A way out of lockdown? Hope for Victoria and NSW as COVID-19 cases drop

It is looking more likely that Victoria will emerge from lockdown as scheduled on Tuesday night.

It is looking more likely that Victoria will emerge from lockdown as scheduled on Tuesday night. Photo: Getty

Victoria’s coronavirus cases have yet to fall to single digits, but there are positive signs restrictions will be eased on Tuesday as scheduled.

Meanwhile, New South Wales could be just weeks away from driving down cases numbers as low as Victoria, provided people stop mixing between households and abide by the rules.

All of the 11 cases Victoria recorded on Sunday were linked to current outbreaks and in quarantine for their entire infectious period, a situation Professor Bruce Thompson described as a “really good sign”.

If this is also the case on Monday, then that makes it “a lot more likely” for Victoria to start gradually opening up, said Professor Thompson, Dean of the School of Health Sciences at Swinburne University.

“I would have thought we were actually very, very close to being able to do that … If everything is contained, then why can’t you?” he said.

Victorian cabinet ministers and the state’s public health team will meet on Sunday night and Monday to discuss the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

“The strategy is working but it’s still too early for me to be able to tell Victorians what will happen at midnight on Tuesday night,” Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday.

“There is still a couple of days to go, and as we know … things can change. This is fast moving.”

Because all of Sunday’s cases were in quarantine during their infectious period they created no new Victorian exposure sites.

Deakin University chair in epidemiology Professor Catherine Bennett described this as “great news”.

“Certainly, the case numbers and the profile of those cases is very encouraging,” she said.

“But they need everything else to be as complete as it can be to reassure them that there are no missed chains of transmission.”

On Saturday, the Victorian Department of Health revealed two of the 12 reported cases had not been in quarantine throughout their entire infectious period.

“So there’s still a lot of follow-up to do with those,” Professor Bennett said.

Health authorities also have to take into account the risk that a positive case might have been missed.

Someone could have been exposed to the virus but not identified as a primary contact, or they could have failed to come forward for testing or been out in the community while infectious.

“Every day where we don’t have an unlinked case is a good indication that that’s less likely to be the case,” Professor Bennett said.

“If it continues today, and tomorrow and the next [day] and they think that we’re tracking well, and they’re confident that they haven’t missed any contacts … then I think we will see easing.

“[But] I think it’ll be gradual easing.”

‘The thing that gets Sydney out of lockdown’

Those in NSW must closely follow the rules if case numbers are to fall. Photo: Getty

NSW reported 141 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, 38 of which were infectious in the community and 14 of which remain under investigation.

Tragically, two women died in hospital after contracting the virus. That brought the death toll of the Delta outbreak in NSW to eight.

It was revealed that one of the victims was aged in her 30s and had no prior medical conditions, prompting experts to again warn that COVID-19 is not just dangerous for older Australians.

The other death was a woman in her 70s from south-west Sydney.

Three new high-risk exposure sites were named late on Sunday.

Anyone who visited these places at the specified time is deemed a close contact and must quarantine for 14 days:

  • Canterbury Late Night Pharmacy in Campsie on 22 July between 7.40pm and 7.50pm;
  • Threefold Pastry in Parramatta on 16 July between 10am and 3pm;
  • newsXpress in Seven Hills on 19 July between 4.15pm to 4.25pm.

Dozens of other places have been identified as exposure sites where ‘casual contacts’ may have contracted COVID-19 from confirmed cases.

  • Click here to see the full list of NSW exposure sites

Although it may appear to the casual observer that the state’s restrictions are failing to have their desired effect, Professor Bennett said NSW has the potential to bring down its case numbers faster than Victoria did at the height of its second wave.

Between late July and early August last year, when Victorian authorities were still building public health measures and contact tracing to respond to outbreaks, daily case numbers in the state soared past 700.

“Still, within four weeks, we went from 200 (cases) down through the teens and we saw our first day where we had 14 cases,” Professor Bennet said.

She said NSW can bring its case numbers “down even faster than Melbourne” – if people stopped mixing between households.

“It will be the thing that gets Sydney out of lockdown,” she said of the need for households to keep separate.

“If everybody did this for two weeks, this would make a big difference. That two weeks would be enough that the virus would die out in households.

“And you would just then be dealing with any cases that are still being cycled through essential work or other places. And those numbers haven’t been too high.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said her government would this week start “critical planning” on policy settings after the lockdown’s scheduled end on July 30.

Ms Berejiklian said she wanted to “get the right balance” and provide freedoms where risk of transmitting the virus is minimal.

-with AAP

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