Mr Andrews said the case targets for easing the lockdown may be redrawn ahead of his announcement about which restrictions will be lifted on Sunday.
Victoria’s 14-day average for new cases had to be below five for Melbourne to move to step three of the state government’s road map for easing restrictions on October 19. The government was also aiming for there to have been five or fewer mystery cases between October 4 and October 18.
Those targets are now unachievable in the next week.
“It may be at a point where we have to call it, where we have to say that this is as good as it will get,” the Premier said.
“That means there is some greater risk. That means that the task of keeping this thing suppressed will be harder, but that is where we find ourselves, and that is the choice that we have to make.
“Therefore we have to brace ourselves for a fight … against this virus in that set of circumstances that will be harder than if we had been able to get it to five or zero [cases].
“To achieve the lower number might mean we’re locked down too long and … that lockdown and its consequences might not be in proportion.”
There are now 189 active cases in Victoria, five of which are in regional areas.
“[Fifteen cases] is obviously higher than we would like,” Mr Andrews said.
“I wish I could look down the camera and tell every Victorian all the different things I hope to announce on Sunday. That will be based on today’s data and whether the 10 cases that we think are linked to family outbreaks are in fact linked to family outbreaks.”
He added it may not be clear for several days whether the remaining five were mystery cases. “That’s the fight we’re in and it’s deeply frustrating for everyone.”
Mr Andrews acknowledged Victorians were feeling lockdown fatigue and noted there were signs of complacency in the community, including lax mask-wearing.
“I’m not for a moment denying that people are getting increasingly tired of these rules – we all are,” he said.
“We’d all love the numbers to be lower … [we’d] love the rules to be different and get our sense of normal back in every way. I’m not critical of anybody for feeling that way. That’s just a natural result of being in the 10th month of one of the worst years we’ve ever had.
“It goes all the way back to bushfires. There are some communities that have just not caught a break at all year.”
The Premier said he was confident contact tracing, particularly around current clusters in Kilmore, Frankston and Chadstone, was working “very well”. He said his public health team was working to determine whether the Box Hill Hospital outbreak, which grew to 12 cases on Sunday, was being dealt with effectively.
Mr Andrews said he would clarify reports that Chadstone shopping centre was not publicly declared a high-risk exposure site until eight days after the manager of The Butcher Club outlet tested positive for the virus.
When asked why every Chadstone shopper had not been advised to get tested, Mr Andrews said: “The more we know and understand about this outbreak, public facilities in that transmission area has been where transmission has occurred. That’s my latest advice.”
He said he believed the Chadstone outbreak, which has so far infected 33 people, had been handled well.
Impossible for Melbourne to meet October 19 targets
Unfortunately, Melbourne has overshot both of its original step-three reopening targets.
Monday’s increase of 15 new cases means that it is now mathematically impossible for the 14-day average to be below five on October 19.
Monday also marked the first time in about two months that the state’s 14-day rolling case average increased – it rose to 10.3, up from 9.6 on Sunday. More new cases were confirmed on Monday (15), than there were two weeks ago (five).
For the fortnightly average to be below five, no more than 70 cases in total could be recorded in the two weeks between October 5 and October 18. Melbourne is now seven days into that reference period, and 80 cases in total have been confirmed statewide, exceeding the limit by 10.
Retail reopening unlikely this weekend
Mr Andrews reiterated that restrictions set to ease on Sunday will likely relate to social activities rather than businesses.
“I think it’s unlikely this weekend there will be a big shift in terms of retail,” he said.
“There are risks, not so much with the setting, the risk relates to movement.
“We’ve had Bunnings put pretty clear views to us, our stores are safe, we haven’t had any outbreaks, and that’s largely true. [But] the notion that no positive person has moved through one of their stores, or any other retail store, is probably unlikely. I think they almost certainly have.”
Lockdowns should not be first resort, says WHO adviser
A special adviser to the director-general of the World Health Organisation has said governments should not rely on strict lockdowns to control the spread of COVID-19.
Dr David Nabarro said lockdowns should be used to give governments and health systems time to organise and prepare for a pandemic, but should not be the default mechanism to slow the virus.
“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted – but by and large, we’d rather not do it,” he said in an interview with conservative British magazine The Spectator.
“And so we really do appeal to all world leaders: stop using lockdown as your primary control method. Develop better systems for doing it. Work together and learn from each other.”
Noble Park schools closes due to COVID case
A school in Melbourne’s south-east was closed on Monday after a student tested positive to COVID-19.
Students at Nazareth College in Noble Park missed out on the return to face-to-face learning on Monday, after the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed a student had tested positive on Sunday night.
In a letter to parents, college principal Sam Cosentino said the school would be closed for an unknown period of time.
“Contact tracing in schools can take a couple of days and we will give up an update when it has been completed,” he said.
Mr Cosentino advised students who attended on-site last week to remain at home while contact tracing is done. “They must limit movements to home-based activities and not attend public places,” he wrote.
New face mask rules came into effect on Monday.
All Victorians are now required to wear a fitted face mask that covers their nose and mouth when they leave home, no matter where they live.
Scarves, bandanas, plastic face shields, loose neck warmers and snoods are no longer permitted.
Paul is a reporter for The Age.
Craig Butt joined The Age in 2011 and specialises in data-driven journalism.