Victorians have been warned ‘it’s not over yet’ as thousands of close contacts wait out the ‘incubation’ period and may become symptomatic, the state’s chief health officer has warned.
Contacts of confirmed cases have swelled to 15,000 while there were just four new cases diagnosed on a record day of testing with 47,462 done in the 24 hours to Friday morning.
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton cautioned that “you really never know what to expect”.
“We absolutely have to recognise that there are thousands and thousands of close contacts that are still to go through the incubation period who could become symptomatic,” he warned.
More than 15,000 primary and secondary contacts have been told to self-isolate after coming into contact with a COVID case.
The state government has asked for 160 defence force personnel to help check on the thousands of people who have been told to isolate at home.
Late on Friday, the list of exposure sites had grown to 150, including a flu vaccination centre in the suburb of Preston.
Authorities are also urgently trying to track down people who attended five exposure sites: The Sporting Globe in Mordialloc, Three Monkeys and Somewhere Bar in Prahran, The Local in Port Melbourne, and The Palace Hotel in South Melbourne.
Meanwhile the highly infectious strain which has broken loose in Victoria is also responsible for scientists warning the UK is entering its third wave of the pandemic.
The UK registered a two-month high of 4182 new confirmed coronavirus infections, even as 58 per cent of people had received at least one vaccine dose and about 35 per cent have had two shots,
The latest infection tally brought the total number of confirmed infections reported over the past seven days to 20,765 — a 24 per cent increase from the previous week.
The variant identified in India is believed to be responsible for up to 75 per cent of new cases in the UK and more transmissible than the previously dominant strain of the virus.
The upward trend has raised questions about the UK government’s plan to lift all remaining social restrictions on June 21 as scientists warned the country was entering a third wave.
Many scientists say the increase in cases is no surprise but that the rapid roll-out of vaccines will provide a firewall.
Avoid the ‘lottery of death’: Greg Hunt
Meanwhile only 20 per cent of Australia’s population will soon have received one dose of the COVID vaccine and a mere two per cent have had doubles as criticism of the slow rollout intensifies.
After spending the day rejecting critics of the sluggish scheme, federal Health minister Greg Hunt again appealed to Australians to roll up their sleeves to avoid the “lottery of death”.
Mr Hunt also pushed back against claims some people were waiting to get vaccinated because the federal government had given them the impression there was no rush.
“That’s false, that’s not something I’ve ever said,” he told Seven.
However, the prime minister has commented on many occasions the vaccine rollout was not a race and Mr Hunt last week suggested older Australians concerned about AstraZeneca could wait to receive alternative vaccines.
He later backtracked on the comments.
Mr Hunt on Friday insisted the vaccine program so far was an “extraordinary achievement” and Thursday had been a “record” day, with 41,000 vaccines doled out in Victoria alone.
Twenty per cent of the country’s adult population would soon have received at least one dose, he said.
However that is a milestone the government hoped to reach in March.
Only 500,000 people – about two per cent of the population – have been fully vaccinated with two doses.
Mr Hunt said proposals to incentivise vaccination were constructive but ultimately shouldn’t be necessary.
“The strongest reason is to avoid … the lottery of COVID and avoid the lottery of death,” he told reporters.
“The number one reason to be vaccinated is it can save your life and the life of your family and friends.”
Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly also defended the scheme, stressing the importance of receiving even one dose and lauding the vaccine as the country’s “ticket out” of the pandemic.
“Zero doses give you no protection. One dose gives a very good protection quite quickly,” he said.