Premier Daniel Andrews has warned that Victorians can be “certain” there will be “some significant community transmission” of Covid-19 as a result of a spike in virus cases in the past week.
On Tuesday Victoria recorded its seventh consecutive day of a double-digit increase in cases, with Andrews confirming 17 new cases had been identified overnight.
“One is from hotel quarantine,” he said. “Two are associated with known outbreaks. Three are the subject of routine testing, and 11 are still under investigation. So what we can be certain of is that there will be some significant community transmission within those numbers. As we said on Saturday, and indeed again yesterday, this is still with us. This is not over.”
The priority for the state’s health department will be contact tracing to find all of those who may have come into contact with people infected, and where those infected may have contracted the virus. People living in the local council areas most affected are being urged to get tested no matter how mild their symptoms may be.
But Andrews acknowledged the uptick in cases was putting pressure on testing services. However, he encouraged Victorians not just to rely on pop-up clinics at shopping centres and to also call their local GP to see if testing was available there. In the meantime, “an army” of public health workers would be door-knocking in suburbs most affected to ensure people were aware of when to get tested and current restrictions.
“Unless you test every single Victorian at the same time, and then somehow get the results of those tests at the same time, you can never have a total and complete picture of how much community transmission [there is],” Andrews said.
He said while the strategy in Victoria was not to achieve zero cases – that task would be nearly impossible without complete shutdown – there were still more cases than the government would feel comfortable with.
“There is an acceptable level of new cases,” he said. “We’re not at that point now. The amount of community transmission that we’ve got is too high. We’ve got a really good handle on where it’s coming from, and it is, principally, families, larger families often, making decisions that are not in accordance with the rules and are not the right thing to do.”
Just because restrictions had been lifted to allow up to five visitors to a household, Andrews said this did not mean families should be visiting each other multiple times a week, and they must not visit anyone if they were sick or awaiting the result of a test.
Victoria’s deputy chief health officer, Dr Annaliese van Diemen, said there was no evidence Victoria was experiencing a more infectious strain than in other states. “Our overall hospitalisation rates, intensive care unit numbers, and death rates per numbers of cases are one of the lowest in the world, which indicates that we are finding a pretty good proportion of our cases,” she said.
“So, we are somewhat in a bubble here, and that’s fantastic, we’re really lucky, but this hasn’t gone away.”