Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, says he doesn’t know if daily COVID-19 infection rates will fall enough in the next fortnight to end stage four restrictions.
Victoria announced 113 new cases on Friday, continuing a daily infection numbers trend below 150 all week.
But there were also 12 more deaths — men and women aged in their 70s, 80s and 90s, all linked to aged care outbreaks — bringing the state’s total fatalities to 496.
Victoria’s state of disaster is in place until September 13, when stage four lockdowns in Melbourne and stage three restrictions in the regions are scheduled to end.
Under repeated questioning from journalists, Professor Sutton said falling below 100 new cases per day would be positive from a psychological perspective but he could not predict when the orders would be lifted, with thousands of mystery cases still a major concern.
“I don’t know; the tail of an epidemic has lots of complexity to it,” he said.
“We do need to hold the course.”
He said there were fewer active outbreaks in aged care settings but they were still driving a significant proportion of daily numbers.
Outbreaks among healthcare workers were also driving the numbers, with disability workers now included in that count.
“But otherwise we are definitely trending in the right direction,” he said.
A “not insignificant” proportion of the 513 cases in hospital are from aged care and it would be a while before the mortality rate fell, Prof Sutton said.
Premier Daniel Andrews said Victoria would only slowly return to relative normality when case numbers were “very, very low”.
“There will be some cases, there will be some outbreaks,” he said.
“We will have pubs, restaurants, cafes, other workplaces open, we will have people being able to move freely, we may have masks still in some settings. We of course will still have the physical distance, hand hygiene, cough etiquette.
“We’ll still have the daily call for anyone with symptoms to come forward and get tested.
“We’ll have economic activity and we’ll have a massive plan of investment and support to repair the damage that this pandemic has done. That’s what COVID-normal will look like.”
He said “no effort will be spared” to get the economy back on track.
After deadly storms swept across Melbourne and parts of Victoria Thursday night, Saturday’s forecast is for mild and sunny weather.
Mr Andrews said he was worried people would flout the rules.
“Let’s not just have one weekend where we go and enjoy the sunshine, let’s defeat this thing in its second wave,” he said.
“We can’t open up too soon because like a fire, if you just leave it there smouldering, not having done the job properly then it’s only a matter of time where it will take off again and we will be back where we started.”