A man in his 80s has died in Victoria as the state’s worrying coronavirus spike grew by another 20 cases on Wednesday morning.
Chief health officer Brett Sutton confirmed the death of the man on Wednesday. He is Victoria’s 20th coronavirus fatality, and Australia’s 103rd – and the country’s first COVID-19 death since May 23.
“The family have requested that no further information is given. I’d like to respect that,” he said.
“It does point to the fact that when we get additional cases, there will be a risk of people dying or be at risk of further cases being hospitalised and going to intensive care. That’s why we need to get on top of numbers in general.”
Among the new COVID infections confirmed in Victoria on Wednesday – as the state posted its eight day in a row of double-digit rises – were:
- Seven linked to known outbreaks;
- one in hotel quarantine;
- nine picked up in routine testing;
- three cases under investigation.
They include three new cases in a Keilor Downs family cluster that has risen to 15 people in eight households. There are also three staff members at Hampstead Dental Clinic, in Maidstone in Melbourne’s west.
“All staff members of the clinic have or will be tested but there are no patients who had been identified as close contacts,” Professor Sutton said.
The outbreak linked to the H&M outlet at Northland Shopping Centre now has five confirmed infections. There are also cases at St Monica’s College in Epping and a childcare centre in Essendon, both in the city’s north-west.
Professor Sutton said Victoria had 241 cases that indicated community transmission.
“That’s an increase of eight since yesterday. That number has been around 10 every day, but a decrease to eight is somewhat encouraging,” he said.
“It certainly means we’re not getting an increase or an exponential increase in community transmission cases day-by-day.”
Victoria’s coronavirus spike, which has added more than 150 cases to its caseload since June 14, has also prompted a massive surge in people seeking tests.
On Tuesday, Melburnians waited up to four hours for COVID testing at drive-in sites across the city. By 9am Wednesday, there were already reports that the drive-in testing centre at Melbourne’s Chadstone Shopping Centre had been closed due to overwhelming numbers of vehicles queuing.
Professor Sutton said Chadstone had called in police to manage the traffic.
“Demand has spiked incredibly, not unsurprisingly, but I guess, you know, we need to be mindful of that ongoing demand. We want to be able to meet it,” he said.
He urged Victorians to try other testing sites, and to book tests through GPs, before going to drive-in sites.
Victoria has also opened more testing centres to cope with demand.
The Melbourne Showgrounds, in the city’s inner north-west, will open at 1pm on Wednesday to Keilor Downs Secondary College students, teachers and parents only. It will be open to the public from Thursday.
The mobile site at Bunnings in West Footscray will also reopen.
Health authorities are also meeting leaders from communities where English is not the first language.
“It is not a simple case of pamphlets and campaign materials and banner to reach into communities,” Professor Sutton said.
“You do need that community leadership, community champions and all of the modes and methods available to you to try to get messages out.”
However, he said Victoria had had days of zero cases of community transmission of the virus before this month’s spike.
“Obviously, all of the messages about keeping your distance, about hand hygiene, about cough etiquette, about not visiting others when you’re unwell, they’re all things that make a huge difference,” he said.
“People may not understand how much of a difference it makes, but I think the significant uptick in the last couple of weeks is because those very things haven’t been followed.
“Those are the things that will maintain low transmission in Victoria.”