Australia today announced a record daily spike of 25 coronavirus deaths, all of them in Victoria where Melbourne is entering its third week under curfew.
The 25 new deaths surpass last Wednesday’s previous high of 21, taking Australia’s total from 396 to 421.
Australia’s chief medic warned today that ‘it’s entirely possible’ that the record will be beaten again as the outbreak continues in Victoria.
However, the state saw only 282 new cases from nearly 16,000 test results in the last 24 hours, down from the peak of more than 600 in late July and early August.
Melbourne has been under the toughest Stage 4 restrictions since August 2, with a curfew in place from 8pm to 5am.
Even outside those hours, people can only leave their homes for limited reasons including exercise and shopping for essential goods.
Outside central Melbourne, there is no curfew but people are still expected to stay at home as much as possible.
The border between Victoria and New South Wales has been closed since July 8 while only essential travellers are allowed to enter Victoria from South Australia.
Speaking today, chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said the tough restrictions were needed to ‘bring the community outbreak under control’.
He warned that although cases have fallen from their peak, the time lag between infection and death means that fatalities may continue to rise.
‘One of the things about this wretched virus is that it seems to make people deteriorate at around about the seven- to 14-day mark,’ he said.
‘And that is an indicator that your severe disease will peak around about one to two weeks after your numbers in the community will peak.
‘So it’s entirely possible that we will see more deaths from Covid-19 in Victoria and that daily number could exceed 25.
‘I think we just need to keep in mind of course that when we talk about these numbers, there are family and friends every day that are mourning the loss of a loved one because of Covid-19 and that is precisely why we need to continue the Stage 4 restrictions, bring the community outbreak under control.
‘And of course, the number of severely affected Australians and Australians dying from Covid-19 will follow [the trend in cases] and go in the right direction.’
Of the 25 new deaths in Victoria, 22 are ‘linked to known outbreaks in aged care facilities’, the state government says.
Seven of the latest victims are people in their 90s while another 10 are people aged between 80 and 89.
After crushing its first wave of the disease, Australia saw its daily case totals fall into single figures in May and June, before rising to record levels in July and August.
While the numbers are still low compared to most developed countries, the second wave has forced drastic new restrictions and dashed hopes of setting up a ‘travel bubble’ with New Zealand.
Victoria alone recorded nearly 700 new cases on August 4, but the daily numbers have gradually fallen again since then.
State premier Daniel Andrews says he feels ‘cautious optimism’ that the strict lockdown in Melbourne is beginning to flatten the curve.
‘I am and always was very cautious but there is on my part at least a cautious optimism and a sense of real hope that this strategy is working and that we are seeing numbers fall now,’ he said.
There are 657 people currently in hospital in Victoria after being infected with coronavirus, of whom 44 are in intensive care.
Victoria has seen 17,028 cases and 334 deaths in total, accounting for nearly 80 per cent of Australia’s total 421 deaths.
New South Wales – which includes Sydney – has seen 52 deaths, with 13 in Tasmania and only a handful elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the premier of New South Wales apologised today for failing to prevent an outbreak linked to a cruise ship in March.
A public inquiry found that NSW authorities made ‘inexcusable’ mistakes by allowing 2,700 passengers to leave the Ruby Princess on March 19 when around 120 of them were feeling unwell.
The inquiry found 914 infections could be traced back to the Ruby Princess, mostly among passengers. The outbreak led to 28 deaths.
‘The lessons weren’t learnt soon enough and again I apologise unreservedly on behalf all of those individuals and agencies who made those mistakes,’ state premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
Berejiklian apologised particularly to the 62 people who contracted the virus from a passenger.
‘I can’t imagine what it would be like having a loved one or being someone yourself who continues to suffer and experience trauma as a result,’ she said.
The inquiry commissioned by Berejiklian’s government found that NSW health officials failed to ensure that sick passengers were isolated in their cabins.
They also failed get quick test results for unwell passengers before they disembarked.
New South Wales reported seven new cases on Monday while South Australia added one, bringing the total for the country to 290 because of Victoria’s 282.