31 Jul 2020

Victoria flags new steps to control surging Covid-19 cases

3:32 pm on 31 July 2020

Premier Daniel Andrews has warned restrictions in Victoria are likely to be extended beyond the six-week lockdown in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire, after the state recorded another 627 coronavirus cases and eight deaths overnight.

Ambulance officers transport a resident from the Epping Gardens aged care facility in the Melbourne suburb of Epping on July 29, 2020, as the city battles fresh outbreaks of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Ambulance officers in Melbourne transfer a patient from an aged care facility to hospital. Photo: AFP

The increase in cases is the second-highest single-day increase of the pandemic and comes after a record 723 cases were recorded yesterday.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews speaks to media.

Daniel Andrews Photo: DAVID GRAY / AFP

"I've got no announcements to make about next steps but it is important that all of us acknowledge that these numbers are still far too high and we could not open up with these numbers," the Premier said today.

"We could not open up even with significantly less than these numbers."

Andrews said national and Victorian health officials were doing a "detailed analysis" of what was driving the increasing cases.

"We have numbers that are too high, community transmission too high, and we need to do detailed analysis and potentially take further steps beyond the current framework."

He said the analysis would let authorities know what needed to be done to drive numbers down.

"I don't think it is unreasonable to say that there are a whole range of potential next steps that will come at a very significant cost - and I mean that in all of its senses."

More than 1000 healthcare workers infected

The people who died were two men in their 50s, two men in their 70s, three men in their 80s and one woman in her 70s. The state's death toll now stands at 112.

Four of the deaths were connected to aged care settings, Andrews said.

There are now a total of 349 people in hospital, including 37 people in intensive care.

The Premier said 928 active cases in Victoria were connected to aged care settings, and 1030 active cases were healthcare workers.

More than 100 Covid-positive people not home during checks

Since late last week, Australian Defence Force personnel and health authorities have been doorknocking the homes of people who have tested positive to Covid-19 .

The Premier said more than 130 people who had tested positive to coronavirus were not at home over the past two days.

"It is difficult to understand why one in four people that were doorknocked weren't there," he said.

"That is very challenging to try and understand that. There could be economic issues, we have talked about this many times over many days."

Australian Defence Force personnel escort their staff into the Epping Gardens aged care facility in the Melbourne suburb of Epping on July 28, 2020 as the city battles fresh outbreaks of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

During their door-knocking mission, Australian Defence Force staff have found many positive Covid-19 people not home. Photo: AFP

Andrews said 5200 people had applied for the $A300 ($NZ321) payment which is on offer to people waiting for a test result and who have no sick leave.

He said 4200 people had been paid out a total of $A1.26 million.

NSW under control - PM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged the larger spike in cases in Melbourne remained a challenge, although he added he was confident a coronavirus flare-up in Sydney, the country's biggest city, was under control.

"The level of community outbreak and community transmission in Victoria is the great challenge down there," Morrison said. "And there's still a lot of work to do and we're not on top of it yet."

Morrison said New South Wales had contained the spread of the virus from outbreaks at pubs, restaurants and aged care homes around Sydney thanks mainly to much better contact tracing than in Victoria. New South Wales recorded 21 new cases overnight.

"The key difference is that in New South Wales ... there are no cases that have an unknown source. None," he said, noting that Victoria has had around 50 cases a day with no known source.

Morrison urged Muslims who will be celebrating the Eid al-Adha festival starting today to stay away from big gatherings. Some of Victoria's outbreaks since June have been linked to family gatherings after the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

"At times like this, it's even more important that we don't gather in those large groups, that as important as faith is, that we really do think of the health issues here," he said.

- ABC / Reuters

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