Good evening, here are the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic in Australia. This is Naaman Zhou and it’s Friday 14 August.
Deadliest-day record broken twice, and man in his 20s dies
Australia recorded its three deadliest days of the coronavirus pandemic, breaking the record for overnight death toll twice in one week. Nineteen people died in Victoria in the 24 hours to Monday (14 of whom were people in aged care), 19 people died in the 24 hours to Tuesday (14 in aged care) and 21 people died in the 24 hours to Wednesday (16 in aged care). The previous highest death toll was 15 people, recorded on Wednesday last week.
On Friday, a man in his 20s became the youngest person in Australia to die from Covid-19, announced by the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews.
Curve starts to flatten in Victoria
However, in good news, new case numbers in Victoria began to drop this week, with Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, Prof Michael Kidd, saying there were the “first promising signs of a significant reduction”. On Thursday, Victoria reported its lowest number of new Covid-19 cases for the entire month, with 278 new cases.
Aged care failings due to ‘self-congratulation’ and ‘hubris’
The royal commission into aged care held a week of urgent inquiries into how Covid-19 entered the nation’s aged care homes. The counsel assisting the commission, Peter Rozen, delivered a scathing closing address that said the federal government acted with “self-congratulation” and “hubris” by not preparing Victoria for a devastating outbreak that killed more than 200 people.
Rozen said the federal government, which has responsibility for private aged care, did not learn the lessons from earlier outbreaks in New South Wales aged care homes. He said masks were made compulsory too late, that the former chief medical officer Dr Brendan Murphy did not know what legal order made the masks compulsory, and that all blanket bans on visitors should be removed.
Inquiry into Ruby Princess cluster releases final report
The Ruby Princess inquiry has declined to make any recommendations against NSW Health, despite finding that it made multiple “serious”, “inexplicable” and “basic” errors, saying “it is unhelpful to make recommendations to experts that in truth amount to no more than ‘do your job’”.
The final report, written by commissioner Bret Walker SC and released on Friday, also declined to make any recommendations against the cruise ship’s operator, Carnival Australia, and said the Australian Border Force had “no relevant responsibility” and did “not play any part in the mishap”.
Walker also said that calls for the NSW health minister, Brad Hazzard, to resign were based on a “farcical” idea of government.
Catholic schools outbreak in Sydney
In NSW, a cluster centred around the Tangara school in Sydney grew to 21, and the source of the initial infection is still unknown. Two other Catholic schools – Our Lady of Mercy College in Parramatta and St Vincent’s College at Potts Point – were closed for cleaning after students also tested positive.
Police were called in to investigate whether Tangara had broken rules but a police spokeswoman on Friday confirmed the college had been cleared following a probe.
Three healthcare workers at Liverpool hospital and two at Hornsby hospital also tested positive, but NSW Health said the risk of infection spreading was low.
The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, strongly recommended masks be worn in enclosed spaces such as public transport, supermarkets or churches, but has not made it mandatory. She said she wore a mask while shopping.
More than 1 million jobless before lockdown
Australia’s official unemployment figures revealed that more than 1 million Australians were out of work in July, as the official unemployment rate rose to 7.5%. However, that survey was completed before Victoria implemented its stage-four lockdown in Melbourne and harsher lockdowns throughout the state – meaning the current jobless rate is likely higher.
New Zealand records 30 new cases – after 102 days without one
New Zealand recorded 30 new cases by Friday, after months of zero infections. On Tuesday, the country announced its first confirmed cases outside of isolation in 102 days. By Friday, that number had grown to 30 as part of an outbreak in Auckland. Two cases, linked to the Auckland outbreak, were discovered in the town of Tokoroa, 200km south of the capital city.
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said Auckland would remain in level-three lockdown for an additional 12 days as health workers looked to contain the “perimeter” of the outbreak, the source of which remains a mystery. She said a North Island-wide lockdown was not being considered.
The rest of the country remains at alert level two, and the cabinet is due to make a further lockdown decision on 21 August.
Border fee moratorium
NSW announced a month’s “grace period” for hotel quarantine fees, allowing NSW residents to return from Victoria without charge. Berejiklian had announced last week that all returning NSW residents would be placed into hotel quarantine for 14 days and have to pay for it themselves. But on Wednesday she said the charges would be waived for a month, to give people time to adjust.
She announced a five-day window for ACT residents, who were stuck attempting to return home from Victoria, to pass through NSW on their way home. Previously, residents had been stranded, even if they had permits to return to the ACT.
NT border may be shut for 18 months
In the Northern Territory, the chief minister, Michael Gunner, said it could be 18 months before it reopens its border to Victoria and NSW. Currently people from declared hotspots – which includes NSW and Victoria – can enter, but must quarantine for 14 days at their own cost, not in hotels but in government-mandated accommodation.
What you need to know: get the most important information from some of our key explainers
Looking for more coverage? Read the latest news from across the Guardian’s global network