“I’m reassured that the number of cases is coming down somewhat. It’s not as low as we would like it to be,” he said.
A significant number of new cases have emerged in hotspots in Melbourne’s north, west and south-east, he said. Brimbank council area recorded nine new cases, Casey 10 cases, Hume 10 cases and Wyndham 18 new cases.
Professor Cheng said the government was still deciding how many daily cases, on average, would allow it to make wholesale changes to lockdown restrictions.
“What’s happening in the regions is probably a trial run for what might happen in Melbourne where we get down to single-digit numbers,” he said.
“We are starting to turn our attention to trying to do very extensive case interviewing, making sure that there’s a lot of investigation.”
Premier says draft reopening plan has ‘no status’
Premier Daniel Andrews said a draft plan which states Melbourne’s tough stage four lockdown would be extended by a fortnight before restrictions are eased more significantly on September 28 was out of date.
Under the draft plan, Melbourne’s 8pm curfew would remain in place for an additional two weeks along with strict business restrictions and limits on residents’ travel.
But Mr Andrews said the government would not announce its pans for reopening the state until Sunday.
“The documents that have been the subject of a lot of interest over these last few hours are out of date and have no status,” the Premier said at his daily press conference.
“We will on Sunday give people a clear road map with as much detail and as much certainty as we can possibly provide.”
Decisions are the toughest of my career: Andrews
The Premier said the decisions weighing on his mind were the toughest of his career as he wants to ensure Victoria does not endure a third coronavirus wave.
He said the benefit of a safe reopening would be a “normal Christmas”, while the cost of doing so too quickly would be another explosion of cases.
‘I don’t get the luxury of doing what is popular.’
Premier Daniel Andrews
“These are some of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made in 20 years of public life,” he said.
“The tolerance for getting it wrong is incredibly low … I will not do this faster than the science tells me to because there’s too much at stake.”
Mr Andrews said he was fully aware of the “sense of pain” in the community and social costs of the lockdown.
“The responsibility I have is to do this safely … I don’t get the luxury of doing what is popular.”
Premier won’t rule out extending stage four lockdown
Mr Andrews said he could not rule out some stage four rules staying in place beyond the scheduled September 13 end date.
Modelling was being conducted to analyse the danger of moving to various sets of rules, he said.
“So if we do this package of changes, there’s say a 50 per cent risk that cases are going to get away from us. If you do this package of change, there’s a 35 per cent risk, all the way through. It is a big job.
“There are literally hundreds of meetings going on. We had one last night that wasn’t really in effect finished till after 11.30 or something.”
New cases in regional Victoria
On Wednesday night, the Health Department announced it was investigating 10 new cases of COVID-19 in the Colac region of western Victoria, including a staff member at the Bulla dairy factory.
“We are currently investigating 10 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the Colac region,” the department said in a tweet.
“A staff member from the Bulla Family Dairy team in Colac is among those who have tested positive. Barwon Health’s contact tracing team is working to determine all potential close contacts.”
There are 126 active cases across regional Victoria, including four in Ballarat. Two new cases were reported in Greater Geelong, bringing the number of active cases in the region to 38, while in Bendigo nine new cases were detected, an addition of one overnight.
Victoria by the numbers
There are 361 Victorians battling the virus in hospital, about 40 fewer than Wednesday, including 20 in intensive care, two more than Wednesday.
Four men and three women in their 80s and two men and six women in their 90s are among those whose deaths were reported on Thursday.
Fourteen of the 15 deaths were connected to nursing home outbreaks, but nine occurred prior to Wednesday and were not immediately reported to the Health Department.
There are 97 active cases linked to aged care facilities.
Mr Andrews said he was relieved that 17,098 tests were carried out on Wednesday, a significant increase from recent days.
“Those numbers are up and I think it gives us a greater degree of comfort. We are very grateful to
each of those people,” he said.
Another 24 mystery cases without a known source of infection have been added to the state’s community transmission tally.
Of the state’s 2295 active cases, 34 are linked to disability facilities (22 staff and 12 residents) and 337 are among healthcare workers.
Paul is a reporter for The Age.