Australia

Amid eight new deaths, Victoria records lowest daily coronavirus case increase in more than three weeks

Victoria has recorded eight new coronavirus deaths, one day after Daniel Andrews confirmed the state's highest daily death toll of 21. Source: AAP

Victorian authorities have warned that deaths will continue to rise given the number of people in hospital with the virus.

Victoria announced 278 new coronavirus infections and eight more deaths on Thursday, just one day after the state was struck by its highest 24-hour death toll to date.

On Wednesday Victoria recorded 21 coronavirus deaths - the state's deadliest day of the pandemic - and 410 new infections.

The number of new cases announced on Thursday were the fewest since 20 July, when the state recorded 275 infections.

Thursday's deaths brought the state's death toll to 275 and the national figure to 360.

Premier Daniel Andrews said four of the eight new deaths were connected to the aged care sector. 

The new deaths included a woman in her 50s, two men in their 70s, two women in their 80s, two men in their 80s, and one man in his 90s. 

Victorian authorities have warned that deaths will continue to rise given the number of people in hospital with the virus.

Mr Andrews on Thursday also stressed the need to contain outbreaks in Victoria's regional areas. 

"They remain low in total terms, but we have seen some significant growth of cases in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo," he said. 

"That is of obvious concern to us. We're monitoring that closely."

Mr Andrews said the state government would begin a regional testing push in Ballarat, Geelong and Bendigo. 

"If you have symptoms, even mild symptoms, we ask you to come forward and get tested and we will process that test as quick as we possibly can," he said. 

Isolation payment increase

Mr Andrews also announced an increase in the isolation payment from $300 to $450 for those without sick leave who are forced to isolate while they await a COVID-19 test result.

The decision has been in consultation with employers and unions, said the premier, who said 17,000 Victorians had already applied for the payment.

"We think $450 is a better reckoning for the loss of income ... if they were in different employment circumstances, they would simply draw down on their sick leave and that would be closer to a payment of around $450," he said.

The federal government provides a $1,500 payment for those without sick leave who test positive and and are forced to isolate for 14 days.

'We should see numbers drop'

Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett believes Victoria is beginning to flatten the curve.

"It really looks like we are past the peak now," she told Nine's Today show on Thursday.

She noted active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria dropped on Wednesday for the first time.

"So hopefully this pipeline, if you like, of people being exposed then becoming ill and possibly also triggering workplace outbreaks is now shifting so that we are starting to close down those existing outbreaks," Professor Bennett said.

"We should see the numbers really drop quite rapidly once these outbreaks are contained."

Mr Andrews said the full effects of the stage-four lockdown would not be known until next week.

He said it was dependent upon "literally hundreds of millions of individual choices and decisions".

With AAP. 

Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 8pm and 5am.

During the curfew, people in Melbourne can only leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons. Between 5am and 8pm, people in Melbourne can leave the home for exercise, to shop for necessary goods and services, for work, for health care, or to care for a sick or elderly relative.

All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits. 

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. 

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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