Victoria recorded 16 deaths and 279 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday as the State of Emergency is extended for another month.
Eleven cases were linked to aged care facilities, and there are now 2075 active infections in aged care, Premier Daniel Andrews said.
The deaths take the total number nationally to 395 and the toll in Victoria to 309.
Victoria’s State of Emergency will remain in place until 11:59pm on Sunday September 13.
Mr Andrews refused to reveal when Melbourne’s draconian stage four lockdown would be lifted, but said he is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that restrictions are working.
‘I think it is too early to provide an affirmative picture,’ he told reporters during a press conference on Sunday morning.
‘We have to wait and see what tomorrow’s numbers are. On my part at least, there is a cautious optimism and a sense of real hope that this strategy is working at the we are seeing numbers fall.
‘You have structures and rules that work at a macro level but ultimately, those rules are only as good as the many millions of individual choices and decisions that individuals make everyday.’
Meanwhile, the state has seen an 85 per cent decrease in the number of flu cases this year due to Melbourne’s draconian stage four lockdown.
Only 4732 Victorians have contracted influenza this year, compared to 47,180 at the same time last year, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed.
It’s likely the sudden drop in flu cases was sparked by social distancing measures and face masks stopping the spread.
An extra 200,000 flu vaccines were distributed across the state this year, while the Federal Government handed out more than two million doses of the flu jab in Victoria to date.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the drop in flu cases was a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘After a horror flu season last year this is good news and we hope these numbers continue to stay low as Victorians follow the current restrictions in place and stay home,’ Ms Mikakos said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on the best medical advice he had received, Victoria is on a path to progressive reduction.
‘There is a long way to go. There will be good days, there will be bad days. There will be days when the numbers are up and days when the numbers are down,’ he told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
‘But the signs now are that the trend is of progressive reduction.’
He said the most important thing now is contact tracing to make sure each new case in Victoria is followed up.
Mr Hunt also said the government is in advanced negotiations with a range of different companies with regards to a vaccine.
‘I am now on the basis of our best advice genuinely more optimistic, I think the work is moving closer to a vaccine.’
‘All our advice has been 2021 is the most likely anything that occur. Before then, then that would be an outstanding result, not just for Australia but for the world.’
It was not immediately known how many of Sunday’s deaths were linked to existing outbreaks or involved nursing homes, amid increasing concerns for some facilities.
Reports on Sunday said specialist medical teams had entered the Doutta Galla facility at Yarraville after 19 residents tested positive for the virus on Saturday.
As late as Friday, Doutta Galla reported that no further staff or residents had tested positive but said further testing was underway.
Premier Daniel Andrews has refused to rule out taking over more coronavirus-ridden private aged care facilities struggling to provide adequate care.
After sending in public hospital nurses to Glenlyn Aged Care in Fitzroy, Florence Aged Care in Altona North and Kalyna Aged Care in Delahey, the premier on Saturday said the government was ready to take over more sites if needed.
‘I can’t rule out that we will add to that list,’ he told reporters in Melbourne.
‘If we are asked to step in then that is exactly what we do.
‘That’s all about making sure residents get the best care.’
The state recorded a further four deaths and 303 new cases on Saturday.
As Victoria continues to track down thousands of coronavirus cases with an unknown source, Prime Minister Scott Morrison again pointed to community transmission as the driver of aged care deaths.
‘At the end of the day, the reason we are having this challenge is because there’s widespread community transmission in Victoria,’ he told Sydney’s 2GB radio on Saturday.
‘We’re not having those problems in NSW or in Queensland or elsewhere.’
Mr Morrison said he and the special task force set up in Victoria to respond to the state’s aged care crisis were working hard to stay on top of the problem.
About 70 per cent of Australia’s coronavirus deaths have been among aged care residents.