Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says it’s “tempting” to release Melbourne from its tough virus restrictions earlier than planned, as the state posts ever-lower numbers of new infections.
Victoria had just 11 new COVID cases on Monday, its lowest daily tally in more than three months.
Five new infections are linked to known outbreaks, while six are under investigation.
Melbourne’s crucial, rolling 14-day average of new infections has fallen to 34.4 – at the lower end of the 30-50 target that was set for the toughest virus measures to ease on September 28.
The eased restrictions include allowing up to five people from two households to meet outside and a staged return to school for some students. However, the 9pm-5am daily curfew and restriction on travelling more than five kilometres from home would continue.
Mr Andrews was quizzed on Monday about whether the better than expected data would prompt him to move earlier to increase freedoms for five million Melburnians.
“This is not just a good day, this is a great day,” he said.
“It is very tempting and I appreciate why everybody wakes up today, sees a low number, and everyone is hopeful and positive – and that is a good thing, but we have to stay the course on this.”
Mr Andrews said the state’s plans to reopen relied on dates as well as simple case numbers.
“The passage of time, frustratingly, also is important and that is why for this Sunday and all of our dates, it has been case numbers or the date, which is later,” he said.
However, he said the modelling was clear that, even with Victoria’s run of low numbers, it was too early to open up the whole state.
“I think that we are poised to take some significant steps, albeit they are safe and steady steps, on Sunday,” he said.
“We are in that 30-50 band and it looks like we are going to stay there. That is really very, very important.”
After September 28, Melbourne’s next step in reopening is set for October 26. Among other freedoms, it will drop the curfew and restrictions on leaving home.
But it first requires a statewide 14-day daily new case average below five and fewer than five “mystery” cases in the previous fortnight.
Mr Andrews said “common sense” would guide decisions if trigger points were met early.
“We will look at what sits behind the numbers and then we will have to make a judgment,” he said.
“It won’t be an easy judgment. Has enough time passed for us to be confident that the numbers we are seeing are a true reflection of how much virus is out there?
“They are very difficult judgments to make.”
Victoria also reported two more deaths on Monday, taking its virus toll to 763 and the national toll to 851. They were both women, one in her 80s, the other older than 100.
Elsewhere, NSW confirmed four more infections on Monday. Three are in returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine while the last one is linked to the cluster at the Concord Hospital.
There remain concerns about a taxi driver whose case was reported on Sunday. He drove for several days while potentially infectious.
People who caught a taxi on September 7-10 and 14-18 in the Sydney suburbs of Moorebank, Bankstown, Chipping Norton, Liverpool, Lidcombe, Warwick Farm and Milperra have been told to monitor for symptoms and get a virus test if they develop any.
- See full information about NSW venues of concern here
Premier Gladys Berejiklian remains concerned about a dip in testing in NSW.
“Yesterday there were only around 7700 tests done. Ordinarily, back in March, we would have said that’s a good number, but given where we are at this stage of the pandemic, it’s really important for us to keep our testing rates high,” she said on Monday.
“As soon as you have any symptoms, please get tested.”
Queensland had one new case of COVID-19 on Monday, a teenager who returned from overseas and is already in hotel quarantine.