When Victorian man ‘Michael’ contracted the coronavirus, he suffered frightening coughing fits that were so bad “it was like drowning”.
As his condition deteriorated he was placed in an induced coma, fighting for his life, as doctors feared the worse.
His story is among those released as part of a Victorian government advertising campaign to enforce the message that ‘COVID is real’.
Focusing of victims, frontline workers and families, it shows the faces behind the statistics that are broadcast daily on the news.
Victoria recorded five more deaths and 357 infections on Saturday, with 500 of the state’s active cases linked to aged care homes while NSW recorded 15 new cases.
The five latest Victorian fatalities were all aged over 60, bringing the national toll to 145.
The campaign for TV, radio and social media illustrates the devastating personal impact of the disease that has claimed more than 641,000 lives around the world.
In one personal story, ‘Michael’ describes terrifying coughing fits that lasted for one to two minutes.
“I got so bad I had to call an ambulance,” he says in a short video.
“I was put in an induced coma; the doctors thought that I was gonna die.”
While he was in a coma, his wife contracted the coronavirus and most likely transmitted it on to her mother who passed away.
“COVID is real, it is very real,” Michael says.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the effect of coronavirus was more than just tallying statistics.
“It is an unfolding tragedy that is hard to get your head around,” Professor Sutton said.
“This is an invisible enemy in lots of ways and when we just talk about numbers, when we talk about reproduction numbers and transmissibility, that doesn’t bring it home like understanding the genuine consequences for people does.”
Professor Sutton said the state’s current outbreak with three-digit daily case rises was proving more difficult to contain than the ‘first wave’.
“This isn’t like the first wave: the numbers have remained stubbornly high,” he said.
“They haven’t gone up significantly and they haven’t gone down significantly in the last week.”
However Professor Sutton said further restrictions such as industry shutdowns would have limited impact on stopping new infections because of where the clusters are occurring.
“The very places where we are seeing outbreaks, the very places where we are seeing transmission, are the places that would remain open if we went to a stage four sectoral shutdown,” he said.
Such places include aged care homes, hospitals and food processing facilities which are all essential services.
Premier Daniel Andrews said “masks are effectively our stage four”, though he refused to rule out further restrictions and would not guarantee restrictions would be lifted after the six weeks.
“The halfway mark is next Wednesday night at midnight … and that seems a long way off to me, because a day like this is like a month,” he told reporters in Melbourne after announcing a further five deaths and 357 new infections.
“I can’t predict what tomorrow’s numbers will be like, or where we will be in a week, let alone towards the middle of next month.”
In the 24 hours to Saturday evening, police handed out almost 100 infringement notices, including to a man who was on a two-hour drive out of Melbourne to visit a friend.
New footage also emerged on Facebook of a woman threatening to sue police who tried to issue a fine for not wearing a mask.
Aged care response
An aged care response centre has been set up in Victoria to help tackle the growing COVID-19 crisis in the sector.
There are now more than 500 infections in aged care facilities across the state and the response centre will assist with workforce provisions, the prevention of outbreaks and supporting providers.
Staff shortages are a problem in Victoria where workers must self-isolate while awaiting test results and can only work at one site.
NSW and Qld
NSW recorded 15 new cases on Saturday, including eight linked to the Thai Rock restaurant cluster and six returned travellers in quarantine.
Queenslanders in the NSW hotspot of Fairfield have until 1am on Monday to return home or face a fortnight of hotel quarantine at their own expense.
Queensland Deputy Premier and Health Minister Steven Miles says his team remains on high alert as coronavirus continues to spread in the southern states.
Western Australia has recorded two further historical cases through blood testing, including another from the Ruby Princess cruise ship.
But the state has had no new current infections for the seventh straight day.
Analysts predict bigger deficit blowout
Analysts believe Australia’s budget deficit could balloon to $220 billion in 2020/21, which $30 billion more than the federal government anticipates.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg last week forecast hefty budget deficits in his economic update as Australia experiences its first recession in nearly 30 years.
In his much-awaited economic and fiscal update, the treasurer said the deficit for the 2019/20 financial year was expected to be $85.8 billion, rising to $184.5 billion in 2020/21.
But AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver expects the government will be forced to provide at least a further $20 billion in stimulus between now and the delayed May budget on October 6.
That would see the 2020/21 deficit ballooning to $220 billion.
He also thinks revenue will recover more slowly than the government anticipates.
“Supporting the economy through this tough period is absolutely the right thing to do,” Dr Oliver said in a note to clients.
Treasury confirmed the economy is expected to contract by 0.25 per cent in 2019/20 and by a further 2.5 per cent in the following financial year.
Deloitte Access Economics economist Nicki Hutley said forecasting in the current climate was like building a “house on shifting sands” given the uncertainty surrounding the outlook.
“That said, we do have to say that the (government’s) numbers are probably rosy,” she told the ABC News channel.
“I think that they are overly optimistic, particularly on the international border.”
The assumptions are based on international borders opening on January 1 with a quarantine period.
They also presume Victoria will start opening up again after the six-week lockdown of Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.
Mr Frydenberg is expected to be quizzed further on the outlook when he appears on the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.