Australia’s coronavirus death toll passes 500 as Victoria reports 17 more fatalities and 208 new cases

More than 500 Australians have died from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, with Victoria announcing 17 more people with coronavirus had died on Sunday morning.

The state also recorded 208 new cases of coronavirus, while New South Wales recorded four new cases and Queensland announced two new cases on Sunday.

Victoria’s death toll from coronavirus is now 415, bringing the national count to 502.

The Victorian figures were released on Sunday after the Melbourne set of The Masked Singer reality TV show was shut down because several crew members tested positive for the coronavirus.

“The entire production team, including the masked singers, the host and panellists are now in self-isolation,” the Network Ten program posted on Twitter late on Saturday night.

“They are all being monitored closely and are in constant contact with medical authorities.”

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, warned on Sunday morning the state was “not out of the woods yet” after it reported two new cases of Covid-19 linked to an outbreak at the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre at Wacol.

Both cases – a woman in her 30s and an infant boy – were from the same family as a known case and had been already quarantining at their home west of Brisbane.

On Saturday morning, the state introduced new rules restricting the number of people who could gather in homes and outside to 10 people, but businesses and organisations with Covid plans in place can continue to operate as they have been.

Palaszczuk said there were now nine cases in the cluster linked to the detention centre outbreak. The state has 16 active cases.

Among 6,875 tests carried out in the previous 24 hours, 202 detention centre staff and 11 inmates had returned negative tests, with a further 20 results from inmates still to be returned.

Queensland’s chief health officer, Jeanette Young, said the results of testing so far were good, because they showed the current cluster had not expanded. “But it’s too early for us to relax,” she said.

She said police had been out across the state tracking young people who had been discharged from the detention centre since 22 July.

Because staff and inmates had been previously unaware they were at risk of carrying the disease, people had been moving around different suburbs and locations.

She added: “This is why this cluster is a risk to us. We need to do a lot more testing.”

Queensland Health released a long list of locations with timeframes and asked anyone who visited those places at those times to get tested “if they develop even the mildest of Covid-19 symptoms.”

Meanwhile, four new cases were announced in NSW overnight, with two acquired overseas in hotel quarantine, one a household contact of a case linked to the Apollo Restaurant cluster in Potts Point in Sydney, and the fourth the hotel security guard reported on Saturday.

The security guard worked at the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel while it was operating for people in quarantine from overseas.

He is the second Sydney quarantine security guard confirmed to have Covid-19 after a week-long testing blitz on contacts of a guard who tested positive on 14 August.

The NSW opposition wants the state government to give hotel quarantine security staff full-time jobs to avoid a Victorian-style outbreak.

The second guard was the sole person among the first ill guard’s 700 contacts to return a positive test.

The NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, said the two guards worked the same shift on 3 August, while the newly diagnosed guard also worked at Sheraton Grand Hyatt Park hotel on the night of 16 August. He was asymptomatic at the time of his shifts.

The guard who originally tested positive also worked across a number of venues after he was exposed.

The NSW Labor health spokesman, Ryan Park, said the government needed to learn from Victoria’s mistakes.

“Securing our quarantine hotels shouldn’t be a part-time job,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “The role security guards play in hotel quarantine is too important.”

Labor wants hotel guards to be given full-time positions within the quarantine system, to help contain the virus should more guards be exposed.

Labor is also pushing for guards to be subject to testing, like the police.

On Sunday NSW deputy chief health officer, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, said there was no indication of any additional risk to the community from the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel.

He said NSW was currently treating 90 people in hospital, including seven in intensive care, where five people are on a ventilator.

Source: The Guardian

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