The number of fresh coronavirus cases in Victoria continues to stabilise, as emergency laws to combat the disease and its effects in the state have been given the green light.
The legislation cleared state parliament on Thursday evening during an emergency sitting, in which limited MPs were permitted in the chamber.
The government now plans to borrow $24.5 billion to help the state combat the economic carnage from the virus.
The mammoth COVID-19 omnibus also includes temporary changes, including the introduction of judge-alone criminal trials, virtual meetings for state and council politicians, WorkCover extensions and a ban on evictions and rent increases, with a sunset clause of six months.
As well, the Victorian government has set up a dedicated taskforce to help keep the state’s building and development industry running through the crisis.
It has approved four new projects worth more than $1.5 billion.
Planning Minister Richard Wynne and Treasurer Tim Pallas will oversee the Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce.
Meanwhile, Victoria recorded its 16th coronavirus death on Thursday, with the disease claiming the life of a man in his 60s.
But in a promising sign, only one new case was reported.
“We have seen a stabilisation of the numbers in recent days and, in fact, there have been no further cases of community transmission,” Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.
Twenty-seven people are in hospital with the virus, including 10 in intensive care.
So far, 1251 people have recovered and more than 93,000 Victorians have been tested.
The state government’s omnibus bill passed with the support of the coalition, despite Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien’s concerns it grants unprecedented powers to the justice system.
He has also called for greater scrutiny of the government’s response to the pandemic, which is being overseen by the Labor-chaired Public Accounts and Estimates Committee.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he was confident in the committee, which will have equal numbers of government and non-government members following the appointment of Liberal Democrats MP David Limbrick on Thursday.