News State Victoria News Vic’s cases top 500 as vaccine milestone looms

Vic’s cases top 500 as vaccine milestone looms

victoria 500 cases
The regional Victorian city of Ballarat has returned to lockdown after four COVID cases were detected. Photo: Getty
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Victoria has reported another 514 local COVID-19 cases, as the regional city of Ballarat joins Melbourne in lockdown.

The health department said 148 of Thursday’s cases were linked to known outbreaks.

The source of the remaining 366 is under investigation.

It is the state’s highly daily tally since the peak of its second wave in August 2020, with the new infections bringing the total number of active cases in the state to 4370.

But it also came from a bumper 61,961 tests processed in the previous 24 hours, while a record 41,758 Victorians received a vaccine dose at state-run hubs.

It came as Ballarat residents woke to the same restrictions as Melburnians on Thursday – with the exception of a curfew – after four COVID infections detected in the central Victorian city earlier this week.

Testing is being ramped up in Ballarat to combat the cluster, while thousands of additional vaccine doses will also be sent to the Victorian gold rush town.

Chief health officer Brett Sutton said the planned seven-day lockdown would give the city “the best chance of opening up again in the shortest time possible”.

In contrast, the city of Shepparton to Melbourne’s north has come out of lockdown after a local outbreak of the Delta variant was brought under control.

Professor Sutton said modelling indicated the state’s outbreak had not peaked and daily infections could rise to 1000.

“We have to press on with vaccinations at the fastest possible rate,” he said.

With 68.3 per cent of Victorians aged 16 and older vaccinated, Premier Daniel Andrews said the state was on track to hit 70 per cent on Thursday – a week ahead of schedule.

The government has pledged to give Melburnians more freedoms, including an extra hour of exercise and an expanded travel limit, once 70 per cent of those eligible have received their first dose.

This was initially forecast to happen on September 23, but the state’s soaring vaccination rate has brought the date forward.

Mr Andrews foreshadowed some rules might be relaxed as early as Thursday night but also raised the prospect they could be “rolled into” Sunday’s roadmap announcement. It will outline the state’s restrictions through to November.

The Australian Medical Association’s Victorian branch has urged the government to retain current restrictions until two weeks after 80 per cent of people aged above 12 are fully vaccinated.

“COVID-19 is putting unprecedented strain on Victoria’s health care system and now is not the time to open up,” it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, public transport to and from Melbourne’s CBD will be suspended for six hours on Saturday to thwart an anti-lockdown protest.