“There is a push to get testing in the south-east, because there is not enough compared to the north-west.”
Meanwhile, Victoria’s state of disaster, which was due to expire on Wednesday, has been extended for at least a further 11 days.
Premier Daniel Andrews said it needed to be extended to take the state through until the scheduled end of Melbourne’s strict stage four lockdown on September 13.
The disaster declaration, which is above and beyond the state of emergency declaration, allows the government to enforce Melbourne’s curfew and the ban on residents travelling more than five kilometres from their homes.
“This practically means that officers can ask for a name and address to check people are within five kilometres of their home, or enter a home or business to check residents or staff are complying with gathering limits,” Mr Andrews said in a statement.
He stressed the disaster declaration would not necessarily be removed on September 13, even if stage four restrictions are eased.
“Those decisions and that road map out … must be and will be driven by the data,” he said.
Survey shows symptomatic Victorians are not getting tested
Professor Sutton said he was concerned that fewer than half of all Victorians with mild cold and flu symptoms were getting tested for COVID-19.
He has been pleading with residents in recent days to get tested even if they have mild symptoms in order to ensure health authorities have a full understanding of how much infection is in the community before restrictions are eased.
He said testing asymptomatic people was not the priority because thousands of tests would find so few cases.
Professor Sutton revealed that a survey had found fewer than 50 per cent of Victorians with mild symptoms, like a scratchy throat or mild cough, were being tested.
More than 50 per cent of people with more severe symptoms, like a fever, were being tested.
“We want 100 per cent of people with compatible symptoms getting tested,” Professor Sutton said.
“We should really focus our efforts on making sure that more than 50 per cent of people who have symptoms who aren’t getting tested are coming forward for testing … Some of those symptomatic individuals will have coronavirus. They’re not showing up in our numbers because they’re not coming forward for testing.”
30 cases per day will allow authorities to get on top of ‘mystery’ cases
Suburbs in Melbourne’s west, north and outer south-east continue to be hotspots for COVID-19 and transmission is mainly occurring in aged care homes, healthcare settings and workplaces, Professor Sutton said.
He said most cases were being detected in the council areas of Brimbank and Wyndham in the west, as well as Casey and Greater Dandenong in the east.
But about 15 per cent of all cases are “mystery” cases where the source of infection is not known.
Professor Sutton said it would be desirable to reach 30 new cases per day, meaning the number of mystery cases would fall to single digits.
“If we can get cases below 30 and the proportion of mystery cases continues to be driven down, then we will absolutely be in very low single figures and we will do that more detailed upstream investigation,” he said.
“[The investigation] where you’re actually looking at everyone they’ve been in contact with not just when they’re infectious, but in the 14 days before they became symptomatic.”
More to come.
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Paul is a reporter for The Age.
Marissa Calligeros is a journalist at The Age