“These numbers are coming down. We are, thanks to the hard work of every single Victorian, the vast, vast majority of Victorians who are following the rules, doing the right thing, getting tested as soon as they have symptoms. That’s why we’re seeing the numbers come down and that’s why we will continue to see them come down in accordance with our road map to COVID-normal.”
But Mr Andrews said although the numbers were within the averages required to move to the next step he would be urging caution.
“There will, of course, always be debates about timing and whether we’re on schedule, ahead of schedule, all of those things,” Mr Andrews said.
“Ultimately, these numbers are cause for great optimism and a positivity, I would hope, right across Metropolitan Melbourne, just as regional Victoria this week has taken two big steps to open up and we’re seeing stability in those numbers. Days this week with no new cases across regional Victoria despite significant testing activity. We will see the same thing occur in Metropolitan Melbourne and we’ll do it in a safe and steady way.”
It’s the second day in a row of daily new cases under 30, with just 21 cases recorded on Saturday – and marks the lowest new daily case number since June 19 where there were 13 new cases reported.
All five deaths recorded today were linked to aged care and included two men and two women in their 80s, and a woman in her 90s.
There are now 94 Victorians in hospital with coronavirus, eight in intensive care and five of those in ICU on a ventilator. There were 12,461 test results processed yesterday.
“Can I thank each and every one of those almost 12,500 Victorians,” Mr Andrews said. “Again, if I can urge and ask all Victorians – don’t put it off until tomorrow. Don’t wait at all. If you’ve got symptoms, however mild, please come forward and get tested.”
A sizeable cluster in Melbourne’s south-east has grown again today to 40 cases, up from 34 yesterday.
Mr Andrews defended not fining people involved in the cluster who may have broken Chief Health Officer directives, saying the “real riches, the real treasure here” is accurate information and he didn’t want to deter any positive cases telling contact tracers the truth about who they had seen or where they had been.
“I’m not expecting everyone to be happy with that,” he said. “The real riches are not in fining people for telling the truth to a contact tracer. It’s getting the place open and if we don’t get accurate information, enforcement information you won’t trace those people, you simply won’t.”
Mr Andrews this morning has said the outbreak, based around Narre Warren and Hallam, was an example of how quickly outbreaks could take off again.
“So it just gives you a sense of one person, just a single person, can infect many, many other people. And the contact tracing work that has gone on there has seen us pull that up,” he said. “There is still, I’m sure, close contacts and others will be very much monitored to make sure that if they exhibit symptoms, that we can further isolate them. But they’re all isolated there.
“We believe that we can pull it up at that number, but again, it’s always subject to events as they unfold.”
Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley has announced cash injections for venues and $13 million worth of grants for individuals affected by the ongoing lockdown measures in the state.
Well-known venues across Melbourne and regional Victoria will be among the first to receive grants under the program.
Mr Foley said there would also be changes to planning laws to protect music venues. “We want to make sure that in this COVID shutdown period, that venues are not at risk and councils are given the tools to make sure that live music venues can keep pumping out rock and roll and keep pumping out music for many years to come.”
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos made a celebratory tweet moments before the numbers were released.
“Before I go to sleep I get the tentative ‘number’. You are awesome Melbourne,” she wrote.
In a follow-up message, she paid tribute to the five lives lost over the past day but encouraged Melburnians to keep adhering to restrictions to snuff the virus out.
“The huge sacrifices made by Victorians are saving many lives. The new cases keep trending down with your efforts. Thank you to all Victorians. You are amazing. We can do this,” Ms Mikakos wrote.
Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average is now 36.2, meaning in all likelihood Melburnians can look forward to gatherings of up to five people from two different households in public spaces and the re-opening of childcare centres.
But significant changes such as the lifting of the 9pm to 5am curfew and the five-kilometre radius rule will not be lifted for another month, and only if the rolling 14-day average for new cases drops to less than five cases.
The number of ‘mystery’ cases over with an unknown source over the past two weeks (measured between September 4 and September 17) has now dropped to 52. That number also needs to be less than five by October 26 for the city to move to the third step of easing.
Half of Victoria’s active cases are still being driven by aged care infections. As of Saturday, 433 of the state’s 834 active cases were either residents in aged care, staff members in aged care or family members of staff.
The health department announced a new aged care outbreak at BlueCross Riverlea aged care facility in Avondale Heights on Saturday.
Meanwhile Sutton Park McKenzie Aged Care in Melton South, Estia Health Aged Care Facility in Keilor and Doutta Galla Aged Services in Woornack are currently topping the list of 75 facilities with active cases, with 114 active cases between them.
Healthcare worker infections, which include aged care workers, continue to make up around 15 per cent of overall active cases.
A cluster in the City of Casey, thought to be spread by people visiting each other at home, grew to 34 cases on Saturday, with 26 cases active.
Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton said on Saturday that the outbreak was now under control, and apologised after he linked that spread to some members of the Afghan community.
As of Saturday the other largest non-aged care outbreaks were at Footscray Hospital with 15 cases (13 active), Vawdrey Australia Truck manufacturer with 64 cases (seven active), Dandenong Police Station with 17 cases (six active) and Alfred Hospital with seven cases (six active).
Rachael Dexter is a breaking news reporter at The Age.