Another Victorian has died of the coronavirus as the state posts yet another worrying day of infections topping 200.
Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed the death of a woman in her 90s late on Tuesday.
She was the third person to die after a man and a woman in their 80s earlier on Tuesday, and the fifth since the weekend.
The state’s COVID-19 toll is at 27 as it grapples with a virus crisis. The nationwide toll is 111.
Mr Andrews confirmed 238 new virus infections on Wednesday, coming after 270 on Tuesday. Since last Friday, the state has had only one day (Monday) with fewer than 200 new cases.
Victoria has 1931 active cases, with 105 people in hospital, an increase of 20 since Tuesday. Of those, 27 are in intensive care.
“These hospitalisation numbers are of great concern to us,” Mr Andrews said.
But there were some positives in Wednesday’s numbers, with authorities suggesting they might show the first hints of stabilisation in new cases, a week into a Melbourne-wide lockdown.
Chief health officer Brett Sutton said he expected numbers of new infections to start to fall by the end of the week – but that depended on millions of Melburnians following lockdown rules.
“I would hope that it would turn the corner … but there are no guarantees,” he said.
Professor Sutton also said Victoria’s wave of infections would bring more deaths.
“When we have 238 cases every day, we are looking at two to three deaths in a week’s time, so we have to have these numbers decrease,” he said.
On Tuesday, Mr Andrews refused to rule out imposing even stricter rules in the hard-hit areas of the state.
That has the support of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said the approach was “understandable in the circumstances”.
But he said the national suppression strategy remained the best way of dealing with the pandemic. Attempting to eliminate the virus – as some countries such as New Zealand have done – would destroy the Australian economy, he said on Wednesday.
Mr Morrison said the suppression strategy relied on the strength of state and territory health systems, and their ability to track and trace coronavirus cases, along with adherence to social distancing rules.
“You don’t just shut the country down, because that is not sustainable,” he told Triple M on Wednesday.
“You would be doubling unemployment, potentially, and even worse. The cure would be worse than what arguably wouldn’t be delivered anyway.”
Health authorities remain concerned that more than a quarter of people who have been hospitalised with the virus are in intensive care, with 21 in Victoria needing ventilators.
In NSW, there are 33 cases linked to a pub in south-west Sydney, prompting restrictions on gatherings at licensed venues to be tightened again. That outbreak is also linked to cases at an escalating number of venues – including restaurants, supermarkets, gyms and The Star casino – across NSW.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has warned there will be more deaths from COVID in Australia.
“I think if we are honest, there will be more lives lost. There will be more people admitted to ICU and more on ventilation,” he told the Nine Network.
Mr Hunt told the ABC that Australia would have to cut itself off from the outside world if it hoped to eliminate the coronavirus.
“That would mean obviously no gatherings, no protests, no trade, no returnees from overseas, no family reunions.”