Victorian health minister says NSW’s 1,000 Covid cases a day is not ‘a sign of hope’

The Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, has dismissed suggestions that Victoria should follow New South Wales in easing some restrictions before the Covid outbreak appears to be under control, saying that easing restrictions is not a sign of hope if daily case numbers keep climbing.

He also dismissed a suggestion made by some federal politicians that Australia’s healthcare system was not under strain.

“I’m not sure 1,000 cases a day is a sign of hope,” Foley told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.

“I’m not sure hundreds and hundreds of people in acutely unwell conditions in a hospital system that is getting increasingly stretched, despite the protestations of federal ministers who would not frankly know what the situation of delivering a single service in a hospital is [is a sign of hope].

“I am pretty sure that if you asked those intensive care nurses in Sydney hospitals at the moment how they saw the situation, it would not be a rosy picture. We are not going to put our health system under that sort of stress and strain.”

Victoria recorded 64 new cases on Saturday, including 15 cases where the source of acquisition is unknown. Thirty-nine of the cases were in isolation for their entire infectious period.

There are currently 42 people in hospital with Covid in Victoria and eight in intensive care.

NSW recorded 1,034 locally acquired cases and two deaths. There are 778 people in hospital with Covid-19 in NSW.

From Friday, weddings will be allowed to resume in Sydney with five guests, not including the couple and officiants. Weddings are only allowed to go ahead in Melbourne in exceptional circumstances, such as end of life.

Foley said the hope offered to Victorians was the prospect of getting out of lockdown with “manageable levels” of positive cases in the community, “levels that we know will allow us to change our settings”.

“If that’s then supported by high vaccinations, that gives us that prospect of hope. That gives us that prospect of coming out the other side of this as soon as possible.”

Foley said that Victoria would expect to receive its fair share of any new vaccine supply dished out by the federal government, saying the “thing that’s holding us back is supply”.

“And if the commonwealth’s got more supply, or if they’re talking to others about more supply, the sooner they share that with us the sooner we get that out to Victorians.”

He also dismissed a suggestion that the Victorian government could provide financial support to GP clinics that are open on the weekend to operate vaccination clinics, saying that funding GP clinics through the vaccine rollout is a commonwealth responsibility.

“At what point does the commonwealth stop outsourcing its responsibilities to the state?” he said.

Victoria’s Covid-19 response commander, Jeroen Weimar, said he remained concerned about the number of unlinked cases reported in the daily numbers but said 20 mystery cases had been linked to known outbreaks in recent days, bringing the total unliked to 41 out of 701 active cases.

Weimar said the Shepparton outbreak was now coming under control, despite seven new cases reported today.

A fully-vaccinated aged care worker who lives in Shepparton but works in Echuca, and who tested positive to the virus on Friday, has since tested negative, Weimar says. He says it was not a false positive test, just a sign that vaccines can speed recovery from the virus. Anyone who was at any of the exposure sites listed in Echuca is still required to test and isolate.

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