There has been more grim news for Victorians, with a record 317 new infections and two more COVID-related fatalities confirmed on Thursday.
The deaths of the two men in their 80s bring Victoria’s COVID toll to 29 – a rise of seven since Saturday (July 11).
Thursday’s confirmed infections also also topped the previous record daily figure, set less than a week ago on July 10, by nearly 30.
Despite the grim data, Premier Daniel Andrews said promising signs were emerging in the Victorian data as the Melbourne-wide lockdown entered its second week.
“We have made the point with these stay-at-home restrictions only a week old, it will take some time to bring stability to the numbers and start to see a pattern where they are driven down,” he said.
He again ruled out an immediate move to even stricter restrictions.
“There are no announcements to be made about that today,” he said.
“That shouldn’t be read to mean there will be announcements made tomorrow. We plan for every single contingency.
“It’s well too early for us to be moving to a whole new stage. This is in the hands of every single Victorian, though.”
As Victorian authorities prepare for an expected avalanche of COVID patients, the state has delayed some elective surgeries. It has also opened a $30 million, 84-bed temporary hospital in East Melbourne, known as St Vincent’s on the Park.
State Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said more capacity was being created to deal with patients as COVID hospitalisations rose. There are 109 coronavirus patients in Victorian hospitals – 29 in intensive care (up two from Wednesday).
The state government has also spent hundreds of millions of dollars converting hospital beds to ICU beds and securing 1200 ventilators for hospitals.
“Our health services are very well prepared to respond to the
increasing hospitalisations – but we hope that this additional capacity will never be needed,” Ms Mikakos said.
Chief health officer Brett Sutton said he expected infection numbers to begin to plateau within days.
“The stage three restrictions have been in place for over a week – with an average incubation period of five or six days, plus the time for notification to get the numbers in, we would really expect a plateauing in the next couple of days,” he said.
Victorians were again urged to stay at home – unless they needed food or medical care or had to go to work or education – and to get tested for the virus.
Professor Sutton confirmed outbreaks in aged-care homes and several Melbourne hospitals were of great concern to authorities.
Eight Victorian aged-care facilities have residents with coronavirus, while a further 24 nursing homes have staff infected.
Experts are also investigating how a handful of staff at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne caught the coronavirus.
“This is where the virus manifests, in the people who are most exposed to it, and in those individuals who are most vulnerable,” Professor Sutton said.
He also warned that Victoria’s toll of 29 dead should not be compared to deaths in an average influenza season.
“These are the deaths you have when you have your controls in place,” he said.
“When you do not have your controls in place … you get 1000 cases a day, 10,000 or more cases a day, as has occurred in some countries, and you get up to 1000 deaths per day, as has occurred in countries in Europe, in Brazil.
“The idea that 29 deaths is nothing, and that we can lift all restrictions
and that we can let it run, is absurd. It’s an exponential growth in cases when there aren’t restrictions in place.”
Victoria’s figures came as NSW also confirmed a rise in COVID infections on Thursday. Among its daily increase of 10 were three more cases in the south-western Sydney cluster linked to the Crossroads Hotel at Casula.
NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said two other cases that had arisen since 8pm on Wednesday included a teenager who attended the Hurricane Grill in Brighton-Le-Sands on July 11 with a known case. The site has been closed for cleaning.
Another case involved a NSW man who returned to Ballina from Melbourne on Jetstar flight JQ466. All passengers on that flight are being contact traced.