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Victoria’s virus cases surge to shock record high

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Victoria has confirmed more than 2000 daily COVID-19 infections for the first time. Photo: AAP
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Victoria has confirmed 2297 more local COVID cases – a shock leap of more than 700 in just 24 hours.

Thursday’s surprise spike is well above Australia’s previous record for daily cases from the pandemic – that was 1965 posted in Victoria last Saturday.

Despite the leap, the state remains on track for a significant reopening within days.

“There will be discussions over the next few days and we will answer
questions about when the lockdown ends, the precise moment, as well as any additional steps, any changes to be roadmap we can make, but we are going to deliver the roadmap,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“We have, fundamentally, a very important agreement with the Victorian community – you get vaccinated and we will open up, and I do what I
say.

“That is why we are going to be opening up, because people have got vaccinated in record numbers in record time and they should be proud of that.”

The soaring infection tally came from a record of more than 82,000 tests across Victoria in the previous 24 hours.

State health authorities also confirmed 11 more deaths, taking the toll from the latest virus outbreak to 125.

Thursday’s leap in COVID numbers came after authorities and epidemiologists had begun to express cautious optimism that Victoria’s outbreak had peaked.

On Wednesday, chief health officer Brett Sutton said Melbourne’s lockdown could end earlier than planned and lifting the ban on home visits was also being considered as vaccination rates tracked higher, and hospital case numbers remained lower than modelling had predicted.

“We’ve always said, if we can do more, we will do more,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday afternoon.

Victoria is on track to reach its target of 70 per cent of over-16s fully vaccinated ahead of the expected date of October 26 – and was at 62 per cent on Thursday. Under the state’s roadmap, that will bring an end to Melbourne’s sixth lockdown.

On Thursday, Mr Andrews said the state was “racing to 70 per cent double dose”.

“It looks like we will finish up getting to 90 per cent single-dose on or about the same time, and that is a fantastic achievement,” he said.

“It does give us some options.”

However, he refused to say how Victoria would “flick the switch” from lockdown.

“That work is still ongoing and it will be a busy few days. But as soon as we can give people clarity about next week, we will,” he said.

Mr Andrews and Professor Sutton have already said an announcement on Melbourne’s post-lockdown plans, and for the the rest of Victoria, is likely within days.

Mr Andrews said Victoria was less than a fortnight behind Sydney, which began to reopen on Monday, “with none of the inside running that they got on GP accreditation, on extra supply and extra supply of Pfizer”.

“[That] is an outstanding effort on behalf of every single Victorian, and they should be proud. Now, let’s just finish this off so we can open the place up,” he said.

On Thursday, before the daily figures were released, Deakin University  epidemiology chair Professor Catherine Bennett said Victoria was starting to see a turnaround in its daily number of new infections.

“Yesterday we celebrated our first day with that reproductive number under one, which is great to see that, so we are expecting to see our case numbers drop over the next little while,” she told the Nine Network.

“The trouble is, I suppose, whether we are going to get below 1000”.

Professor Bennett said it was reassuring to see threshold dates for vaccine targets being reached earlier than expected.

“It has been good that we haven’t seen as many people hospitalised with the case numbers as was predicted,” she said.

“That is another sign that this vaccine is working and the benefit of having that rollout accelerate.”

Elsewhere, NSW reported another 406 local virus cases on Thursday. Another six deaths took its toll since mid-June to 450.

The ACT is yet to confirm its case numbers for Thursday but has reported another fatality.

-with AAP