Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has made a direct plea to young people as the state posted another day of near record COVID infections and its highest daily death toll yet.
Coronavirus cases have soared across Victoria this week, with 403 on Thursday following a record 484 on Wednesday.
The state is averaging more than 350 new infections every day.
Mr Andrews said 25 per cent of all positive cases since Victoria’s outbreak spiked at the start of July were in people in their 20s. If that trend wasn’t reversed, “there will be a number of [younger] people … that sadly die”.
“This is not just a disease or a virus or tragedy that will only be visited upon very, very old people,” he said.
“It has, around the world, been visited on many people of otherwise healthy status.”
Five more people have also died from coronavirus, it was confirmed on Thursday. They include a man in his 50s, as well as two other men and a woman, aged from their 70s to their 90s.
The fatalities take the Victorian toll to 49 and the national virus toll to 133.
“This is not just something that affects people that are frail and aged,” Mr Andrews said.
“It would be wrong to assume that young people are somehow immune to this. Even otherwise fit and healthy young people can get sick and can die from this virus.”
Victoria now has 3630 active COVID cases, hundreds of them in aged-care residents and staff.
But State Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said there were also four children recovering from the virus in hospital. In fact, 20 per cent of the state’s COVID-19 patients are under the age of 50.
“By way of comparison, people in their 60s only represent 6 per cent of people who have been diagnosed with this virus,” she said.
Mr Andrews urged young Victorians to take the deadly virus more seriously.
“If you want to get past these restrictions, if you want to get through this and get back to something approaching normal … the only thing to do is to get tested if you’re sick and to isolate while you’re waiting for a test,” he said.
“To go and have a beer, or go and have a meal with a friend, or move around the community much further than you can now, you’ve got to follow the rules.
“Wear a mask when going out for one of the four reasons … it’s pretty simple. It’s pretty simple.”
On Wednesday it was revealed about 3400 Victorians – nearly nine in 10 – did not isolate between feeling sick and getting positive tests between July 7-21.
About 53 per cent of people then did not isolate between when they had their test taken and when they received the result.
Mr Andrews said the state government would extend its hardship payment scheme to help people forced to choose between insecure work and getting tested for the virus.
There is already a $1500 payment available for people who cannot take sick leave to recover from COVID. From Thursday, an additional $300 might be available to allow people to isolate after having a test.
“This $300 payment will go a long way to supporting those families and having them make much better choices,” Mr Andrews said.
“If you’re sick, get tested quick and then isolate until you get the test result.”
Mr Andrews said insecure work was partly to blame for the lack of compliance with the public health orders.
For more information about the hardship payment, call the Victorian government’s COVID hotline: 1800 675 398