Hopes for Melbourne Businesses Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases

Hopes for Melbourne Businesses Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases
Closed Uniqlo store in Melbourne CBD, Australia on April 5, 2020. Retail told to wait til Nov. 1, 2020 to reopen due to stage four COVID-19 restrictions. (Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Melburnians are hoping for a further easing of coronavirus restrictions to be announced on Sunday in spite of a growing outbreak in the city's north.

The all-important two-week rolling case average is at five—the figure Victorian authorities have long wanted to trigger the next step out of lockdowns.

However, seven cases recorded on Saturday appear to present an obstacle.

"I just want to caution people from banking that tomorrow I'll be making a whole series of detailed announcements about opening up," Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Saturday.

The premier said tens of thousands of tests needed to be processed and the results are taken into account before any decisions were made.

He indicated health authorities would not lock down the affected suburbs as had been done in the past but rather may delay the easing of restrictions for the whole city.

About 800 residents in Melbourne's northern suburbs have already been isolating because of the East Preston Islamic College outbreak, which began when a family supposed to be isolating mistakenly sent a child back to school.

But Andrews disputed media reports that the family, and others in the area for whom English is a second language, were not provided with the translation support they needed.

"The notion that whenever something happens that ought not to happen, that is somehow a fundamental deficiency in our public health response is not fair," he said.

Victoria's head of testing and community engagement Jeroen Weimar said some of the family members spoke "excellent English."

More than 20,000 warnings have been sent via text and email to taxi and Uber drivers who might have visited the area, asking they go and get tested.

Health workers have been doorknocking homes and new drive-through testing sites are operating across three council areas in the northern region.

Further north, a number of secondary contacts at Sirius College in Broadmeadows and Ilim College are being tested after they were linked to separate close contacts of a confirmed case.

The Australian Industry Group's Victorian head Tim Piper pleaded for relief, saying Andrews had given businesses "every reason to expect an easing."

The state's death toll remained at 817 on Saturday and the national figure at 905, with only one death in the past week.

There are 10 cases in the two weeks up to Wednesday that have a mystery source.

At present, Melbourne residents are allowed to travel up to 25 kilometers from home. They cannot have visitors to their home unless for caregiving.

On-site hospitality and non-essential retailers remain closed.

Outdoor gatherings are capped at 10 people from two households and face masks must be worn in public.

By Andi Yu