Victoria is facing the daunting prospect of tight coronavirus restrictions heading into the Christmas period if the rate of infection can’t be driven down to single digit daily totals.
Senior medical figures are now calling for an intervention from the federal government to get to grips with the escalating crisis unfolding in the state.
Government sources have told The Australian premier Daniel Andrews is reluctant to significantly relax restrictions until the numbers drop to low levels of infection.
Yet such a position at this stage must seem like a lifetime away for the five million people undergoing Stage Three restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire after the state recorded an unprecedented 484 new cases on Wednesday – a total greater than any previous record for the nation as whole.
On Wednesday, Mr Andrews told reporters the current six-week lockdown could go on “for much longer” if the current trajectory continues.
It took nearly three weeks for Victoria to record two straight days of cases below 10 after its peak on March 28 in the first wave of cases.
Yet health authorities have repeatedly stressed the current wave is far more dangerous and difficult to control due to the majority of cases now being from community transmission.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton last week suggested daily cases were now appearing to stabilise, yet Wednesday’s record total threw such a thought out the window.
Professor Sutton told the state on Wednesday to expect daily cases up to 600 in the coming days. In comparison, Victoria only hit 111 daily cases during its first surge.
Calls for national leadership needed to curtail spread
President of the Australian Medical Association Dr Tony Bartone said it would be an “absolute disaster” if Melbourne was to be in a lockdown until Christmas and it was evident a “circuit breaker” was needed.
“We need all Melburnians to understand this is serious and this is really now about everyone doing the right thing and decreasing the movement and the mixing, and following all the other messages that we clearly articulated along the way,” he said.
Dr Bartone said there was a need for a clear and coherent and coordinated approach led by the National Cabinet to reassert that sense of ‘this is really serious” as current lockdown measures have failed to have an effect on surging daily numbers.
“We need that coordination between everybody in the space, not just the Victorian government, because this is now a national problem.”
“A trusted leadership, trusted medical leadership, clinicians at the table, like we had in the first wave nationally, is what we need now, guiding us through this really critical phase.
“What happens in the next week is going to be crucial.”
On Wednesday, Mr Andrews revealed about 90 per cent of Victorians weren’t isolating when developing COVID-19 symptoms. More than half of symptomatic people weren’t isolating awaiting their test results, he said.
“We just can't have that any longer. That will continue to see more workplaces with positive cases and more businesses shut down,” he said.
“Ultimately, there's no reason to be going to work when you're sick. It's simply unacceptable.”
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has vowed to give the Victorian government any support it needed to counter rising infections.
"I'm focused by those numbers, completely focused, and obviously concerned because they represent people's lives," he told Sky News on Thursday.
"They represent the fact there are individuals who will be ill in hospital, in ICU, on ventilation and some who will sadly lose their battle."
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