National News

Victoria records 177 new COVID-19 cases

The second wave of coronavirus crashing over Victoria has exposed social and economic inequality, according to the state's chief health officer.

Victoria reported 177 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, with one a returned traveller in hotel quarantine, 25 connected to outbreaks and 151 under investigation.

It follows three consecutive days of case numbers exceeding 200.

"I'm not going to be complacent about today's number, it is great that it is lower than our peak, but we may not have reached our peak yet," Victoria's Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told reporters.

"I would like to see a week of decreasing numbers before I say I have greater confidence about the direction we're going in."

Professor Sutton said the state was seeing about four to five new outbreaks daily.

An outbreak at Somerville Meats meatworks in Tottenham has grown to 12 people, a day after five workers at JBS Meats in Brooklyn tested positive for COVID-19.

Both have been closed.

Prof Sutton said pandemics "shine a light" on social inequality and economic inequality.

People in insecure work were more likely to go to work with symptoms of coronavirus

"There's a number of people who have to make that very difficult choice between what is good for public health and the survival of their own family," Prof Sutton said.

Premier Daniel Andrews said there were $1500 hardship payments available for those in insecure work who had tested positive for coronavirus or were required to self-isolate.

Many hundreds of those payments had already been made, he said.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus, meanwhile, has been calling on the federal government to provide all workers with pandemic leave.

"Workplace transmission has been a serious problem in Victoria - we need to make sure that workers can stay home and keep workplaces safe," she told AAP.

"No one should be choosing between keeping their job and doing the right thing."

Outbreaks in aged-care facilities have also grown, with the Menarock Life residence in Essendon now totalling 26 staff and residents with the virus. It is the largest aged-care cluster of coronavirus in Victoria to date.

An outbreak at Glendale Aged Care in Werribee has grown to 13 cases, while Japara Central Park Aged Care in Windsor has two positive cases.

Prof Sutton said the clusters were being closely managed, as aged-care residents were "critically vulnerable" to the virus.

It comes as a staff member at the Mantra Hotel in Preston tested positive to COVID-19.

The hotel holds about 60 refugees and asylum seekers brought to Australia almost a year ago from Manus Island and Nauru under medevac legislation.

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed the staff member last worked at the hotel on July 4 before testing positive on July 8.

No other staff or detainees had shown symptoms or tested positive to COVID-19 and the hotel had undergone a deep clean, the spokesperson said.

Mustafa Azimi, who is detained at the hotel, says he is worried he will die if he contracts the virus.

"I am sure I will be infected by a staff member soon and I will die because I have asthma, many of us are already sick and many of us are at risk of dying," he said in a statement.

Victoria now has 1612 active coronavirus cases, with 72 people in hospital and 17 of those in intensive care.

A staff worker at a Kmart store in Greensborough tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the store's closure for deep cleaning on Tuesday.

About 1000 Australian Defence Force personnel are heading to Victoria to help enforce the state's lockdown and testing.

The premier urged Victorians to abide by restrictions and do their bit to stop the spread of the virus - "a clever, invisible enemy".

© AAP 2020