Jennifer Coate sitting at desk in front of hotel quarantine inquiry sign
Justice Jennifer Coate heading the inquiry into Victoria's hotel quarantine scandal. (Image: AAP/James Ross)

A new coronavirus cluster emerges in NSW. Victoria begins its hotel quarantine inquiry and asks Melburnians to wear masks. And another day in the catastrophe that is the United States’ pandemic response.

Sydney spread 

A rise in NSW cases is giving everyone a lot to be worried about, with fears of a new cluster emerging on the New South Wales south coast. 

The Batemans Bay Soldiers Club has closed after eight people, including two staff members and a family who dined there, tested positive to the virus.

Cases are also popping up all over Sydney, mostly at pubs and clubs, which are fast becoming the latest hotbed for transmission. It comes amid concerns a second wave could hit NSW harder than Victoria, with experts saying lax social distancing in Sydney could expose them to a second lockdown. 

But the NSW government has been reluctant to shut down its beloved pubs, instead choosing to focus on the threat from its southern border. On the weekend it introduced tougher border rules with Victoria, meaning Victorians will only be able to enter NSW for “extremely limited purposes” such as work and health requirements.

Victoria masks up

It’s a big day for Victoria, with the inquiry into the hotel quarantine debacle begins with opening statements from former judge Jennifer Coate.

Overnight, Victoria recorded another 275 new cases, and one death.

Meanwhile, masks will be compulsory for anyone in the Melbourne metropolitan area or Mitchell Shire leaving their homes from Thursday. This includes children over the age of 12. Even joggers will have to have a mask “on them” at all times or face a fine of $200. 

But as Premier Daniel Andrews revealed on Sunday, the threat is not from joggers or supermarket shoppers (or for that matter, Brighton walkers). Around 80% of cases in the state are linked to workplaces, namely casual and insecure staff working at private sector aged care homes and abattoirs.

An outbreak at a JBS abattoir in Brooklyn is linked to 35 infections, while a cluster linked to Somerville Retail Services, a meat processing facility in Tottenham, has risen to 53 cases. 

Parliament cancelled 

Sorry, but parliament’s August sitting is cancelled — acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly says it is too risky for politicians to attend Canberra while community transition in Victoria and NSW is high (apparently it’s too hard for politicians to get on Zoom like the rest of us). 

Labor and the Greens have criticised the decision, with Labor saying it should be postponed instead of cancelled, and the Greens saying other options should have been considered.

“Democracy should not be a victim of the pandemic,” Greens leader Adam Bandt said.

Parliament is now due to return on August 24. But don’t worry, it’s not like there is anything important to debate until then — just the next phase of the critically-important JobKeeper scheme to be announced this week, something that will determine whether Australia’s economy survives the pandemic. 

Trump sees elephants

The US continues to shatter its daily coronavirus records, with Florida becoming the latest epicentre for the deadly disease. More than 12,000 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the state on Sunday — the fifth day in a row the state has recorded more than 10,000 cases. 

The death rate is also continuing to rise, with 775 new deaths on Saturday taking the total number of deaths to 140,000.

US President Donald Trump was taken to task over his catastrophic failure to manage the crisis in a shocking interview on Fox News (shocking mainly because it was on Fox News). 

The president once again propagated false claims about the virus and his position in the polls, saying the US had one of the lowest COVID-19 mortality rates in the world (it has the eighth highest) and that he was “not losing” in the polls, because the polls were fake. 

The interview took some bizarre turns, including an argument about whether identifying an elephant was strong evidence of mental stability. It was another sign that Fox’s once cosy relationship with the president was on the decline. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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