Vic outbreak grows as feds eye quarantine

Andi Yu and Paul OsborneAAP
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has had to backtrack on hopes of significant eased restrictions.
Camera IconVictorian Premier Daniel Andrews has had to backtrack on hopes of significant eased restrictions.

Victoria's path out of COVID-19 restrictions, heavily pegged against the urgent national project of economic recovery, has hit a bump in the road.

The state recorded seven new cases on Saturday, prompting Premier Daniel Andrews to backtrack on previous indications of an easing of restrictions on Sunday.

His tone had been optimistic on Friday after reporting a single fresh case, saying Victoria was "very well placed".

But 24 hours later the message had changed.

"I just want to caution people from banking that tomorrow I'll be making a whole series of detailed announcements about opening up."

An outbreak in northern Melbourne is growing, and four of the seven latest cases are in the suburb of Preston, including a student from East Preston Islamic College, to which a few positive cases are already linked.

All staff and students from the college and a second school in northern Melbourne have been told to immediately get tested and hundreds of people considered close contacts are isolating.

Mystery cases in the area point to the likelihood of more cases than have been diagnosed.

The slight spike in infections comes as active cases throughout the state dipped below 100 for the first time since June and the two-week rolling average hit five.

Meanwhile, as 30,000 Australians seek to return home and industries such as agriculture want thousands of seasonal workers, the government is working through the findings of a review into quarantine.

The review sets out a range of options, including home-based isolation, greater use of technology such as monitoring bracelets and mobile apps and workplace-based systems.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is weighing up the possibility of other forms of quarantine, saying there is plenty of interest from universities and businesses in the alternatives.

"But there's no undue haste, there is undue risk ... so you don't want to build that aeroplane in the sky, you want to build it before it takes off," Mr Morrison said.

Australians have started arriving at the Howard Springs mining camp in the Northern Territory, which has been set up to boost Australia's hotel quarantine capacity.

The mining camp is expected to accommodate 5000 returning travellers over the next six months.

National cabinet on Friday agreed to lift the weekly cap on international arrivals by 290 places next month, with WA and Queensland to take in the extra travellers.

Federal government MP from Queensland Andrew Laming criticised his home state and WA on Saturday saying more Australians could have been home by now if it weren't for their strict border policies.

He said they had failed to be good federalists by "not playing ball when a Labor mate in Victoria was in trouble".

All states apart from WA have given in-principle backing to a plan to bring all Australians registered abroad home before Christmas.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said "making a rushed decision against health advice to meet an artificial deadline is not in the interest of all Western Australians".

The national coronavirus death toll remains at 905.

There were 16 new cases reported across the country on Saturday, with those in NSW (five) and WA (four) all in overseas travellers who are in hotel quarantine.

Worldwide there have been more than 42 million cases and more than 1.1 million deaths, with the United States faring the worst of all countries.

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