Victoria records second-lowest number of coronavirus cases in five weeks, but state told to strap in for ‘ultra-marathon’

Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed the second-lowest number of daily coronavirus cases in five weeks but warned Victoria moving out of stage 4 restrictions was a long way off.

Key points:

  • There are 674 active cases in healthcare workers, up from 668 on Friday
  • Active cases linked to aged care outbreaks have also declined by 43 to 1,689
  • Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the rule on masks could be changed when there was zero community transmission

Victoria recorded 182 new coronavirus cases on Saturday and a further 13 people have died.

It takes the state’s pandemic death toll to 398.

Mr Andrews said the deaths included a man in his 50s, a woman in her 70s, two men and three women in their 80s, three women in their 90s and one woman in her 100s.

Ten of the deaths are linked to aged care outbreaks.

There are 610 Victorians in hospital, including 36 in intensive care and 22 of those 36 are on ventilators.

The latest figures come as Racing Victoria locks down seven Cranbourne stables linked to a staff member who tested positive to COVID-19.

The staff member was working with Cranbourne trainer Richard Laming.

Jockeys Alexandra Bryan, Michael Walker and Jason Benbow have been stood down from riding pending a coronavirus test.

Racing is one of few industries that was allowed to remain open throughout stage 4 restrictions.

Racing Victoria organised testing at the Cranbourne Turf Club on Saturday and expected results to be known on Sunday.

Plea to Victorians to get tested continues

Mr Andrews encouraged anyone with symptoms of the virus to get tested this weekend and asked they not be deterred by the cold and wet weather.

“It means we will know more … which is very, very important for all of us,” he said.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said it remained crucial that at least 20,000 Victorians came forward for testing each day, and urged symptomatic people to be swabbed.

Professor Sutton said while the number of mystery cases had increased by 30, the figure did not relate to Saturday’s number but to the previous couple of weeks.

“The overall trend that I have seen is that a proportion of our total mystery cases are dropping,” he said.

Mr Andrews said there were now 674 active cases in healthcare workers, up from 668 on Friday.

An outbreak at the Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Royal Park campus is now linked to 155 infections.

Active cases linked to aged care outbreaks have declined by 43 to 1,689.

Cases in regional Victoria have also dropped — with Greater Geelong reporting 98 cases, 25 cases in Greater Bendigo, and four in Ballarat.

Cases in disability have risen by one to 63 — 50 staff and 13 residents — across 60 sites.

Premier Daniel Andrews stands at a podium addressing the media with Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton to the side.

Premier Daniel Andrews says there are 674 active cases in healthcare workers.(ABC News: Scott Jewell)

Professor Sutton said he remained particularly concerned about the Epping Gardens aged care outbreak, which has clocked 209 confirmed coronavirus cases.

He said an outbreak at the psychiatric ward at the Melbourne Clinic in Richmond was also a major focus. The source of that outbreak is unknown.

Melbourne lockdown will only end when second wave ‘crushed’

Professor Sutton said masks would need to be part and parcel of how Victorians go about their daily lives for some time after stage 4.

“It’s clear they are not always comfortable, they are not always convenient, but they are effective,” he said.

Professor Sutton said the rule on masks could be changed when there was close to no community transmission, or ideally zero community transmission cases.

“But there are other levels we can get to where maybe we don’t require masks in all settings at all times in the way it is recommended at the moment,” he said.

When asked about a possible end date for stage 4 restrictions, Professor Sutton said it remained a “grey area”.

He said he was aware of the widespread discomfort of the strict restrictions on citizens and businesses.

“It is absolutely painful to be in stage 4, there is no question, and the additional restrictions on businesses and what it means for everyone’s life is well known to the Government, is well known to me,” he said.

Brett Sutton stands with his hands clasped wearing a black mask and staring ahead.

Professor Sutton said there would need to be zero cases of community transmission before the rules around masks were changed.(ABC News: Scott Jewell)

Mr Andrews said he understood Victorians were looking forward to the end of lockdown.

“I want it to be over so it’s over. But we have to see it as an ultra-marathon,” he said.

“You’ve got to crush the second wave before we open up … otherwise, you’re just beginning the process of an inevitable third wave, the costs of which will be even greater.”

Border zones between Victoria and SA possible

Mr Andrews flagged the possibility of a border bubble between Victoria and South Australia, similar to the system operating in border communities shared with NSW.

It would mean Victorians could, for example, get fuel and food from a South Australian community, rather than taking a much longer journey to Horsham or Mildura.

A close-up map showing the border anomaly

Some Victorians are a lot closer to towns in SA than Victoria because of how the borders are structured.(ABC News: Stephan Hammat)

When asked about law enforcement at the border, Mr Andrews said he was pleased that of the 16,115 border checks, just 13 vehicles had been turned back for lacking the required permit.

He said it was a testament to the responsible behaviour of Victorian citizens during this time.

Mr Andrew was also asked why Health Minister Jenny Mikakos had not been at a daily press conference for 12 days.

He said she was “busy” and he “wouldn’t read anything into it”.

“She’s doing other things, lots of other things. When she needs to be here, she will be.”

Victoria Police issued 161 fines for suspected breaches of the Chief Health Officer directions in the 24 hours to 11:00am.

Of these, 24 were issued to people who failed to wear a face covering, 58 to people breaching curfew, and 13 fines were issued at vehicle checkpoints.

One of the fines issued was to a man not wearing a mask near Flinders Street Station who told police he “did not believe in restrictions”.

Another man was fined for walking in Abbotsford between 8:00pm and 5:00am and told police he “forgot” why he was outside.

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