Victoria’s coronavirus death toll has hit a tragic new high, with 21 deaths confirmed on Wednesday.
Along with the grim record for fatalities confirmed by Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services, the state had 410 new COVID infections – a three-day high.
Victoria’s virus toll has risen to 267 – with more than 100 deaths in the past week. Australia’s national toll is 352.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the deaths confirmed on Wednesday were: Two women and a man in their 70s, six women and five men in their 80s, five men and a woman in their 90s and a woman in her 100s.
State health authorities had warned deaths would continue to rise given the number of people in hospital with the virus.
On Wednesday morning, 662 Victorians were in hospital and 43 of those in intensive care. There were also more than 1900 active cases relating to aged-care homes – with 16 of the deaths reported on Wednesday linked to the care crisis.
Mr Andrews said there had been some stabilisation of the virus outbreaks in the worst-hit aged-care homes. But “there’s a very significant challenge there each and every day”.
Victoria’s coronavirus cases hit a daily record of 725 last Wednesday, and have fallen since.
Melbourne is subject to a strict Stage 4 lockdown, including a nightly curfew, until mid-September. Regional Victoria faces Stage 3 restrictions until at least the same time.
Mr Andrews said there had been concerning increases in case numbers in the regional Victorian cities of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
“They’re very low numbers, but coming off such a low base, any additional cases are of concern to us,” he said.
He again urged people not to travel between Melbourne and regional centres unless it was absolutely necessary.
“If there’s any sense that that trip could be avoided, that that travel could be limited, well then that is conducive with less movement, less cases and getting to the other side of this,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, Victorian Jobs Minister Martin Pakula, Treasurer Tim Pallas and controversial economist Gigi Foster will be among those to appear via video link before a parliamentary COVID-19 inquiry.
Mr Andrews was grilled about his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee’s COVID-19 Inquiry on Tuesday.
The failed scheme is believed to be responsible for the state’s second wave of COVID-19, which has proved so deadly and led to the nation’s toughest lockdown.
Mr Andrews said the Australian Defence Force hadn’t been offered to guard the hotels when the program was introduced, despite reports to the contrary.
But federal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds insists ADF support was offered to Victoria “on multiple occasions”.
Victorian opposition leader Michael O’Brien accused Mr Andrews of lying to parliament and Victorians, labelling his comments a “dishonest attempt to cover up” the scandal.
A separate inquiry, headed by retired judge Jennifer Coate, is scheduled will start public hearings on August 17.