Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has hinted the daily number of cases needed for Melbourne to transition to Stage 3 restrictions could be less than 10 per cent of current daily infections.
While Mr Andrews has repeatedly refrained from revealing a ‘magic number’ that would allow health authorities to feel comfortable for Melbourne to ease its stringent Stage 4 restrictions, he suggested to reporters on Thursday 20 daily cases could be deemed an acceptable number if the majority of those could be traced.
“If you had very low numbers of community transmission or mystery cases and you had 20 cases, but they were all linked to known and contained outbreaks, then that is, in fact, in some respects, a lower number than it might seem,” he said.
His comments followed on from Deputy Chief Health Officer Allen Cheng, who said the number could even be single digits or “low double digits”.
Mr Andrews said it was too early to make any official announcement due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.
After the state’s peak on August 5, where the state recorded 725 cases, new infections dropped to 471 the following day.
Since then cases have gradually dropped to around 230 cases over a two week period.
On Thursday, 240 cases were announced while on Wednesday, there were 216 cases – the lowest in 37 days.
Professor Cheng said the control of mystery cases was vital in any decision and he was “encouraged” by the rate at which mystery cases were dropping. He said overall cases should continue to drop in the coming week.
Mr Andrews suggested Melburnians needed to stick out the current six-week restrictions before any decisions could be made.
“We have to stay the course. We have numbers in the low 200s, the trend is good,” he said.
“We have to acknowledge that even at that number, even at that half number, if you opened up, you wouldn't have defeated the second wave –- you'd just be beginning the process of a third wave.
“We'd all love to know a clear blueprint every single day and we tick them off and move from one phase to another.
“But the issue around the fact that this is not just wildly infectious, but it can be stubborn, it can sit there and be really difficult to extinguish, or even to bring down to a much more sustainable number.”
University of Melbourne Professor John Mathews told Yahoo News Australia last week Victoria would have to get its daily cases as low as NSW.
“The simplest thing is to look at NSW. They’re still under about 20 cases per day, and unless we get to at least that stage in Victoria, it would be hard to recommend stopping the lockdown,” he said.
“Because the numbers are smaller, the contact tracing is more manageable and they can track the new cases and the context down pretty quickly.”
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