National News

Premier defensive as Vic records 10 cases

Premier Daniel Andrews has defended three senior public servants after the hotel quarantine inquiry heard they failed to brief ministers on major problems in the program.

Lawyers assisting the inquiry on Monday said the botched program was to blame for the state's second wave of coronavirus, which has infected 18,000 people and claimed more than 750 lives.

Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles, Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kym Peake and Department of Jobs secretary Simon Phemister were singled out for failing to bring "significant issues" to their ministers' attention.

"The evidence demonstrates attitudes to transparency and accountability that likely manifested in practices contributes to the problems within the hotel quarantine program," Tony Neal QC said.

"They likely contributed to a loss in opportunities to identify issues which may have prompted better, fuller and more timely action."

Asked if the trio were now briefing ministers, Mr Andrews told reporters: "Yes, I believe they are."

"I'm confident that those three public servants - indeed all public servants - are acting appropriately," he said on Tuesday.

"If that were not the case ... I would not be standing here reporting 326 active cases, nor would I be reporting 10 new cases when six weeks ago we had 725."

It comes as Victoria recorded 10 new cases of COVID-19 and seven more deaths on Tuesday, bringing the state's death toll to 794 and the national figure to 882.

The state's latest victims include a man in his 60s, a man in his 70s, a woman and two men in their 80s and a woman and a man in their 90s.

Six of the seven deaths are linked to outbreaks in aged care.

Three of the new cases are linked to known outbreaks, while seven remain under investigation. None are in regional Victoria.

Melbourne's 14-day average is now at 18.2 cases. It needs to drop below five and there must be fewer than five mystery cases for a fortnight before the state eases restrictions further.

Under step three, the five-kilometre limit on movement will be scrapped, shops will be able to reopen and cafes and restaurants will be able to seat diners.

Originally, the earliest date the metropolitan region could move to step three was October 26 but the date has been brought forward a week to October 19.

Schools will begin a staged return to face-to-face learning from October 12, though there are no plans for years 8 to 10 to return soon.

"I note that timetable has been accelerated for some of the year levels but I cannot see why all students can't get back to school in Victoria now," federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

He said the mental health of young people was suffering as a result of the state's lockdown.

The following step on Victoria's road map out of restrictions requires zero new cases in the community for more than 14 days.

But the premier insists suppression, not eradication, remains Victoria's coronavirus goal.

It comes after his former health minister Jenny Mikakos tweeted: "We are well on the way to eradication."

Ms Mikakos resigned after the premier told the hotel quarantine inquiry that her department was ultimately responsible for the botched quarantine program.

In a statement posted to Twitter, she said there were "clearly matters my department should have briefed me on".

"Whether they would have changed the course of events only the board (of inquiry) and history can determine," Ms Mikakos said.

The inquiry, headed by retired judge Jennifer Coate, has asked for an additional $2.7 million in funding, on top of $3 million already provided by the government.

Its final report is due on November 6.

© AAP 2020