Victoria to lift restrictions, Dutton denies Hanks claim

 

Victoria's State of Emergency and State of Disaster have been extended by four weeks as the state prepares for changes to lockdown measures from midnight tonight.

It comes after Victoria recorded a small rise in coronavirus cases on Sunday, with 41 new infections and seven deaths recorded.

Premier Daniel Andrews flagged regional Victorian cases were now at a 4.1 case average and hinted they would be moving out of lockdown hopefully sometime this week.

Mr Andrews said it would be "a summer that will be like no other".

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says it will be a summer “like no other”. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Daniel Pockett
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says it will be a summer “like no other”. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Daniel Pockett

"It will be a very different end of this year, and 2021 will be a very different year than 2020 has been," he said.

"That's our aim and that's exactly what we will deliver with the amazing help and support of every single Victorian."

Mr Andrews also unveiled a $3 billion cash boost for struggling Victorian businesses in a bid to boost the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The news came as a number of anti-lockdown protests took place across the state, with Victoria Police arresting 14 people.

A further two men have been arrested after trying to illegally cross the border between NSW and Victoria.

Meantime, NSW has recorded nine new cases of coronavirus overnight.

DUTTON HITS BACK OVER TOM HANKS

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has hit back at the Queensland government for saying he was "lying" about how Hollywood star Tom Hanks entered Australia to film Baz Luhrmann's Elvis movie.

The row started after the famous actor was granted an exemption from Queensland's strict border rules and entered the state after travelling from the United States on Tuesday night.

Hanks was granted permission to self isolate in a resort on the Gold Coast, instead of undergoing the state's Brisbane-based hotel quarantine system.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Picture: NCA NewsWire /Gary Ramage
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Picture: NCA NewsWire /Gary Ramage

Speaking on ABC's Insiders on Sunday morning, Mr Dutton, who has been critical of the Queensland government's treatment of Hanks, reiterated his position the Hollywood star should not have been treated differently to any other traveller trying to enter Australia.

"Mr Hanks and his party have not gone into hotel quarantine as other Australians would have to," he said.

"The Queensland Government made separate arrangements for that.

"Mr Hanks should be treated no differently than somebody else coming back, and that's the basis on which we argue here."

Mr Dutton also hit back at Qld Deputy Premier Steven Miles' comments on Saturday that it was he, as the federal minister responsible for borders, who had actually allowed Hanks' entry into Australia.

"He was saying that it was us that let Tom Hanks in, when in fact it was him and his own department that let Tom Hanks in," Mr Miles said.

When asked about this on Sunday, Mr Dutton said that Border Force had only granted Hanks entry because the Queensland government and Queensland Health had provided a letter of support.

"(It was approved) based on the letter of support from Queensland Health and based on the fact that the Qld Government had, as I understand it, provided financial incentive for the movie to be shot in Queensland," he said.

"So Border Force will only approve Mr Hanks if he's coming in under that arrangement.

"If he was coming here as a tourist, he wouldn't be approved by Border Force."

Tom Hanks is back in Australia. Picture: Twitter
Tom Hanks is back in Australia. Picture: Twitter

Mr Dutton pointed the finger at state governments which have not budged on relaxing border restrictions to parts of the country where there are zero to nearly no cases of COVID-19, and said that he would like to see an increase on the daily limit on Australians returning from overseas, but that state governments would be required to provide additional hotels for quarantine.

He said the restrictions in Queensland were not based on health advice, but are still being implemented for political gains by the Palaszczuk government, which is seeking re-election in October.

CALLS FOR CHANGE TO 5KM RULE

Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor Arron Wood has called for the 5km lockdown rule to be doubled to 10km as it is hurting inner city businesses.

"Restaurants, cafes and bars in the City of Melbourne had their hopes and optimism crushed last Sunday by the protracted return to dine-in, and the extension of the 5km radius that people are permitted their leave homes," he told the Herald Sun.

"If we just extended it to 10km, this would open up a whole new clientele for our city businesses to serve residents of suburbs like Footscray, Port Melbourne and Prahran who are currently not allowed to travel in to the city."

A key player in Victoria's major events industry says the state is on the brink of destruction due to lack of planning by the state government.

