A man in his 30s and six aged care residents are among 12 new Victorian Covid-19 deaths that have taken Australia’s coronavirus death toll to 278.
On Saturday, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, announced a further 466 cases of coronavirus in the state. Andrews said the number of cases attributed to no known source had risen by 130 to 2,584.
“The number of mystery cases we have across the state and some in regional Victoria, we have to assume there is more virus, more transmission, more cases out there than the data tells us,” Andrews told reporters on Saturday.
There are currently 636 people with Covid-19 in hospital in Victoria, 44 of whom are in intensive care and 29 on ventilators. A child under 10 is one of those in intensive care.
Latest available Vic hospital Covid data: pic.twitter.com/k9k8hBwGot— Melissa Davey (@MelissaLDavey) August 8, 2020
Andrews said there were 998 Victorian healthcare workers with Covid-19, an increase of 140 since Friday.
In New South Wales, health authorities announced nine new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections in the state to 3,662.
An infected student from Tangara School for Girls in Sydney’s Cherrybrook was a focus of contact tracers trying to link her transmission to a known case. The case has shuttered the campus for deep cleaning, in what is the fourth school in NSW to be closed in a week.
Three of the new cases were under investigation, but two were close contacts with each other. Of the remaining six cases, two were returned international travellers in hotel quarantine and four were close contacts of already known cases.
“While most cases in the past week have been associated with local clusters and close contacts with known cases, nine have not been linked to known cases, indicating that Covid-19 is circulating in the community,” NSW Health said.
Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth, said on Saturday afternoon that soaring cases among aged care residents and healthcare workers were of significant concern in Victoria, while heightened social activity of younger people in NSW was risking further spread in that state. He urged those in their 20s to avoid “the old eight-pub pub crawl”.
Victoria’s chief medical officer, Brett Sutton, earlier said there were 1,600 active coronavirus cases in the aged care sector and residents of facilities across Australia so far represented 187 of the 278 deaths.
Sutton said the daily case numbers in Victoria had “stabilised” at about 400 to 500 per day and the impact of the stage-four restrictions was not expected to be seen until next week.
Sutton said the state’s reproduction rate of the virus had lowered from 1.75 before stage-three restrictions to 0.9, but warned that was based on a “best guess” model.
“That 0.9 needs to be at 0.5,” he said. “We can’t have 500 cases every single day and the associated morbidity, hospitalisation, intensive care requirements and debts that are associated with that number every day.”
As the two states with Australia’s most considerable Covid-19 outbreaks scrambled to contain further spread, the federal treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, accused the Victorian government of “very serious failures when it comes to quarantine” and said there had been “deadly consequences”.
“This has had many knock-on effects for the national recovery effort, and I will leave those answers to the premier and those questions to the premier to provide,” he said. “Victorians are entitled to know more and to get the answers.”
Andrews has repeatedly said he will not comment on the hotel quarantine issue while a judicial inquiry, which he ordered, is under way. That inquiry has been extended for more than a month due to stage-four restrictions in Melbourne, and its chair, Judge Jennifer Coates, said this week there was nothing constraining politicians from commenting on the issue.
While emphasising the federal government’s $314bn spending on virus supports including the jobkeeper wage subsidy – which was expanded this week to take Victoria’s harsher lockdown into consideration – and the jobseeker unemployment benefit, Frydenberg said the states and territories had committed $44bn between them.
He said they had “the balance sheet strength” to spend more on support, including business grants and infrastructure projects.
Frydenberg said that of the 4 million Australians expected to be jobkeeper by the September quarter, “some 1.5 million of them will be Victorians”.
Victoria police said that 62 people were fined $1,652 for breaching the 8pm curfew in Melbourne on Friday, with a further 36 people fined $200 for failing to wear a face mask.
The state began its first full weekend in a tightened lockdown that includes a curfew for residents and widespread business closures.
Queensland, ACT, South Australia, the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Western Australia recorded no new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, with the latter’s premier, Mark McGowan, warning that his state’s borders could remain shut for “certainly months” and possibly more than a year.
“It’s a long way away,” McGowan said on Saturday, the day originally earmarked to reopen borders but later delayed after community transmission in eastern states. “I can’t put a date on it but it is certainly months.
“As to whether it’s before the end of the year, as to whether it’s before the middle of next year, I cannot put a date on it.”
Queensland closed its borders to NSW and ACT residents as of Saturday in a bid to prevent a second outbreak in the state.
Queenslanders returning home faced traffic delays of up to two hours at border crossings and police turned away more than 140 people including some who lied about where they had come from.