Victoria records another 17 deaths, 222 new coronavirus cases amid concern over testing rate

Victoria has recorded 222 new COVID-19 cases, its lowest figure in a month.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews speaks to the media during a press conference in Melbourne, Sunday, August 16, 2020. Victoria has recorded 279 new coronavirus cases and 16 deaths, taking the national toll to 395. (AAP Image/Erik Anderson) NO ARCHIVING

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews Source: AAP

Victoria's new case numbers could be down in the 100s next week as optimism grows the state is beating its second coronavirus outbreak.

But there were still 17 deaths reported on Tuesday and authorities are urging people with any symptoms to be tested.

Tuesday's case figure of 222 is the state's lowest in a month and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton is confident that trend will continue.

"I would hope we are in the hundreds, not in the 200s, next week but it all depends on everyone doing the right thing," Prof Sutton said.

A concern for him and Premier Daniel Andrews is a drop of about 30 per cent in tests since last week.

"I don't want a situation where we see numbers continue to fall but at the same time the total number of tests falling also because that will mean we don't have confidence that we have an accurate picture of how much virus is in the community," Mr Andrews said.

"We don't want that to be an inhibitor in any way of moving to a new phase and a new set of rules.

"We have to have that confidence that we are getting a complete or as close to a complete picture as we possibly can."

Prof Sutton said even the mildest symptoms should prompt a test.

"It can be the beginning of cough. It doesn't have to be a productive cough, yellow or green cough. It can be the mildest of flu or cold-like symptoms," he said.

"There can be other unusual symptoms that are classic in coronavirus, so a change in smell, a change in taste."

The premier also said an announcement was imminent on Tuesday from NSW about border permits for farm workers, adding there had been "significant progress".

He is also optimistic about negotiations with NSW over the issue of students living close to the border, while talks with SA are ongoing about their border closure.

The latest figures come as an epidemiologist credits Victoria turning the corner to sacrifices made by the hardest-hit communities.

Professor Catherine Bennett, chair in epidemiology at Deakin University, noted the link between high case numbers in Melbourne's low socio-economic areas and Victoria's botched hotel quarantine scheme.

"The communities hardest hit when their workers brought the virus home were also those most challenged in the face of the pandemic - over-represented in multi-site casual work, unable to work from home or afford to forgo work," she said in a statement.

"The fact that the wave is turning in Victoria is largely a credit to those hardest hit, and who have had to do the really hard yards to shut down local transmission."

Tuesday's deaths take the state toll to 351 and national figure to 438.

They included a man in his 60s, a woman and a man in their 70s, two women and four men in their 80s and four men and four women in their 90s.

All but four are linked to aged care outbreaks, with 230 total deaths in that sector.

Aged care numbers are holding steady - 2024 actives cases and 120 active outbreaks.

There are 7274 active cases in Victoria, a drop of 200 on Monday, and active regional cases also fell from 436 to 422.

So-called "mystery" cases remain high at 3669 but that is only an increase of 43.

Melbourne is scheduled to come out of the lockdown on 13 September. Regional Victoria remains under stage-three restrictions.

Experts warn the death toll will remain significant for several days, given there is always a lag of a couple of weeks after the peak of coronavirus outbreaks before fatalities decline.

Victoria hit a record 725 new cases on 5 August but there have been no 400-plus days since last Wednesday.

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. 

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5 min read
Published 18 August 2020 at 8:57am
Source: AAP, SBS