Australia news LIVE: Victoria warned of possible lockdown extension due to COVID surge; restrictions for parts of Queensland ahead of NRL grand final; NSW tornado clean-up begins

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Victoria’s lockdown lifting could be delayed if grand final case spike becomes trend

Melbourne’s road out of lockdown might drag on longer if a leap in COVID-19 cases linked to illegal home gatherings and parties at the grand final long weekend becomes a trend.

Victoria recorded 1438 new cases on Thursday – 488 more than Wednesday and by far the highest daily total on record. Contact tracing interviews revealed about 500 of the new cases may have stemmed from gatherings on Friday and Saturday. Five deaths were also recorded.

COVID-19 response commander Jeroen Weimar described the weekend’s rule-breaking as a city-wide superspreading event that pushed the virus into new pockets of Melbourne.

He said it could result in case numbers reaching the upper range of the Burnet Institute’s outbreak modelling, though one of the lead modellers cautioned against reading too much into one day’s data.

Read more about the situation unfolding in Victoria here.

Tornado rips through NSW Central West

A tornado left a path of destruction in the NSW Central West and hail was reported in Sydney’s north-west yesterday, with severe thunderstorm warnings issued for much of the state.

“There are reports of damage to houses, powerlines and trees around the Clear Creek area, north north-east of Bathurst,” the Bureau of Meteorology said of the tornado on Thursday afternoon.

A tornado in Bathurst on Thursday afternoon. Credit:OnScene

It said reports of damage stretch 25 to 30 kilometres, with the path running roughly north west.

BOM spokesman Daniel Barty said he “can’t say” the tornado was on the ground the whole time, but the distance is a track map “from the first report of damage to the last report of damage that we know of so far”.

She said tornadoes in general are “pretty rare” and localised at an even smaller scale than thunderstorms.

Read more about the damage here.

Experts back decision not to lock Queensland down but clock is ticking

Health experts are backing the Queensland government’s decision not to throw the state into lockdown after multiple virus clusters arose at once, but say the threshold for doing so is approaching rapidly.

Queensland recorded six new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, four linked to the so-called aviation cluster and two others in separate individuals who caught the virus interstate.

The corner of Albert and Elizabeth streets in Brisbane’s CBD. An infectious case visited multiple sites in the vicinity recently.Credit:Tony Moore

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had foreshadowed an “important announcement” at Thursday’s press conference, raising speculation a lockdown would be announced.

However the state was spared, instead seeing level two restrictions imposed – including a cap of 30 people at private homes, a return of the four-square-metre rule for pubs and cafes, and a slashing of sport stadium capacities by 25 per cent, which means thousands of ticket-holders will miss Sunday’s NRL grand final.

Pressed on the issue, Ms Palaszczuk strongly denied the government had avoided going into lockdown in part to ensure the NRL final went ahead.

More on the situation unfolding in Queensland here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning and thanks for your company.

It’s Friday, October 1. I’m Broede Carmody and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

Here’s everything you need to know before we get started.

  • Melbourne’s lockdown could be extended if COVID-19 cases continue to surge off the back of illegal home gatherings. Yesterday, Victoria recorded 1438 new cases and five deaths – a daily record for the state and 488 more cases than Wednesday’s tally of 950. The jump in cases has been attributed to people celebrating last weekend’s AFL grand final. Authorities have described the situation as a “significant setback” and there are reports the state’s hospital system is under strain. Meanwhile, Victoria has decided to implement a three-week gap between Pfizer jabs.
  • NSW is planning to overhaul its contact tracing measures ahead of scrapping stay-at-home orders later this month. Yesterday, NSW reported 941 new cases of COVID-19 and six deaths and the state has confirmed it will maintain its contribution to the JobSaver program until the end of November (the federal government is planning to wind-back coronavirus support measures). Meanwhile, regional NSW residents faced a freak weather event yesterday. A tornado destroyed properties and brought down powerlines in the Central West region near Bathurst.
  • All eyes are on Queensland’s case numbers today given Sunday’s NRL grand final in Brisbane. The Sunshine State recorded six new cases of coronavirus yesterday, with four linked to the so-called aviation cluster. Stage two restrictions in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Logan and Moreton Bay came into effect yesterday (also further north at Palm Island and Townsville). No more than 30 people can gather at homes and weddings and funerals are capped at 100 guests for those local government areas. There is also a one person per four square metres rule for restaurants and cafes and a quarter of NRL grand final ticket holders will miss out on watching the big game in person due to reduced seating capacity.
  • The ACT yesterday recorded 31 new cases of COVID-19, up from 22 the day before. There are 10 coronavirus patients in Canberra hospitals and Chief Minister Andrew Barr wants the territory out of lockdown by the middle of next month.
  • South Australia recorded one new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. The man, who is in 20s, is a truck driver who travelled to and from Melbourne for work. His close contacts have so far tested negative to the virus.
  • And in overseas news, the police officer accused of murdering British woman Sarah Everard has been sentenced to life in prison.
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