COVID threat in Melbourne grows as thousands packed into Melbourne’s CBD for NYE

COVID threat in Melbourne grows as thousands packed into Melbourne’s CBD for NYE

Thousands of Melburnians have been pictured crammed into Federation Square to ring in the New Year, ignoring the acting premier’s pleas and the growing threat of COVID.

Crowds of people were seen packed close together to celebrate the end of 2020, despite there being no fireworks display.

And out of those thousands of people, very few were seen wearing masks or distancing.

On Thursday, ahead of celebrations, Acting Premier Jacinta Allan announced masks would again be made mandatory at indoor settings in the state.

A view of Federation Square.
A view of Federation Square. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images
While few were wearing masks, the majority went without.
While few were wearing masks, the majority went without. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Restrictions were also tightened on the number of visitors residents could welcome into their homes.

Allan also issued a warning ahead of New Year’s Eve, telling Melburnians only those with dinner reservations should travel into the CBD.

“Every Victorian deserves the right to mark what has been the most challenging year for all of us,” Allan said.

Crowds gathered at Federation Square for celebrations.
Crowds gathered at Federation Square for celebrations. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images
Police were at the scene.
Police were at the scene. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

“Unfortunately we know this virus is a rampant, difficult virus, it does not end at midnight tonight.

“If you are planning on coming into the city, only people with a booking at a hospitality venue are requested to come into the city.

“We are also reminding people as they are moving around over the course of New Year’s Eve and into New Year’s Day, if you are sick and have symptoms, please do not go out.”

People were seen dancing in the square.
People were seen dancing in the square. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Melbourne has recorded eight cases of locally acquired COVID as health authorities work to determine if the source of the outbreak is a traveller from Sydney.

So far, more than a dozen venues have been put on alert, with residents being asked to isolate and get tested for the virus.

Victorian Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said officers were overall pleased with crowd behaviour on the New Year’s Eve.

“This New Year’s Eve was one of the quietest we have seen in decades,” he said.

A view of Federation Square.
A view of Federation Square. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

“It was pleasing to see the majority of Victorians celebrating the new year safely by taking responsibility for their own behaviour and looking out for their mates.”

“As always, there were a small number of people who chose to do the wrong thing.

“Those people faced a swift and firm response from police so that the broader community was not impacted by their actions.”

“It appears that the majority of the community were quickly adaptive to the Chief Health Officer directions which came into effect yesterday evening, with many choosing to stay home in small numbers.”

Sydney still eyeing half-full SCG for Test

Sydney’s push for a half-full SCG during the Third Test will continue despite a spike in coronavirus cases.

As a second Sydney cluster was confirmed on Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said a 50 per cent capacity at the SCG would be safer than people gathering at homes.

Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly said he would be advising his elderly cricket-tragic family members not to attend the Test, but had no major issue with the match taking place in Sydney.

Next week’s third Test between Australia and India in Sydney will remain as the pink Test for the McGrath Foundation, but several crowd protocols will change.

Tens of thousands of cricket fans could soon attend the Sydney Test despite the worrying rise in case numbers.
Tens of thousands of cricket fans could soon attend the Sydney Test despite the worrying rise in case numbers. Credit: Getty

Spectators will be warned against yelling and chanting while fans will also be urged to wear a mask when away from their seats.

Officials were on Wednesday morning trumpeting a 50 per cent capacity, planning for a “baseline” crowd of 19,000.

But even if 18 new COVID-19 cases hurts that push, the NSW government declared a 50 per cent capacity crowd as a safe option.

“The best health advice to us is that 50 per cent capacity of that venue in an outdoor setting is safer than being in a household in confined spaces,” Berejiklian said.

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