What 116 cases means for Victoria lockdown

 

Victorians desperate for good news, for an end to the daily grind of home schooling and curfew and empty shops and deserted cities will look at today's numbers with some optimism.

There are 116 new coronavirus cases in the state, marking the lowest daily total in nearly two months. There are also, sadly, 15 more deaths.

As the September 13 deadline looms for easing stage 4 lockdown, the Premier and the chief health officer are under pressure to give some certainty that businesses can reopen and that workers furloughed for three weeks already can go back to providing for their families.

But both are proceeding with caution.

Melburnians out and about for their one-hour of daily permitted exercise. Picture: Jason Edwards
Melburnians out and about for their one-hour of daily permitted exercise. Picture: Jason Edwards

 

People attend the farmer’s market in Coburg over the weekend. Picture: Daniel Pockett/NCA NewsWire
People attend the farmer’s market in Coburg over the weekend. Picture: Daniel Pockett/NCA NewsWire


Daniel Andrews today revealed he will attempt to pass new laws extending the current state of emergency for a further 12 months, but has made it clear that he will wait to see numbers drop even further before making a decision on what comes next.

Professor Brett Sutton delivered some clues when speaking to the media last week as case numbers dipped consistently to the low 200s.

He said he wants Victoria's daily infections to be below 50 before using his state of emergency powers to end the current lockdown.

"I would be really gratified if it were in single figures (by mid-September), but I'm not convinced that it will be," Professor Sutton said.

"I think it's possible, but I think there are really significant challenges to get there.

"If we were in single figures, I'd be very relaxed (about opening up)."

He said numbers "will never fall fast enough for me" but "we all want them to be below 100, below 50, below 10, as soon as we possibly can".

Lockdown is scheduled to be reconsidered on September 13. Picture: Jason Edwards
Lockdown is scheduled to be reconsidered on September 13. Picture: Jason Edwards


The CHO did, however, say that numbers are "trending as we have modelled", meaning the rate of infection is where they hoped it would be midway through the six-week lockdown.

Epidemiologist from the University of South Australia, Professor Adrian Esterman, was confident the lockdown would end after six weeks.

He told news.com.au on Monday that a drop to 116 new cases is "welcome news which falls exactly on my 5-day trend line".

"I forecast last week that we would be down to 100 cases by next weekend, and single digits the weekend after. Today's number confirms this.

"If this trend continues, the Victorian government would be able to lift stage 4 in three weeks time."

The Premier says he will keep taking expert advice in terms of when to reopen the state.

"It's absolutely fine for us to be having these discussions, it is just hard to crystal ball where we might get to," he said.

"We've just got to accept, as tough as it is, that we've still got a long way to go in this and we have to keep doing everything we possibly can to drive those numbers down and down further."

Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton will have the final say on when Victoria’s current lockdown ends. Picture: Daniel Pockett/NCA NewsWire
Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton will have the final say on when Victoria’s current lockdown ends. Picture: Daniel Pockett/NCA NewsWire


Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mr Andrews said he hoped parliament would allow him to extend the state of emergency for 12 months.

"All we ask for is to make a relatively minor change to the public health and well-being act, and to make sure that the law of our state reflects and is equal to the challenge that our state faces," he said.

The current lockdown, which includes a curfew between 8pm and 5am, was introduced on August 2 when case numbers spiked to 621. The Premier declared a state of disaster and brought in the Australian Defence Force to begin doorknocking.

Businesses were shuttered and workers were sent home to wait for better news to come. But three weeks later they are still waiting.

Masks have become mandatory and strict fines are in place for those who fail to wear them without a genuine medical excuse.

Exercise is also affected - Victorians can only leave the home for an hour of exercise each day and shopping is restricted to one person per household, once a day.

Originally published as What 116 cases means for lockdown


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