Victoria’s sixth coronavirus outbreak has claimed its fourth victim with one patient dying on Thursday as another case record is broken.
The state recorded 334 new cases on Friday, the most since August 13, including 189 mystery cases not yet linked to the rest of the outbreak.
The person who died was a man from Coburg in his 70s. There are currently 127 Victorians in hospital with 33 people in ICU battling the virus and 21 on ventilators.
The cases were diagnosed from 42,998 tests with 39,027 vaccine doses administered on Thursday.
Four people have died during the outbreak, two on August 31, one on September 2, and one on Thursday that was announced on Friday morning.
Transport Minister Ben Carroll, who fronted reporters in the place of Premier Dan Andrews, lamented cases of people travelling to get vaccinated after a Mildura man positive with the virus moved interstate.
‘Very concerning to hear reports that people think it’s valid to get on a metropolitan train to travel to regional Victoria for a vaccination,’ he said.
‘That is not one of the permitted reasons. And if you are doing that, you can expect a very significant fine.’
Just over 63 per cent of eligible Victorians have received a first dose of a Covid vaccine. Pictured: People wearing masks walk along St Kilda Road on Sunday
Scott Morrison said Mr Andrews’ his ambition to live in a Covid-free world is not a reality and he must follow the national cabinet’s roadmap in getting out of lockdowns
Yet another record cases spike comes on the day regional Victoria is released from lockdown, allowed to leave their homes for any reason but with many restrictions.
But millions in Melbourne and its outer suburbs remain in their sixth gruelling lockdown for weeks to come until the state hits 70 per cent vaccination.
Furious Victorians are demanding the state government devise a NSW-style roadmap out of lockdown as Dan Andrews’ opposition leader slams him for keeping millions ‘hiding under the doona’.
Both Mr Carroll and Covid-19 Commander Jeroen Weimar dodged questions about NSW’s roadmap, with both admitting they hadn’t read it but were ‘focusing on Victoria’.
‘We would all like to know when we can do things again, when we can return to normal practices, when we can go out of Melbourne again and when all those other things become possible,’ Weimar said.
‘Our focus as a team over the last few weeks has been around – how can we contain the pandemic as much as possible? That’s what’s allowed us to release regional Victoria as of midnight last night, to see how we’ll watch the developments over the coming days very carefully.
‘If we’re seeing the virus continue to be contained and we don’t see huge spot fires in regional Victoria, that will give us confidence and open up more options going forward.’
The state recorded 324 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday including a 2021 record 217 mystery not yet linked to the rets of the outbreak
Weimar also said Victoria didn’t want to ‘drop their heads’ and face a situation similar to NSW, who are recording more than 1,000 new cases per day.
‘If we drop our heads and say, “That’s it. It’s all too hard now. Just let go,” then we’ll be in an even more dramatic situation than our neighbours are in New South Wales,’ the Covid Commander said.
‘We have it within us – if we grip this up, stick with those directions, stick with those difficult things we’re being asked to do… We’ve seen evidence of slippage of those things.
‘It will be how we behave over the days and weeks ahead as to how this pandemic goes through the year.’
He also said it is ‘predominantly’ household transmission that is leading the influx of new cases, but is calling on Victorians to be disciplined for the final run home.
‘We’re all tired of this. We all want to look out for our friends and for our families and for our loved ones. But we’ve seen, time and time again, how dangerous that is,’ Weimar said.
‘The things that make a difference are minimising all of that contact as much as possible and getting tested early.
‘The sooner you get tested, the sooner we can support you medically, the sooner we can make sure you get the support you need and the welfare you need, and the sooner we can look after all of the other families and loved ones that are in your circle.’
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced during Thursday’s press conference a raft of freedoms NSW residents will enjoy once the state hits 70-per cent double dose coverage.
But meanwhile, in Victoria, Mr Andrews refused to reveal what restrictions would be eased for locked-down Melburnians eased once his state reached the same vaccination target.
Now leading epidemiologists and Opposition Leader Matthew Guy are calling on the government to start drawing up plans out of lockdown.
