Victorian authorities say “everything is on the table” as the state battles to bring its coronavirus crisis under control.
“There are lots and lots of measures that we need to bear in mind and we shouldn’t discount anything,” chief health officer Brett Sutton said as Victoria posted yet another bleak record in COVID infections on Friday.
Earlier in the week, Professor Sutton had admitted to cautious optimism as case numbers showed some signs of stabilising as Melbourne neared the end of its first week of a renewed lockdown.
Those hopes were dashed on Friday, with 428 new coronavirus cases confirmed, as well as three more deaths – two men, aged in their 70s and 80s, and a woman in her 80s.
Victoria’s COVID toll stands at 32 – having risen by eight since last Saturday.
“We have not turned the corner here,” Professor Sutton said.
“Worse than that, 428 cases does not just represent that we have increasing numbers day on day – there will be dozens of individuals who will require hospitalisation from these 428 people.
“Tragically, there will be several who require intensive care support and a number of people will die.”
On Friday, Victorian hospitals had 122 virus patients, including 31 in intensive care. That’s up from 17 ICU patients last Monday.
With infections growing in several Melbourne outbreaks and increasing in regional centres, Premier Daniel Andrews said Victorians “are in the fight of our lives”.
“If we’re not in a stabilisation, or if we are not seeing a sense of control and any sense of the strategy not delivering the outcome or presenting a trajectory that we want to see, then, of course … everything is on the table,” he said.
“The likelihood of additional rules is all in the hands of every Victorian living under these rules, and if we all play a part then it will be more likely than less likely that we can be passed this sooner.”
Professor Sutton said he still hoped that new case tallies would stabilise in coming days as Melburnians, by and large, complied with stay-at-home orders.
There are also concerns about rising infection numbers in aged-care residents and staff, other healthcare workers and police officers.
The latest infection confirmed in a Victoria Police officer is a detective based at Crime Command in Melbourne’s Spencer Street complex.
A dozen police members designated as close contacts have been told to self-isolate. The officer visited regional Shepparton last week, so 16 more police from that station are also in isolation.
That comes on top of 140 officers and 30 protective services officers already off the beat due to infections or being considered close contacts.
“It’s a concern for us, there’s no doubt about that,” Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said on Thursday.
Victorian authorities confirmed late on Thursday afternoon that 394 healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic. Of those, 150 are still active.
Professor Sutton said authorities knew that essential work was driving some of the state’s outbreaks.
“There is absolutely a focus on PPE and awareness of symptoms in aged care and healthcare workers,” he said.
“Universal mask-wearing is something we are absolutely advocating for in this space, but also the screening, the symptom awareness for everyone so that they are getting tested and isolating very early on.”
From Friday, anyone working in aged-care residential care and home support in Victoria is required to wear a mask. A further million masks have been released from the national medical stockpile to support the requirement.
Professor Sutton said further compliance measures might also be required but “we are not there yet in terms of understanding exactly what”.