Victoria waits for call on lockdown end

Victorian authorities will take an extra day to consider whether the state’s lockdown will lift on time, despite recording another effective “zero” day of new COVID-19 cases.

Eleven new locally acquired coronavirus cases were reported in Victoria on Monday, all linked to the state’s current outbreaks of the highly infectious Delta strain.

Another case was also recorded in hotel quarantine.

For a second day, all new local cases were in isolation for their entire infectious period and no new exposure sites have been added.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the state government would wait until Tuesday to announce whether the statewide lockdown will end after 12 days.

“Nothing has yet been finalised,” he told reporters on Monday.

“But we are mindful of the need as soon as possible … to share that with the people of Victoria.”

The lockdown was called on July 15 due to an outbreak of the Delta variant, which originated from NSW.

It was initially slated to run five days but was extended by a week to 11.59pm on Tuesday as contact tracers struggled to chase down people before they turned positive. 

Mr Foley conceded 22 new local cases over the past two days was a significant figure but said officials took comfort from none spending any time in the community.

“What it points to is that we are on the right track,” he said.

Asked why the government was holding off on the lockdown announcement, Mr Foley said authorities wanted to ensure their decision was based on the most up-to-date and accurate data.

“Two swallows do not a spring make, and two days of zero cases in the community does not make public health certainty,” he said.

Authorities also remain concerned about the threat of cases emerging from Saturday’s anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne.

Even if the lockdown ends as planned, it will be a “careful” stepped easing of restrictions in line with previous versions.

Masks are likely to remain compulsory for some time, along with strict density limits for hospitality and retail traders.

Opposition leader Michael O’Brien said small businesses needed more than 24 hours’ notice to reopen.

“They need to know if they’re ordering in stock, they need to bring in staff. For the government to keep this under wraps until tomorrow, it’s just unfair,” he said.

There are now 180 cases linked to Victoria’s Delta outbreak, with only one infected person recovering to date. 

Five people are in hospital including two in intensive care, one of whom is on a ventilator.

There are also more than 21,000 primary and 18,000 secondary close contacts self-isolating across the state.

Victoria’s COVID commander Jeroen Weimar said 6000 had been cleared to leave isolation in the past few days, including 1700 on Sunday.

“Over the next 24 hours we will be turning our attention to those from the AAMI Park exposure, as well as the schools that have well over 6000 close contacts,” he said.

Those in isolation cannot leave isolation until formally notified by the health department.

More than 25,000 test results were received in the 24 hours to midnight on Monday, while nearly 14,000 vaccine doses were administered at state-run sites during the same period.

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