Head of events and hospitality outfit The Big Group, Bruce Keebaugh, said that Brand Victoria was in danger of losing its hard-won global reputation amid the state's harsh lockdowns.

"We are the major events capital of Australia, and every month this goes on without the ability to plan we just destroy 30 years of great work," Mr Keebaugh told the Herald Sun.

Virologist in exile Dr Li Meng-Yan claims the coronavirus came from a military lab in China. Picture: Fox News
Virologist in exile Dr Li Meng-Yan claims the coronavirus came from a military lab in China. Picture: Fox News

 

NEW CLAIMS VIRUS CAME FROM LAB

A Chinese virologist who has reportedly been in hiding for fear of her safety has stepped out into the public eye again to make the explosive claim that she has the scientific evidence to prove COVID-19 was man-made in a lab in China.

Dr. Li-Meng Yan, a scientist who says she did some of the earliest research into COVID-19 last year, made the comments during an interview on British talk show "Loose Women."

When asked where the deadly virus that has killed more than 900,000 around the globe comes from, Dr Yan - speaking via video chat from a secret location - replied, "It comes from the lab - the lab in Wuhan and the lab is controlled by China's government."

She insisted that widespread reports that the virus originated last year from a wet market in Wuhan, China, are "a smokescreen."

"The first thing is the [meat] market in Wuhan … is a smokescreen and this virus is not from nature," Dr Yan claimed, explaining that she got "her intelligence from the CDC in China, from the local doctors."

The virologist has previously accused Beijing of lying about when it learned of the virus and engaging in an extensive cover-up of her work.

She had said that her former supervisors at the Hong Kong School of Public Health, a reference laboratory for the World Health Organisation, silenced her when she sounded the alarm about human-to-human transmission in December last year.

In April, Yan reportedly fled Hong Kong and escaped to America to raise awareness about the pandemic, saying she had to leave Hong Kong because she "knows how [China] treat whistleblowers".

From the early stages of the pandemic, reports emerged of doctors being detained after trying to warn others about the virus on social media.


VIRUS HIT UNITED STATES 'LAST YEAR'

Scientists have found the coronavirus began infecting the US before last Christmas, raising concerns about a possible cover up.

Researchers at the University of California found a "significant increase" in patient admissions carrying coronavirus symptoms months before the disease was reported to have hit the United States.

Between December and February, figures show there was a 50 per cent rise in respiratory cases compared to the previous five years - with doctors suspecting COVID-19 was to blame.

It was previously thought the first COVID-19 death happened in Washington State, after a man - who had no travel history to China - died on February 28.

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on March 13. China has officially said coronavirus was first recorded in Wuhan just before Christmas in 2019, but has been accused of covering it up.

The lead author of the new study - which appears in the Journal of Medical internet Research - said the new findings could help in the identification of future epidemics.

Dr Joann Elmore said "We may never truly know if these excess patients represented early and undetected COVID-19 cases in our area.

"But the lessons learned from this pandemic, paired with health care analytics that enable real-time surveillance of disease and symptoms, can potentially help us identify and track emerging outbreaks and future epidemics."

The news comes after the daughter of a UK coronavirus victim who fell ill last December says he and many more could still be alive if Beijing had not covered up the outbreak.

Jane Buckland told The Sun: "If China hadn't lied to the rest of the world and kept this hidden for so long, it could have saved countless lives."

At first, the virus was thought to have originated from bats being sold at a wet market in Wuhan.

But scientists and politicians, including US President Donald Trump, accused China of attempting to cover up that the virus.

Journalists also had their equipment confiscated after trying to report on the issue.

Dr Li, formerly a specialist at Hong Kong's School of Public Health, has said her supervisor first asked her to investigate a new "SARS-like" virus in Wuhan on December 31 - but that her efforts were later stifled.

She said she reported back that cases appeared to be rising exponentially but was told to "keep silent and be careful".

"'We will get in trouble and we'll be disappeared'," her supervisor reportedly said.

She has also backed claims that the virus came not from a meat market in Wuhan, and is widely thought, but from a virology institute in the city.

