrews has said.

Workplaces have been a significant driver of Covid-19 spread, especially in aged care, healthcare and the meat industry. More than half the active cases in Victoria are linked to aged care and healthcare. The government is now starting to provide data on workplaces failing to provide sanitary and safe conditions for workers, having earlier focused on penalising the behaviour of individuals.

“Since the pandemic started, there’s been 5,259 visits made by WorkSafe inspectors and there’s been 203 notices that have been issued to employers for breaches large and small of Covid-safe work plans,” Andrews said. “From the end of July, so when this most recent stage four rules [were introduced] along with a really intense focus on trying to deal with workplace outbreaks, some 916 visits and 78 notices have been issued.” Andrews said he did not have information about the nature of the workplace breaches or whether issues identified had been rectified.

Victoria reported 113 new cases of the virus overnight and 23 additional deaths, all in people aged between 60 and 90. Of those, 22 were linked to aged care, but Andrews said the sector had stabilised after being ravaged by the virus in the second wave, partly thanks to more than 3,000 shifts worked by hospital staff in aged care homes.

“They’ve gone into aged care homes, they have provided the very best of care, and helped to stabilise those environments … we are very proud of them and grateful to them. In general terms, though, we’ve seen some stability come to aged care settings. That is a good thing. But it’s by no means over.”

The nursing and midwifery union has expressed concern that nurses going into aged care settings were becoming infected with the virus. As of Thursday 391 health care workers had active cases of the virus. More than 2,800 health workers have been infected in Victoria since the pandemic hit Australia.

The acting chief health officer, Prof Allen Cheng, said there had been cases where patients in hospital had contracted the virus from health workers, but he did not have the data at hand to say how many. Asked whether the persistence of cases in health and aged care was holding the state back, Cheng said: “I think anywhere where there are outbreaks does concern us.”

On Thursday the federal aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, was ordered by the Senate to explain his handling of aged care. “We have been there every step of the way,” he said. “Every day. We have not stopped, planning, adapting and implementing.”

Cheng said it was reassuring that case numbers were coming down in regional areas. There are now 71 active cases in the greater Geelong area, 16 in greater Bendigo and six in Ballarat.

“In regional Victoria, where the numbers are relatively low, we can start to track links between cases,” Cheng said. “So, we know where most of those cases have come from. That’s reassuring, and that’s what we hope to see in metropolitan Melbourne as well.”

Andrews said the government was still working through what restrictions might be eased, with stage four lockdown due to end in metropolitan Melbourne and stage three in the rest of Victoria on 13 September. Asked why the government was asking for extended emergency powers, without providing detail about what restrictions might be removed and when, Andrews said he was not prepared to say when he might give more detail.

“We’ll work as hard as we possibly can to provide people with as much notice as possible [about easing restrictions],” he said.

Meanwhile in New South Wales, nine new cases of the virus were reported overnight. All were locally acquired and linked to known cases, including five linked to the Sydney CBD cluster, and four people who are close contacts of previous cases.

Three of the new cases attended City Tattersalls Club gym, and anyone who attended the gym between 8am to 2pm on 19, 21 or 23 August is a close contact and must get tested. Other members of City Tattersalls are being urged to get tested if they have even mild symptoms.

NSW Health is also contacting people who were at the Hunters Hill bowling club indoor dining room on 23 August from noon to 2pm as they may be close contacts of a case and must immediately get tested and self-isolate for 14 days. People who attended other areas of the club must monitor for symptoms and get tested if they develop.

NSW Health is currently treating 74 Covid-19 cases, including six patients in intensive care and four on ventilation.

Source: The Guardian

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