Victoria is “right at the edge” of being able to control its second peak of coronavirus cases, as the Chief Health Officer waits to see the outcome of a targeted testing blitz before deciding whether or not to impose local restrictions on communities in Melbourne’s hotspot suburbs.
- Professor Brett Sutton said the second peak of coronavirus cases posed a “genuine challenge” for health authorities
- He said a change in community behaviour was fuelling the recent increase in cases
- Professor Sutton said wearing a mask in settings where social distancing was not possible could help control the spread of the virus
On Sunday, another 49 cases of coronavirus were announced, taking the state’s total number of cases to 2,028.
There have been double-digit increases in the numbers of new cases of coronavirus in Victoria for the past 13 days.
Twenty of Victoria’s recent coronavirus cases were classified as likely due to community transmission (from an unknown source) over the weekend.
“It’s absolutely a second peak and it’s going to challenge us in the same way as that first one. But like the first one, but we have been testing as significantly as at any point in Australia,” Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told RN Breakfast.
“If it gets beyond us it’s not due to lack of enormous effort, that’s for sure.”
Change in community behaviour leads to uptick in virus transmission
He said Victoria got down to extremely low levels of transmission at one point, but it ticked up again when restrictions were eased.
Professor Sutton said it was difficult to explain why it was happening in Victoria now when the state was in lockdown longer than other states.
But he said it was always going to be harder to stop the spread of the virus in New South Wales and Victoria because of the number of international students and returned travellers.
“When you’ve got community transmission, [where] someone gets tested and you don’t know where it comes from, it becomes very hard to find that chain of transmission,” he said.
“It only takes changed behaviour across the population to tick up again and I think that’s what’s happened.”
A testing blitz is underway in ten suburban hotspots: Keilor Downs, Broadmeadows, Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Hallam, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir and Pakenham, and the aim is to test half of the residents in each suburb to try and lock down the spread of the virus.
Airport cleaner, Essendon school student among recent cases
With the increase in testing, details of some of the new cases identified have been starting to emerge.
A childcare centre in Melbourne’s inner east has been closed after an educator tested positive to coronavirus.
The Department of Health and Human Services yesterday notified families who attended the Guardian Childcare and Education in Abbotsford.
The centre will be closed until Wednesday.
A cleaner working at Melbourne Airport also tested positive to the virus on Saturday, the Department of Home Affairs said.
The department said the Australian Border Force site would be cleaned today as a precaution.
A year 8 student at St Bernard’s College, based in Essendon in Melbourne’s west, has also tested positive.
The school is closed for the holidays and will be cleaned before students return to the classroom.
Mask advice is on the way for Victorians
Professor Sutton said masks could reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission in Victoria, especially in circumstances where physical distancing was challenging, such as in markets or on public transport.
He said public health officials were developing advice for Victorians on the masks that work, they protection they give and how to use them properly.
“I take the perspective when you’re trying to drive numbers down, to maintain your rest and trace capability, it needs to be considered,” he said.
“It’s pretty clear wearing a mask might provide a bit more physical distance between you and others as they you see wearing it.”
Professor Sutton said coronavirus in Victoria was a “relentless challenge” and praised the work of the health authorities working to contain the pandemic.
“I think they’re making profound professional and personal sacrifices because they are absolutely impassioned about protecting lives,” he said.