Australia’s most ravaged COVID-19 state, Victoria, has reported a day without any fresh cases or deaths.
The longed-for zero puts the state back in step with the nation as a whole, which has also achieved a day with no locally acquired cases for the first time in nearly five months.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt reacted to the news by thanking health care workers across the country for putting their own health and welfare on the line throughout the worst days of the pandemic.
Sunday’s statistics for Victoria coincide with Melbourne’s gradual emergence from strict lockdown conditions, including a possible return to city offices before Christmas.
There is one mystery case of coronavirus without a known source in Melbourne and the city’s average daily case count for the fortnight up to Saturday was 2.2.
It means the state’s COVID-19 death toll remains at 819 , and 907 for the nation.
Authorities have already turned their attention to Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup public holiday and are urging people to celebrate in accordance with ongoing warnings.
“The great majority of Melburnians know what do to,” Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.
“There will be a few who may be a bit liberal in their behaviour.”
“The key things are not being out when unwell, and obviously wearing masks.
“I want people to enjoy the company of others, but to do it within those rules. If that’s how people go about it, it will be a great day, we’ll all feel the uplift of a public holiday when people are getting out and about.”
Perhaps not everyone will do what Prof Sutton hopes though, with anti-lockdown protesters planning yet another “Freedom Day” demonstration on Cup Day.
Some Melbourne office workers could be back in place before Christmas as Victoria’s numbers remain low.
Chains of transmission
“If we can see that these chains of transmission are in check, then there is a reasonable chance – a slow and steady – gradual return to the workplace,” Prof Sutton said.
Workers would not be able to be “packed into offices” and there were some concerning elements, including public transport and elevator use, that needed to be considered, he added.
“If the numbers remain low then those risks become much less in the office space as well,” Prof Sutton said.
“Some (workers) can and should return, but always depending on the numbers. Clearly there’s an economic activity by virtue of return-to-work, especially here in the CBD, and that should be a consideration.”
For some Victorians, “it will be a changed workforce forever”, the expert noted, adding that many employers had already started making long-term arrangements.