Victoria is on track to reach 3000 infections per day after leaping to another record number of cases on Saturday as authorities change their approach to contact tracing.
The state jumped to 1965 cases on Saturday and is on the brink of hitting 2000 a day, with a health chief saying Victoria is heading towards 3000 infections per day by the end of October.
With such a high caseload, authorities have scaled back contact tracing to focus on positive cases and primary contacts, meaning secondary close contacts will no longer be required to isolate.
Health Department deputy secretary Kate Matson said about 16,000 secondary contacts would be able to leave isolation at the weekend.
“In an environment where we are unfortunately close to 2000 cases a day, the public health risk isn’t there in terms of secondary close contacts when you weigh it up with the operational impact,” she said on Saturday.
“So we want to dedicate our resources to primarily close contacts, confirmed cases and sensitive exposure sites.”
Primary contacts will be asked to isolate away from the rest of their household, and secondary contacts are still encouraged to get tested if they show symptoms.
Asked whether the state would reach 3000 cases a day by the end of October, Ms Matson said “at this point in time, we are on track in terms of hospitalisations and case numbers”.
She said the Burnet Institute was working on fresh modelling, given the high cases numbers, which would be released later this week.
A small number of protests were held in Melbourne on Saturday, with police arresting three people and fining 27 for breaching public health orders.
Police were on Saturday forced to disperse huge crowds gathered at beaches in Sydney’s eastern suburbs who were enjoying their ‘freedoms’ a couple of days too early.
Pictures taken on Saturday show thousands of people crammed into Bondi and Manly, not wearing masks or social distancing despite health orders still being in place which limit outdoor groups to five people.
The Manly Observer took photos outside its office of “revellers” partying into the night which the publication described as “an end of year celebratory mosh pit in the middle of a pandemic”.
On Sunday, fully vaccinated people in NSW are waking to their final day in lockdown as gyms, cafes, restaurants, pools, shops, hairdressers and beauticians reopen from Monday.
Fifteen weeks after Sydney’s lockdown began, NSW people will be allowed to gather outdoors in groups of 30, have ten people indoors and venture more than five kilometres from their home.
Premier Dominic Perrottet warned ending lockdown would likely lead to an increase in COVID-19 transmission and urged people to proceed safely.
But given the state’s high vaccination rates, which tipped over 90 per cent first-dose coverage on Saturday, he is confident hospitalisation rates will remain manageable.
NSW reported 580 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm on Friday.
“We believe that our conservative approach here ensures we keep people safe but importantly gets people back into work as quickly as possible,” Mr Perrottet said.
“This journey is not over … there is a long way to go.”
Canberrans can book in Christmas getaways beyond the ACT’s bounds despite adding 25 new locally acquired infections to its COVID-19 caseload.
Exemptions are in place for travel to some cross-border communities, however the ACT has been looking at expanding regional travel limits.
As the territory enters its final week in lockdown, there is still uncertainty among residents near the NSW border as the nation’s most populous state prepares to ease restrictions on Monday.
And although Chief Minister Andrew Barr also notes Victoria is lagging somewhat in terms of vaccination rollout, he says there is every expectation its border will be open by December.
“People can definitely make Christmas and summer holiday plans for the south coast and for Victoria, based on their current vaccination rates,” he declared in the capital on Saturday.
A dozen of the cases reported on Saturday had been linked to known clusters, Mr Barr said.
Nine of the 25 were in quarantine during their entire infection period while the source of 16 was under early investigation.
There were 430 active cases across the ACT in total with more than 700 patients having recovered from infection.
Mr Barr says the national capital is “on the path to becoming one of the most vaccinated cities in the world”, with 97.1 per cent of Canberrans having received a first dose and 69.3 per cent a second jab.