Victoria’s coronavirus cases have soared past 2000, with 2297 new infections reported today.
The figure is the highest daily COVID-19 cases any Australian state or territory has recorded since the pandemic began.
The alarming number has crushed hopes the state had already reached its peak and was following a downward trend of COVID-19 cases.
Another 11 people have died from the virus.
The deaths include a man in his 50s from Moonee Valley, a man in his 60s from Moreland, two men in their 60s and 70s from Melton, three men in their 70s, 60s and 50s from Hume, a man in his 70s from Shepparton, two women in their 80s and 70s from Knox and a Brimbank man in his 80s.
The Burnet Institute predicted the state would reach more than 2000 daily cases by the end of the month.
Deputy Premier James Merlino said Victoria’s large spike in COVID-19 cases would come as a shock.
“This jump in numbers, we know, will come as a surprise to many Victorians,” he said.
“We had hoped to see a plateau in numbers but today’s jump still lands in the projected range of the Burnet (Institute) modelling.”
Victoria’s Acting Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie said there was “no single event” health authorities could attribute to today’s surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Today is a big number of cases that’s been reported and I know that this will hit hard for many, many people in Melbourne and in Victoria,” he said.
“It does really show how easy it is for this virus to pass from person to person.
“There’s no single event that we can really pin this very substantial increase in numbers relative to the last couple of days to explain it but there are some trends which we’re exploring.”
Professor Cowie said while cases have increased across all regions in Melbourne, growth had been particularly high in the city’s south-east.
“We’ve seen increased growth in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne and believe that we do have undetected transmission occurring in the community, which is just coming to the surface,” he said.
Mr Merlino also announced the ACT will move from a red zone to an orange zone from 11.59pm today, under Victoria’s travel permit system.
Changes for VCE exam students
Mr Merlino has announced major changes to COVID-19 isolation rules for Year 11 and 12 students in Victoria.
All VCE students, other than those confirmed to be COVID-positive, will be able to sit their exams, even if they are primary close contacts.
“Students who are primary close contact can sit their exams in a dedicated room with a separate entrance either by themselves or safely distanced from other students who are also primary close contacts depending on the school’s capacity,” he said.
“They will be supervised by staff wearing face shields and healthcare worker level PPE.
“The rooms will be safely ventilated and cleaned between each use.”
Students who are primary close contacts will need to be tested every 48 hours during the first week after their exposure.
If students are fully vaccinated, they will need to isolate for seven days and if they are unvaccinated, they will need to isolate for 14 days.
But all students will be exempt to leave isolation to sit their exams.
Premier Daniel Andrews today said Victoria hasn’t necessarily reached its peak for COVID-19 infections.
“Trends have to be maintained for a period of time,” he said.
But Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Sonya Bennet said case numbers were not expected to rise “exponentially”.
She said the key to reducing cases was lowering the “reproductive number” – the average number of people each COVID-19 case infects.
“What we need to see, which is a combination of measures of increasing vaccination coverage, the community continuing to implement those measures, such as hygiene, getting tested when unwell, check-in codes, supporting contact tracing, and complying with the social restrictions in place – we should see that reproductive number come under one,” she said.
“That’s what we want to see, and that’s when we’ll start seeing case numbers come down. And it’s a fine balance at the moment.
“But we don’t expect that case numbers are going to rise exponentially in Victoria, but we’ll probably continue to see high case numbers for some time, and then expect to see them come down as vaccination continues to increase daily.”
Mr Andrews said he still wants “less cases, not more” but once the state hit its 70 per cent double dose vaccination target, the lockdown would end.
“The Victorian community will have done their job – there will still be rules and we will do our best to follow those because none of us want to be putting extra people in hospital or more pressure on our nurses,” he said.
“We just have to see how the numbers unfold. But we are going to get to 70 per cent next week.”
“It will be a busy few days but as soon as we can give people clarity about next week, we will.”
Mr Andrews yesterday warned once the vaccine target had been met, Melbourne’s lockdown would turn into a “lockout” for the unvaccinated.
“For the first time, we will ease these rules, end these lockdowns, we’ll move to a lockout rather than a lockdown, because we’ve been able to get the vaccination numbers to where they thought they’d be and beyond that,” he said yesterday.
Mitchell Shire is now back in alignment with the rest of regional Victoria, with the limited reasons to leave home rule and the 15km travel radius scrapped.