The risk of virus transmission is higher in NSW than Melbourne, with warnings that Sydney residents have become “complacent” and are not taking social distancing as seriously.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said a key indicator of potential virus spread – the “reproduction rate” – was greater in NSW than Victoria, despite lower case numbers.
The reproduction rate represents the number of people infected by a single positive case and is considered crucial to controlling the spread.
Professor Kelly revealed that while Victoria’s reproduction rate is effectively at one, in NSW it has climbed to 1.4.
He said it appeared people in NSW were no longer strictly adhering to social distancing and sanitisation.
With greater freedom of movement and gatherings, NSW residents have higher potential to spread the virus to more people, which has been reflected in the reproduction rate.
“People are more mobile, they are mixing in greater numbers,” he said.
“And there are suggestions from that modelling that people are not taking those messages about physical distancing, hygiene and so forth … as seriously as they currently are in Melbourne.”
Prof Kelly noted that while the figure did not necessarily translate to higher numbers of cases, it demonstrated that the potential for transmission was higher in NSW than in Victoria.
“The message to people in southwest Sydney, please be careful,” he said.
With more venues in NSW linked to positive cases – which now includes a hotel, Thai restaurant, bistro and a gym – the state’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Jeremy McAnulty urged vigilance.
“The concern recently is that we have become complacent. We think it’s OK to gather around, come together, but it’s not,” Dr McAnulty said.
“We’re still at risk. What’s happening with all these cases is we need to make sure all these measures are in place to protect us all.”
Meanwhile Prof Kelly said there were good indications the lockdown was working in Victoria, where Saturday’s numbers were half the record infections announced a day earlier.
Victoria had 217 new cases on Saturday compared to 428 on Friday while NSW announced 15 new cases, five more of which were connected to the cluster at Sydney’s Crossroads Hotel.
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“It certainly is not over in Victoria. We have a large, widespread community outbreak mainly in Melbourne, but also some cases appearing in the rural parts of the state,” he said.
Victoria’s cases still high
The sharp drop in coronavirus cases reported in Victoria does not mean the state’s crisis is over, authorities have warned.
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there was some relief that numbers dropped to 217 on Saturday after a record 428 cases the day before.
“But it is still a number that would have shocked us all a month ago, we need to remember it is still a high number,” Dr Sutton said.
Another three deaths brought the state’s fatality toll to 35 – a man and a woman, both in their 80s, and a woman in her 90s died from the disease bringing the national total to 119.
There are 2608 active cases of which 110 are in hospital, including 25 in intensive care and 18 on ventilators.
The number of healthcare workers infected with COVID-19 is 405.
Aged care homes in Ballarat and Bendigo have become the latest aged care outbreaks, adding to clusters at multiple aged care facilities in Melbourne.
The outbreak at Truganina’s Al-Taqwa College is at 164 cases while there are 33 cases linked to Brooklyn’s JBS abattoir.
Premier Dan Andrews again urged people in the lockdown areas of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire to stay at home, warning police were out in force.
“Stay at home means just that … not travelling a couple of hundred kilometre round-trip to go for a walk at the beach, not coming into the centre of Melbourne if you live in the suburbs of Melbourne,” he said.
“The stakes are very high … Victoria Police are out there in force and they are not mucking about.”
Tower residents released
Public housing residents in North Melbourne are stepping outside after a “traumatising” two weeks under hard lockdown.
The enforced shut-in of public housing residents at 33 Alfred Street ended late Saturday night.
It means the residents can can now leave their homes for food, medicine, exercise, study and work – like the rest of Melbourne.
However, up to one third of the tower’s residents, who either have the virus or are a close contact of someone who does, will be required to remain in their units until they’re cleared.
Social worker Adna Abdikadir said the two-week complete lockdown had been “really upsetting and really traumatising” for many.
Victoria’s ombudsman is investigating the treatment of people across the Alfred Street tower and eight other towers that were shut down for five days in July.
Repeated concerns have been raised about communication with the residents, their access to food, exercise, fresh air, medical supplies and care.