Two weeks of no COVID cases in Victoria

Premier Daniel Andrews will establish a national infectious disease centre in Victoria, as the state racks up 14 consecutive days without a coronavirus case or death.

Mr Andrews announced on Friday that $155 million from the state’s upcoming budget will go towards an Australian Institute for Infectious Disease based at the University of Melbourne in Parkville. 

The centre is expected to cost $550 million, with the university and its partners to pitch in $150 million. 

The remaining funds will be sought from the Commonwealth.

Construction is expected to begin next year and completed by 2025. 

The construction phase will create about 350 jobs while the institute is expected to provide a “massive boost” for the biomedical sector and could support up to 5000 jobs, including up to 850 jobs at the centre itself.

“This is exactly the right thing to do at this time,” Mr Andrews told reporters at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne.

“This has been a one in 100-year event. Who knows, there may be more pandemics of that nature in the years to come.” 

It comes as the state marked a two-week virus-free run, a feat unseen since February 22. 

More than 12,000 Victorians were tested for the virus on Thursday. 

“We’ve seen test numbers this week that have been truly impressive, and they really are the key to us keeping these numbers low,” Mr Andrews said. 

“Whether they’re zero every day, that’s not the aim. The aim is to have as low numbers as possible and be able to stop the spread of this virus as we take safe and cautious steps to open up.” 

Despite the good numbers, Mr Andrews said remaining coronavirus restrictions won’t be further eased before November 22. 

Meanwhile, Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kym Peake on Thursday resigned “to pursue other opportunities”, less than two months after facing the state’s hotel quarantine inquiry.

She’s the third inquiry witness to resign, following Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles. 

When questioned at the inquiry, Ms Peake refused to accept deficiencies in the hotel quarantine program stemmed from failures in her department, but expressed “profound regret” over its inability to prevent the state’s devastating second wave of COVID-19.

The inquiry will hand down its final report on December 21. 

This week a new poll revealed a post-lockdown surge in public approval for the state Labor government.

The Roy Morgan survey, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, shows Labor’s primary vote had risen to 45 per cent, up five percentage points, following the end of Victoria’s almost four months of lockdown.

Some 71 per cent of those polled approved of Mr Andrews’ leadership, up 12 percentage points, with many respondents praising his handling of the pandemic.

Victoria’s death toll from the virus stands at 819 and the national figure is 907.

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