Victoria has announced more than 700 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, with the daunting figure throwing any suggestion case numbers were being driven down out the window.
Premier Daniel Andrews also confirmed a record 13 deaths, as the devastating consequences of Victoria’s aged care crisis are laid bare.
He announced further restrictions for residents in regional Victoria, making masks mandatory across the entire state from Sunday night and banning visitors in homes in six local government areas from midnight tonight.
The deaths mean the state has recorded 44 deaths in just five days, the majority of which are aged care related.
The fatalities mean Victoria is the first state to reach 100 deaths with 105, more than double NSW’s 51 deaths since the pandemic began.
The deaths were three men and three women in their 70s, three men and two women in their 80s, and two men aged in their 90s.
The new daily cases total of 723 is more than double Wednesday’s 295 confirmed cases and sets a new daily record by nearly 200 cases.
"There would be significant concern across the community. And I'm obviously concerned to see these numbers increase," Mr Andrews said.
‘Essentially stage four’: New restrictions announced
Mr Andrews announced new restrictions outside of the metropolitan Melbourne area and the Mitchell Shire to curtail the spread of the virus in regional Victoria.
Anyone residing in Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, Colac-Otway and the Borough of Queenscliffe will not be allowed visitors in their homes from midnight on Thursday.
"People are not necessarily taking the distance in their family time,” he said.
Regional Victoria currently has 255 active cases, with 159 in six local areas around Geelong.
Hospitality venues including cafes, restaurants and pubs will remain open under current guidelines.
From midnight Sunday, all Victorians must wear face masks when outside the home.
“It's inconvenient, it's challenging, but it's essentially Stage 4 for Melbourne, and it's something we can do in regional Victoria without causing significant economic cost, but getting a really significant public health benefit,” he said.
"We have low numbers in regional Victoria, and we want to jealously guard that.
"We want to keep those numbers low. These are preventative steps, they're an abundance-of-caution approach, if you like.”
Positive cases still going to work
Mr Andrews told reporters a minority of Victorians were the driving force behind the record numbers, with some still heading to work despite showing symptoms.
“People that are between having the test taken and getting the results are still presenting to work. And for so long as that continues, then we will continue to see numbers go up,” he said.
Mr Andrews said “a small number” were even going to work after testing positive.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton on Wednesday refused to say two consecutive decreasing daily case totals meant the surge in cases was now under control, and previously said the “volatile” nature of current outbreaks meant the total could rapidly change.
Another record daily death toll was expected, with more than 400 residents in private aged care facilities infected.
“There will be more deaths with the number of aged care recipients that are infected. We know that, it is a certainty,” Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy said on Wednesday.
“We will see deaths every day and that is a tragedy. This virus, once it gets into many frail elderly people has an inevitable fatal outcome in some cases.”
There are now 913 active cases linked to aged care facilities.
Victoria has now entered its fourth week of its six-week lockdown, with Professor Sutton previously stating modelling indicated that Monday should have been the state’s peak.
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