Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has refused to rule out changes to his state’s path out of lockdown after a record 1438 more local COVID infections on Thursday.
The daily case numbers spiked 50 per cent on Thursday, with the blame being laid on Victorians celebrating last weekend’s grand final with parties, barbecues and backyard visits.
There were also five more deaths – a woman in her 70s and a man in his 80s from Whittlesea, a man in his 70s from Moreland, and two men in their 60s and 90s from Hume, all in Melbourne’s north.
Mr Andrews said it would be irresponsible to rule out modifying Victoria’s reopening plan if continued non-compliance brought further spikes in cases.
“We are not turning back, we are finding a way to push through and get this place open, we’ve got to do it. This is a plan to open up,” he said.
“However, it would be irresponsible for me to say that we wouldn’t for instance have to pause, we wouldn’t have to modify things.
“It is not sustainable for people to act like we’ve hit 70 per cent double dose when we’ve yet to hit 50 per cent double dose.
“Going and visiting friends potentially puts everything at risk.”
Mr Andrews said many of Thursday’s infections were “completely avoidable” – with up to 500 blamed on grand final long weekend celebrations.
Household visits are banned across Victoria, but contact tracers have reported a surge in illegal gatherings last weekend.
Victoria officially reached a target of 80 per cent of the eligible population with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday – three days after it was initially projected.
It is forecast to reach its next milestone of 70 per cent double-dose coverage on October 26. That will trigger restored freedoms such as the end of Melbourne’s lockdown and curfew, and allow pubs, cafes and hairdressers to reopen, as well as larger outdoor gatherings.
From October 4, Victoria will officially cut the interval between Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses to three weeks, meaning anyone who has received a first dose can bring forward their second.
There will also be a shift in 88,000 Moderna vaccine doses from this weekend, from community pharmacies to state clinics. It is intended to hasten the rollout, as pharmacists struggle to cope with the sudden demand.
Mr Andrews said both moves could mean Victoria reached its 70 per cent target sooner than the forecast date of October 26.
“It’s fair to say that across the board there is a degree of confidence and modelling tells us we will hit that target. That’s so important because that’s when the lockdown ends,” he said.
“Anything we can do to bring that forward, even by a day or two, obviously helps, because the sooner we can reach that target, the sooner the lockdown ends and the reasons to leave home go and we move to an entirely different phase. It’s such an important milestone.”
NSW eyes ‘tweaks’ to its reopening
In NSW, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has held out the carrot of restoring more freedoms than planned as the state hits 80 per cent fully vaccinated.
“They won’t be major things but there will be tweaks. We’ll announce that at 70 per cent double dose,” she said on Thursday.
“There are a number of people in the community who have asked us to consider certain things and Health is considering those things and if it’s safe to do so we’ll be able to resume some of those activities at 80 per cent, as opposed to 1 December.”
NSW has reached 86.7 per cent of first doses in its residents 16 and over, and is at 62.9 per cent fully vaccinated.
Ms Berejiklian said it would “definitely hit” its 70 per cent double-dose target by October 11, with 80 per cent expected about a fortnight later.
NSW had another 941 local infections on Thursday, and six more deaths.
They were four men and two women aged from their 70s to their 90s, and take the state’s toll from its Delta outbreak to 337.
A seven-day lockdown has also been ordered for the Snowy Monaro local government from 3pm Thursday.
Elsewhere, a host of regional local government areas face extended lockdowns, until at least October 11. They are: Bathurst, Bourke, Central Coast, Broken Hill, Cessnock, Dubbo, Eurobodalla, Goulburn Mulwaree, Kiama, Lake Macquarie, Lithgow, Maitland, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, and Wingecarribee.