Gannawarra records first COVID-19 case

THE Victorian Department of Health and Human Services says the Gannawarra local government area has recorded its first case of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Sixty-seven new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed yesterday — bringing the total number of cases in Victoria to 296.

The new cases include 42 men and 25 women, with people aged from late teens to early 80s.

Mildura recorded its first case of COVID-19 on Saturday afternoon as the number of cases in regional communities increased.

It comes as the Victorian and NSW governments pushed yesterday for a widespread shutdown of schools, bars and restaurants in a drastic measure to stop the spread of the pandemic.

At the time of print, they were planning to push for the measures at a meeting of the national cabinet last night.

Victoria will also push for schools to be shut from tomorrow, and if it cannot reach a wider agreement with the federal government, will go it alone.

South Australia will shut its borders tomorrow from 4pm, meaning anyone who enters the state will be forced into 14 days isolation.

"We do not make this decision lightly, but we have no choice," SA Premier Steven Marshall said.

At the weekend, the federal and Victorian governments announced financial packages to pump billions of dollars into the economy to help businesses and workers survive the impacts.

As part of the package, the Victorian Government will provide full payroll tax refunds for the 2019-20 financial year to small and medium-sized businesses with payroll of less than $3 million — giving $550 million back to businesses who need it.

Commercial tenants in government buildings can apply for rent relief — a move private landlords are also being encouraged to undertake — and 2020 land tax payments will be deferred for eligible small businesses.

The government will establish a $500 million Working for Victoria Fund in consultation with the Victorian Council of Social Services and Victorian Trades Hall Council.

The fund will help workers who have lost their jobs find new opportunities, including work cleaning public infrastructure or delivering food — providing vital contributions to our state's response to the pandemic and affording those Victorians security when its needed most.

The government will also facilitate job matching to help Victorians find short-term or casual roles.

"We've listened to business and workers and now we're taking unique and unprecedented action to help businesses and their workers through this crisis," Mr Andrews said.

Mr Andrews admitted Victoria will "get to a very bad place in terms of public health" in the weeks and months ahead.

He urged Victorians to listen to the government's advice on isolation measures and social distancing, saying that efforts to contain the virus are "no joke".

"If we don't flatten the curve and suppress the number of people testing positive, the spread of the virus (will continue), hospitals will be overwhelmed and that means more people will die."

The federal government's $66 billion second stage of its economic plan includes early release of superannuation, payment boost for job seekers and increased cash flow for employers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was acting to cushion the blow from the coronavirus for businesses and households to help them get through to the other side of the crisis.

"We want to help businesses keep going as best they can and for as long as they can, or to pause instead of winding up their business. We want to ensure that when this crisis has passed Australian businesses can bounce back," Mr Morrison said.

"Our focus is on cushioning the blow and providing hope to every Australian that we will get through this and come out the other side together.

"We know this will be temporary. That's why all our actions are geared towards building a bridge, keeping more people in work, enhancing the safety net for those that aren't and keeping businesses alive so they can get to the other side and stand up their workforce as quickly as possible."

Victoria's chief health officer, Dr Brett Sutton, said while most Victorians are voluntarily complying with requests to isolate, police have strong powers to enforce the direction if it's required.

Under the Victorian state of emergency, people who don't comply with a directive could receive a fine of up to $20,000. Companies face fines of up to $100,000.

"For the virus to spread, extended close personal contact is most likely required. Close personal contact is at least 15 minutes face-to-face or more than two hours in the same room," Dr Sutton said.