Victorians are calling on Premier Dan Andrews to formulate a plan for lifting restrictions across Melbourne as vaccination targets are met. Pictured: People line up outside a bakery in Melbourne’s CBD earlier this week as the city’s lockdown continues
Fully-vaccinated NSW residents will be able to go to pubs, restaurants, and stores once the state hits a 70 per cent double-dose vaccination rate. Pictured: Women eating pizza in Bondi in May 2020
Mr Guy said Victoria could not ‘hide under the doona’ forever and needs to consider implementing a exit strategy like NSW.
‘We’ve got to have plans to get out of this. We can’t just exist, we’ve got to live,’ he told the Herald Sun.
‘(NSW) have put a roadmap forward about how they’re going to get business out of lockdown, not just humans but business as well. I support a lot of what the NSW government has said. Victoria could have a good look at it.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who calls Sydney home, praised NSW’s roadmap out of lockdown will begin the Monday after 70 per cent double-dose vaccination coverage is reached – expected to be October 18 based on current projections.
Fully vaccinated people will be able to visit family and friends who’ve been double jabbed, dine out, travel and go to the hairdresser, gym or sports events.
Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday revealed NSW’s roadmap out of Covid lockdown (pictured) – but no such plan has been revealed for long-suffering Melburnians
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the state government needs to consider implementing a lockdown exit strategy because Victoria can not ‘hide under the doona’ forever. Pictured: Dan Andrews
Up to five adult household guests will be allowed, plus children, and groups of up to 20 can gather outdoors, while hospitality venues and shops can open with capacity limits.
‘This plan keeps the deal, keeps the faith, with the people of Australia and the people of NSW,’ Mr Morrison told reporters on Thursday.
‘It is a careful and a safe plan and consistent with everything set out in the national plan.’
Former World Health Organisation epidemiologist and University of South Australia professor Adrian Esterman said Victoria needs to consider what perks could be offered to fully-vaccinated residents.
‘Victoria should be doing the same thing and thinking ”what (restrictions) can we relax?”,’ Professor Esterman said.
Dan Andrews said no decisions have been made on Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown because the strategy is contingent on the state’s infection rates (pictured, Melbourne health workers)
Regional Victoria’s lockdown was lifted at 11.59pm on Thursday – excluding Greater Shepparton – as the majority of the state’s Delta outbreak remains contained in its capital city.
So far, just 63.2 per cent of Victoria’s eligible population has received a first dose of a Covid vaccine, leaving no clear end in sight for Melburnians who have been told to brace for stay-at-home orders to remain in place jab targets are met.
The outcry against the government comes as it was revealed the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry plan to reopen Melbourne hospitality venues and retailers from as early as next month – despite the low double-dose vaccination rate.
Under the plan, businesses would open at 25 per cent capacity once 80 per cent of the population have received their first shot of the vaccine.
Mr Guy lauded the organisation’s initiative to restart the economy and get the hospitality sector back up and running, reiterating the government should also be entering its planning phase now.
So far, just 63.2 per cent of Victoria’s eligible population has received a first dose of a Covid vaccine, leaving no clear end in sight for Melburnians who have been told to brace for stay-at-home orders to remain in place jab targets are met (pictured, a woman in Melbourne on Thursday)
However, Deakin University’s chair in epidemiology Catherine Bennett labelled the move ‘risky’, saying it was safer to wait until 70 per cent of the population was fully vaccinated.
Mr Andrews said Melburnians would be granted minor freedoms once the state reaches the milestone of administering 70 per cent of first doses, such as the 5km travel limited doubling to 10km.
He said no decisions have been made on Victoria’s roadmap out of lockdown because the strategy is contingent on the state’s infection rates.
‘I will almost certainly have to do what (NSW Premier) Gladys (Berejiklian) did today, and say “here’s the plan, but the plan is subject to the case numbers,”‘ he said.
‘It’s not a matter of rushing something out. The modellers need a fair fight as well. They need to see days and data and work out whether things we are seeing are a validated trend.’
Regional Victoria’s lockdown was lifted at 11.59pm on Thursday – excluding Greater Shepparton – as the majority of the state’s Delta outbreak remains contained in its capital city (pictured, a shopper in Tarneit in Melbourne’s west)
Mr Andrews is expected to reveal whether Melbourne schools will return to face-to-face learning for term four later this week.
