Victoria could remain in lockdown for another five months, according to government modelling.
The state’s treasury predicts it will move from stage four to stage three restrictions in mid-September before progressing into Stage 2 restrictions around Christmas.
Victoria recorded 410 new cases on Tuesday, and another 21 deaths – making it the state’s deadliest day on record.
Premier Daniel Andrews said 16 out of those 21 deaths can be linked to aged care outbreaks.
The unprecedented number of deaths takes the state death toll to 267 and 352 nationally.
Those who have lost their lives include two women and one male in their 70s, six women and five men in their 80s, five men and one woman in their 90s, and one woman in her 100s.
Mr Andrews added health officials were noticing a worrying rise in cases in regional Victoria in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
‘They’re very low numbers, but coming off such a low base, any additional cases are of concern to us,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘I made some comments yesterday about people really just stopping and thinking about whether travel to regional Victoria or travel from regional Victoria to metropolitan Melbourne is absolutely necessary.’
Of the 662 Victorians in hospital, 43 of them are in intensive care and 25 are on ventilators.
The new infections over the past 24 hours mean Victoria has surpassed 400 cases for the first time since Saturday.
Victorian authorities had warned deaths would continue to rise given the number of people in hospital with the virus.
The case numbers come after Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said he was optimistic a COVID-19 vaccine would be produced in the coming months amid promising clinical trials.
‘I don’t have a crystal ball on that one, but certainly these types of developments usually take years,’ he said on Tuesday.
‘It’s not going to be years.
‘I think we won’t be talking about that a year or two from now – it will be earlier than that.’
Small scale trials are underway across the world, with two research teams in Australia already at stage three of development, which involves testing on humans.
The trials are being led by scientists in Adelaide and at the University of Queensland.
But it’s the Oxford vaccine under development in the United Kingdom which is among Professor Kelly’s ‘top six’ when it comes to the global race.
While the normal development time frame such vaccines could be four years, the growing global death toll has prompted authorities to fast-track measures.
But potential delays could result in an ‘involved’ process to manufacture and distribute the millions of doses required in Australia.
‘None of them are ready to be rolled out in large numbers to protect us, there is certainly more science to be done in terms of making sure they are safe and they are effective,’ Prof Kelly said.
‘But the early trials are very hopeful.’
Professor Kelly dismissed concerns around putting people’s safety at risk by fast-tracking human trials.
‘We have our regulator the Therapeutic Goods Administration and they’re very linked into other similar regulators around the world. Their role is to exactly guard against that,’ he said.
‘These things are going very fast and we want them to go fast, this is the way we will be able to return to some sort of normality in the world and here in Australia.
‘We are very optimistic about vaccine development.’