Health authorities remain deeply concerned as the deadly Victorian coronavirus outbreak claims another 10 lives, but believe the harsh restrictions introduced are having an impact.
Just over a month ago, Australia looked on track to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, not recording a single death for a month before a man in his 80s died in Victoria in late June.
Since then, 40 other people – 33 in just the past week – have died in Victoria and the national toll has shot up from 102 in May to 155 on Sunday.
Victoria on Sunday reported another 459 new infections with 42 people now in intensive care. Only NSW and Western Australia recorded new cases – 14 and two respectively for the same time period.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth says although the Victorian numbers are deeply concerning, there are some hopeful signs as the numbers remain consistent.
“Those numbers are not doubling on a week by week basis, we have reached a relatively steady state for the moment of numbers between about 350 and 450 per day,” Dr Coatsworth told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.
He said this reflected the effect of some of the measures that have been brought in, such as the stage three restrictions just over two weeks ago and the mandatory mask-wearing policy in Greater Melbourne and Mitchell Shire which was implemented five days ago.
Other states have also hardened their borders against people from Victorian hotspots.
Premier Daniel Andrews again had a crack at so-called anti-maskers in Victoria.
“Ten families are going to be burying someone in the next few days. Wear a mask, it’s not too much to ask,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Sunday.
Seven of the deaths registered overnight were linked to aged care centres, where there are currently 560 active cases split between health care workers and residents.
Such has been the growing crisis in the aged care sector during the pandemic, the federal and Victorian governments have established an aged care response centre in the state.
“This is about ensuring that there is appropriate emergency management structure, so there is excellent coordination of things like workforce distribution,” Dr Coatsworth said.
He said it had become a very challenging environment where many aged care staff who had contracted COVID-19 were forced to isolate at home but the facility still needed to be run.
NSW recorded 14 new cases of COVID-19, including another six linked to Thai Rock Wetherill Park restaurant cluster.
Four cases were also associated with a cluster tied to a funeral service at St Brendan’s Catholic Church, Bankstown last Saturday morning.
“Of particular concern is transmission in venues such as hotels and restaurants, the gym and social gatherings,” the NSW Health department said in a statement.
“Consider using a mask in situations where you are unable to social distance, particularly indoors.”
Meanwhile Western Australia recorded two new cases as Premier Mark McGowan announced another $2.7 billion jobs and economic growth package.
It adds to almost $2.8 billion in stimulus measures already announced since the start of the pandemic.
It includes $60 million for “shovel-ready” maintenance work at police and fire stations and a $66 million renewable energy package that will fund regional solar power systems, battery energy storage packs and infrastructure upgrades in remote Aboriginal communities.
Queensland again recorded no new cases with just five active cases across the state. The ACT also reported a clean sheet with just one active case.
Queensland has closed its borders to Victorians and is refusing entry to people from designated COVID-19 hotspots in Sydney.
Treasurer Cameron Dick said “complacency is the enemy” and the way to stay on top of the pandemic is remaining vigilant and that reintroducing border restrictions is a day-today proposition.
“The virus is so unpredictable,” he said.