Victoria has recorded about 19,750 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie
Victoria has recorded about 19,750 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Ian Currie

 

QUEENSLAND REFUSES TO BACK DOWN

Queensland's premier has choked up as she described the plights of Sarah Caisip and Mark Keans as "heartbreaking and gut wrenching" but is adamant her Chief Health Officer is making the right decision over the state's borders.

Visibly deflated, Annastacia Palaszczuk is not backing down on her state's strict border measures, saying it isn't her decision to grant border exemptions.

"It is absolutely heartbreaking … we're all human, but let me make this clear - I don't make these decisions," Ms Palaszczuk said on Friday morning.

"I said to the Prime Minister I would refer this case (Sarah Caisip) to the CHO (Dr Jeannette Young) and I did that … It's her decision, under the act.

"It is absolutely tragic … heartbreaking … families are not together at the moment. There are people all around the world waiting to come home. It is absolutely heartbreaking and gut wrenching.

"It's happening around the world.

"My job is to keep five million Queenslanders safe."

Holding back tears, Ms Palaszczuk said she understand how difficult it was for families who have lost loved ones, saying she had been in the same situation.

In response to a question from a journalist who said Mathias Cormann had described the premier as "cold hearted and nasty", Ms Palaszczuk said "these are difficult decisions and they are heartbreaking".

"I am human just like everybody else," she said.

"These issues hurt me deeply, because during this pandemic I've lost loved ones as well, so I know exactly what people are going through."

Sarah Caisip became the centre of a political tug-of-war on Thursday after she was denied an exemption to attend her father’s funeral. Picture: Annette Dew
Sarah Caisip became the centre of a political tug-of-war on Thursday after she was denied an exemption to attend her father’s funeral. Picture: Annette Dew

 

It comes as the state records two new COVID-19 cases on Friday, both already in quarantine. In the last 24 hours, more than 9000 tests have been carried out across the state.

Speaking earlier on Friday morning, Ms Palaszczuk said the measures the state had in place were "keeping families safe".

"You can't have a strong economy unless you have a the right health response."

Ms Palaszczuk yesterday hit back at Prime Minister Scott Morrison for "bullying" after he became involved in Ms Caisip's plight to leave Brisbane quarantine to attend her father's funeral.

The case caught national attention, and prompted Mr Morrison to make a private and public plea to Ms Palaszczuk to be compassionate.

In response, Ms Palaszczuk said the political divisiveness was "disgusting and disgraceful" and remained firm in her strict border measures as mandated by the Chief Health Officer.

Ms Palaszczuk has copped widespread criticism in the past weeks over her strict stance on borders, with Today show host Sam Armytage this morning saying she "can't believe this is happening in Australia".

It's also sparked questions about why the ACT is deemed a hotspot, as there has been no new COVID-19 cases recorded in Canberra since July.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the two new cases had been confirmed on Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Attila Csaszar
Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the two new cases had been confirmed on Friday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Attila Csaszar

 

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said both cases had already been in quarantine and weren't deemed a risk to the community.

One of the new cases confirmed on Friday is the seventh member of one family to test positive, linked to the Queensland Corrective Services Academy cluster. The other is a confirmed community contact of a case linked to the Ipswich Hospital cluster.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Sonya Bennett addressed Mr Keans case, saying "there's a reason restrictions are in place."

She said there was a tough balancing act between ensuring compassionate grounds for exemption were granted, and protecting the community from COVID-19 transmission.

"I think there's many more cases, similar stories that are heartbreaking that the department are addressing," she said.

Originally published as Scientist makes Chinese lab claim as Vic cases drop


Council approve $50k Tara pool remediation works for summer season

Premium Content Council approve $50k Tara pool remediation works for summer...

WESTERN Downs Regional Council has approved urgent works to repair the Tara Pool...

REPLAY: Palaszczuk v Frecklington in final debate

REPLAY: Palaszczuk v Frecklington in final debate

Annastacia Palaszczuk v Deb Frecklington in final election debate

Tight lipped offender caught with drugs and stolen bow

Premium Content Tight lipped offender caught with drugs and stolen bow

‘No comment’: A young Tara man refused to answer any of police questions after they...