Of Victoria’s 324 new cases on Thursday, 107 are linked to outbreaks, while the source of 217 cases is unknown.
There are more than 970 listed exposure sites across the state, of which a third are supermarkets – prompting authorities to urge shoppers not to mingle in aisles.
‘We’re now in an environment where there is widespread community transmission,’ Covid commander Jeroen Weimar told reporters on Thursday.
‘That person next to you at the grocery aisle may be positive and they may not know it, they may not be showing any symptoms, but we’re seeing transmission in that environment.’
‘You need to ensure you protect yourself – protect them from you, and you from them.’
Another third of Victorian exposure sites are smaller community retail hubs, while construction sites comprise the final 30 per cent or so.
Gladys Berejiklian (pictured on Thursday) has offered NSW a taste of what freedom will look like when the state hits the 70 per cent fully-vaccinated target
A further two positive cases linked to a Melbourne CBD construction site were reported on Thursday, taking the outbreak across multiple floors to eight people.
There are 89 primary close contacts of the cluster in isolation and Mr Weimar expects more of the group to test positive in coming days.
Despite operating with limited staff, construction sites remain a “significant area of concern” and managers and workers have been urged to maintain strict infection control measures.
‘We’ve been fortunate this outbreak that we haven’t seen widespread transmission at worksites. We really need to ensure we don’t get into that territory in the days and weeks ahead,’ Mr Weimar said.
Melbourne’s large-scale construction workforce is currently capped at 25 per cent, but that figure will double once 90 per cent of its workers have had one vaccine dose.
NSW’S ROADMAP OUT OF LOCKDOWN
Only fully-vaccinated people and those with medical exemptions will have access to the freedoms allowed under the Reopening NSW roadmap.
The freedoms for vaccinated adults will come into effect on the Monday after NSW hits the 70 per cent double dose target and include:
Gatherings in the home and public spaces:
· Up to five visitors will be allowed in a home where all adults are vaccinated (not including children 12 and under).
· Up to 20 people can gather in outdoor settings.
Venues including hospitality, retail stores and gyms:
· Hospitality venues can reopen subject to one person per 4sqm inside and one person per 2sqm outside, with standing while drinking permitted outside.
· Retail stores can reopen under the one person per 4sqm rule (unvaccinated people will continue to only be able to access critical retail).
· Personal services such as hairdressers and nail salons can open with one person per 4sqm, capped at five clients per premises.
· Gyms and indoor recreation facilities can open under the one person per 4sqm rule and can offer classes for up to 20 people.
· Sporting facilities including swimming pools can reopen.
Stadiums, theatres and major outdoor recreation facilities:
· Major recreation outdoor facilities including stadiums, racecourses, theme parks and zoos can reopen with one person per 4sqm, capped at 5,000 people.
· Up to 500 people can attend ticketed and seated outdoor events.
· Indoor entertainment and information facilities including cinemas, theatres, music halls, museums and galleries can reopen with one person per 4sqm or 75 per cent fixed seated capacity.
Weddings, funerals and places of worship:
· Up to 50 guests can attend weddings, with dancing permitted and eating and drinking only while seated.
· Up to 50 guests can attend funerals, with eating and drinking while seated.
· Churches and places of worship to open subject to one person per 4sqm rule, with no singing.
· Domestic travel, including trips to regional NSW, will be permitted.
· Caravan parks and camping grounds can open.
· Carpooling will be permitted.
Non-vaccinated young people aged under 16 will be able to access all outdoor settings but will only be able to visit indoor venues with members of their household.
Employers must continue to allow employees to work from home if the employee is able to do so.
There will be revised guidance on isolation for close and casual contacts who are fully vaccinated, with details to be provided closer to the reopening date.
· Masks will remain mandatory for all indoor public venues, including public transport, front-of-house hospitality, retail and business premises, on planes and at airports.
· Only hospitality staff will be required to wear a mask when outdoors.
· Children aged under 12 will not need to wear a mask indoors.