Melbourne’s virus restrictions are likely to be wound back further than first promised after the city’s key rolling average of new COVID cases dropped below 30 on Wednesday.
With just 15 more confirmed infections across the state on Wednesday, health authorities said Melbourne was doing much better than expected in its lengthy fight to quell the coronavirus outbreak.
The city’s rolling 14-day average of new cases has fallen to 29.4 – below the 30-50 range required for some of its strictest virus measures to be wound back.
Premier Daniel Andrews said he was considering going beyond plans set out in the state’s reopening roadmaps when he announces an easing of restrictions on Sunday.
“But I’m not in a position give you the full list of what we’re looking at,” he said.
“We don’t want to do something that might seem quite small but could present a significant challenge to us in a couple of weeks’ time.”
With five days before Mr Andrews’ promised Sunday announcement, Melbourne has already met the benchmark to allow schools to plan staged returns, childcare centres to reopen and families to meet outside in groups of up to five.
But some of its toughest measures – including the 9pm-5am curfew and a ban on travelling further than five kilometres from home – are due to remain until October 26, according the state government’s plan.
Mr Andrews said recent real data would be used to model the effect of particular changes to Melbourne’s rules.
“I know it’s frustrating. I know everyone wants answers to these questions. I am among those who want answers to these questions,” he said.
“But what is beyond doubt is we’ve got to do this in a gradual, safe and steady way.”
There was more good news elsewhere in Australia, with NSW reporting its second day without any community transmission of the virus.
NSW Health confirmed six more infections, all in returned travellers in hotel quarantine.
It is the first time since early July the state has had consecutive days without a locally acquired COVID case.
Queensland reported another day without any new infections.
Back in Victoria, 10 of its new cases were linked to known outbreaks, with the remainder under investigation.
There were also five more deaths, taking the state’s virus toll to 771. The Australian toll is 859.
They were a man in his 70s and another in his 90s, two women in their 80s and a woman older than 100.
Regional Victoria, which had just 14 active COVID cases on Wednesday, is already a couple of steps ahead of Melbourne in easing virus rules. Its 14-day average of new cases is just 1.1.
“The regional picture is, indeed, very positive,” Mr Andrews said.
On Tuesday, the Premier said it would be “a very long Saturday and a very late Saturday night” ahead of Sunday’s announcement.
Despite the good news for the state, aged care outbreaks continue to remain a thorn in its second wave battle.
Active aged care cases in the state peaked at 2075 on August 16 but had dropped to 328 by Tuesday.
But of the state’s 28 new COVID infections confirmed on Tuesday, 24 were linked to 11 aged care homes. They included residents, staff and their close contacts.
It prompted Health Minister Jenny Mikakos to rebuke AdventCare Whitehorse in Nunawading, in Melbourne’s east, after its staff were filmed last week dancing and mingling with residents without masks.
Ms Mikakos noted aged care workplaces made up 73 per cent of active healthcare staff infections, which numbered 74 on Tuesday.
“Whether it’s pyjama parties or this, it’s really just not good enough,” she tweeted.
Also on Tuesday, the state government unveiled a $30 million package on Tuesday to upgrade 50 public sector aged care services across Melbourne and regional areas.