Shock new modelling has crowned Victoria as the safest state from coronavirus in Australia, despite the region still seeing new infections daily.
The modelling was crated by James McCaw, professor of mathematical biology and epidemiology at the University of Melbourne, and his team and helped form the Australian Department of Health’s national COVID-19 report.
The report shows Victoria has the lowest risk of spreading the virus compared to any other state, with a transmission potential of 0.56.
In comparison, NSW, which has been experiencing a recent surge in cases from multiple clusters, has a transmission potential of 0.93.
Prof McCaw said the reason Victoria’s transmission potential is so low is because Victorians have a high rate of compliance with personal COVID safety measures and they are interacting less with one another.
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“The virus is still here. In the communities in which it’s spreading, it has a reproduction number right on one, because there have been 10 cases, on average, every day,” he told the Australian Financial Review.
“And so what that says is that the virus, it’s still circulating but it is a flare-up, it’s a blip or spot fire, the same as what NSW is going through at the moment.
“They are hard to control and the Victorian public health units are showing that they are doing it well.”
Some of the factors that inform the modelling include the number of recent mystery cases, testing rates and ICU capacity and admissions.
The states and territories with lower testing rates were deemed to have a higher transmission potential despite recording fewer COVID-19 cases.
Despite having no active cases, the Northern Territory was cited as the area with the highest transmission potential at 1.57.
The modelling shows the number of tests conducted last week was 2300, with the weekly mean of the previous month at 2700.
In comparison, Victoria conducted 85,000 tests for the week, compared to a weekly average of 94,000 for the previous month.
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Prof McCraw said the modelling showed that the continued extension of stage 4 lockdown is unnecessary, adding there were some restrictions that should be eased right away.
“We should be able to travel beyond 5km. We should be able to have, in a careful, controlled way, some more social interactions to benefit our health and wellbeing,” he said.
“I don’t think we should open the pub. We can’t afford to have uncontrolled wide-scale mixing with strangers in social settings in which virus transmission is a risk. We do have to be very cautious about things like that.”
Victoria recorded its lowest daily case number in more than four months on Friday, with just two new infections confirmed.
The 14-day rolling average is now at 8.7 in metropolitan Melbourne and 0.6 in regional Victoria.
While the number is dropping, it is also a far cry from the rolling average of less than five cases needed to move to the third step out of lockdown.
Premier Daniel Andrews said even though moving completely to the next step in the road map wouldn’t be possible, he did hint that “significant” changes will be announced on Sunday.
The exact changes that will be made are not yet known but expanding Melbourne’s 5km movement restriction to 20km is expected to be on the cards.
The current restriction, which prevents Melburnians travelling further than 5km from their house, has been in place since August 2.
Other experts have suggested that the limit on outdoor public gatherings could be increased to 10 and household visits could be increased to five.
While what will be eased in Victoria is still a guessing game, Mr Andrews did reveal what restrictions would not be changed this weekend.
“I can tell you that clubhouses will not be open on Monday but if we can take other stops to give people back a few of the things that they love, the things that will give them a bit of sense of normality … they are the sort of things we will be looking at,” he said during Friday’s press conference.
“I can definitely confirm for you that the hard border between metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria will stay.
“I can’t tell you how long that will stay.”