Hope for Victorians as COVID cases sink to lowest levels in weeks

Victorians have their clearest sign yet that Melbourne’s tough virus shutdown is working, with the lowest daily infection rise in weeks.

State health authorities confirmed 116 new COVID cases on Monday – the lowest since 124 were reported on July 6 and 67 on July 5.

Monday’s number is also more than 90 fewer than the 208 reported on Sunday.

Sadly, the state’s death toll has risen further, with 15 more fatalities confirmed. The pandemic has claimed the lives of 430 Victorians (the national toll is 517).

They were seven men and eight women ranging in age from their 80s to more than 100. All were related to outbreaks in aged care.

Premier Daniel Andrews said there 4028 mystery cases across the state – up 100 from Sunday.

He also noted that cases in regional Victoria were falling steadily.

There are now 88 infections in greater Geelong, 24 in Bendigo, and none in the Ballarat region.

“That is a much improved position than where we were 10 days, 14 days ago, when it came to those big regional cities,” he said.

“That shouldn’t promote, at any sense, the notion that this is done. That you can be complacent in any community, but that is certainly the trend we wanted to see.”

Mr Andrews also praised Victorians for complying with the state’s strict public health rules, as they passed the halfway mark of the six weeks of restrictions.

“That is why we have a one in front of these numbers, and we are on the verge of getting into double digits. It wasn’t that long ago that we had
more than 700 cases on a given day,” he said.

“This is a very difficult day for those 15 families that I have just alluded to, it is a very difficult day for many other Victorians out of work, who have a sense of uncertainty, and indeed a fatigue, but if we don’t see this through, if we don’t stay the course, then all of that sacrifice, all of that pain and loss, will be for nothing.”

Mr Andrews also said the government wanted to extend the state of emergency by another 12 months when Parliament resumes to combat the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Parliament must approve the change, because under current legislation the state of emergency cannot extend beyond six months.

He said it was “logical” to keep the state of emergency until a vaccine is available, meaning police can enforce measures such as people who test positive having to isolate.

It is separate to the state of disaster, which was declared on August 2 when Melbourne went into its stage-four lockdown and means police can enforce the city’s 8pm to 5am curfew.

In other developments on Monday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed one new case in the state as authorities try to contain the spread of a cluster at a Brisbane detention centre.

The new case is a woman who is a close contact of a person from the youth detention centre.

Queensland Health has issued public health alerts for more than 55 sites across the state’s south-east as it fights to contain the detention centre outbreak.

Melburnians still have at least three weeks of their tough shutdown to go.

Chief health officer Jeannette Young has also urged residents of Brisbane and Ipswich to wear masks in situations where they can’t social distance.

“A bit of hand sanitiser in your back pocket or your handbag, and a mask with it and if you get yourself into a situation where you
cannot socially distance, it’s time to consider using a mask,” she said.

“I’m not going to mandate it because I don’t believe we have broad-spread community transmission, but certainly we’re in a risky period.”

NSW had three more cases on Monday, two in hotel quarantine and one from community transmission.

Back in Melbourne, Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, defiantly declared on Sunday that hard-won gains would continue.

“We’re not going to see 300 and 400 [cases] again in Victoria under my watch, at least,” he said.

“We’re applying a strategy that is driving cases down.”

Melbourne residents still have at least another three weeks of Stage 4 restrictions, including an overnight curfew. Regional Victorians are living under slightly less onerous level three restrictions.

All will last until at least September 13.

-with AAP

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