24 Aug 2020

Victoria coronavirus cases rise by 116 as state records 15 more Covid-19 deaths

5:13 pm on 24 August 2020

Victoria has recorded 116 new coronavirus cases and 15 deaths, as Premier Daniel Andrews announced his government will seek to change laws so that Victoria's state of emergency can be extended by another 12 months.

Commuters walk past Melbourne's Flinders Street Station on July 23, 2020.

File image. Photo: AFP

Under the state's Public Health and Wellbeing Act, a state of emergency can only be declared for a consecutive period of six months.

Under the state of emergency, the Chief Health Officer is able to make legally enforceable directions in order to protect public health, such as quarantine rules, mask wearing and physical distancing.

Andrews said while the current state of emergency was due to end on 13 September, it was clear it would be needed well beyond that time.

"Whilst we'd all love this to be over by the 13th of September, which is when the Act says the state of emergency must end, that simply won't be the case," he said.

He said the government would be meeting with all parties "quite soon" and he hoped changes to the Act allowing for an 18-month state of emergency to be declared would be passed with widespread support.

Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said the Coalition would not support the move, which he described as a "power grab".

He said if any extension to the allowable duration of a state of emergency were needed, it should be shorter than 12 months.

The government has also announced it will publish more detailed local information on coronavirus cases and outbreaks on the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website this afternoon.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the "dashboard" would contain active case numbers and deaths, details on aged care outbreaks and hospitalisations, as well as high-risk locations.

"As we go on the journey in coming weeks to start to lift some of those restrictions, this information will be critically important because people will be able to see in their local area whether there has been an exposure in a particular location from a known case," she said.

As an example, she said Victorians would be able to check if a known case had visited the local shopping centre or cafe so they could check if they might have been potentially exposed at the same time.

"But of course there's no substitute for being aware that we can develop these symptoms as we move about in the community," she said.

Lowest daily increase in more than seven weeks

Andrews said the 15 deaths recorded overnight were men and women aged in their 80s and older and were all linked to aged care home outbreaks.

Today's increase of 116 new cases follows 208 new cases on Sunday and 182 on Saturday.

It is the lowest daily increase in cases since 5 July, when 74 new cases were reported.

Victorian contract tracers have classified another 108 previously recorded cases as "mystery cases", where the source of the person's infection could not be determined.

Andrews said healthcare worker infections had stabilised and were falling, with 476 active infections across the state.

He said he was hopeful there would be more detailed information available in coming days about how many of those workers had been infected on the job.

The number of active cases in regional cities has also dropped, with 88 cases in Geelong, 24 in Bendigo and no active cases in Ballarat.

Chief nurse says no 'magic number' for lifting restrictions

Alison McMillan, the Federal Government's chief nursing and midwifery officer, said today's figure was "extremely encouraging".

"Here we're seeing the significant effort that Victorians have done to flatten this curve and see these numbers go down," she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

"Sadly we do see that the numbers of deaths tend to lag behind the numbers of confirmed cases by two to three weeks."

McMillan said there was no "magic number" to determine when restrictions should be lifted.

"All the signs are encouraging but it is incumbent on me to remind everyone the things you've been doing are the things you need to continue to do to see these numbers stay at this level and get lower," she said.

McMillan said the lower numbers would have to be sustained over a period of time before restrictions could be removed.

"There is a desire to see the numbers still significantly lower still than 100," she said.

"You would want to see that sustained over a period of time."

Sunday marked the halfway point of Melbourne's six-week period of stage 4 restrictions.

"I think the strategy is working," Andrews said on the weekend.

"We're going to defeat this second wave and then we'll be able to begin the process of opening up."

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he hoped the state's daily case numbers would be in the double figures by the time Melbourne's stage 4 restrictions were due to expire on 13 September.


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