The Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has ruled out the possibility of ending Covid lockdown this Thursday, after the state announced 92 new cases of community transmission on Sunday, its highest daily total this year.
“Sadly, with these sorts of numbers, it is only fair that we be as upfront as possible and we make it clear to the community that we will not be able to open up, take all these rules off, in just a few days’ time,” Andrews said.
“We will get advice in the coming days. Decisions will also be made and they will be announced very soon thereafter as we always have done. This is – these are difficult numbers.”
Andrews said Victorian authorities are determined to avoid the massive surge in Covid-19 cases and strain on the healthcare system that New South Wales is experiencing. The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced 1,218 new Covid cases on Sunday, the highest daily total Australia has seen since the pandemic began.
“If you look to the experience in, say, NSW at the moment, I’m sure there are many thousands of nurses, many thousands of doctors, who are struggling with the fact that they will very soon, it would seem, have 1,000 patients in hospital,” Andrews said.
“We can avoid that. We have avoided that to this point, and we are determined to do that again.
“I know there is pain and there is challenge and it’s tough, but this getting out of hand, completely out of hand, is so much harder. So much harder.”
Of Victoria’s 92 new cases, only 63 have been linked to known clusters. The source of the remaining 29 cases is still under investigation.
Sunday’s announcement brings the total number of active community cases to 773. There are currently 44 Victorians in hospital, 13 of whom are in the ICU and nine that require a ventilator.
Victoria’s Covid-19 commander, Jeroen Weimar, said a majority of the new cases were associated with Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs.
“Over two-thirds [of cases] are associated within the northern and western suburbs and that is by far the largest concentration of cases we have outside the Shepparton area.”
Authorities are watching a growing cluster in the regional town of Shepparton, which now has 94 Covid cases in total, across 37 households. Members of the community have continued to come out in droves for Covid testing: over 1,300 tests administered in the area on Saturday, bringing the total to 23,000 in this outbreak.
Two school sites in the area that were previously deemed hotspots have also had their risk factor downgraded, releasing 1,000 primary close contacts from isolation.
Authorities were also closely monitoring an outbreak in bayside Port Melbourne.
But Weimar said there were only four positive cases there on Sunday – all staff connected to the exposure site at a car wash. Thirty primary close contacts have all been tested and were set to receive results on Sunday.
Weimar noted that a majority of people who contracted Covid-19 in this outbreak are under the age of 40. Of Victoria’s 773 total active cases, 171 are under the age of 10 and 131 are between 10 and 19 years old.
A further 300 positive cases are people between the ages of 20 and 39.
Andrews welcomed prime minister Scott Morrison’s commitment on Friday to distribute vaccines fairly across the states and territories, after more than half a million additional Pfizer doses from Poland were handed to NSW to help curb the state’s growing outbreak.
“It was about not having a situation where there continues to be preferential treatment as if what Victorians are living through isn’t real – of course it is. I think the best thing to do is as these additional stocks arrive, send them out in using the fairest method,” Andrews said.
But he expressed frustration that NSW’s extra doses have been used so that people could have picnics.
“I’m sure that other state premiers would have a similar view and it may well be the NSW view that they’ve had enough extra support now and now it’s time to not necessarily have them moving ahead, because the national plan is about all of us moving together. Not a national plan for picnics, just quietly,” Andrews said.
“The notion of giving up vaccines that, so that Victorians could go and have picnics, no, that’s not what we are doing.”