Australia

Elective surgeries to resume as Victoria records 42 new infections and eight deaths

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews Source: AAP

Victoria has had eight coronavirus deaths, taking the state's toll to 737 and the national figure to 824, as the state's active cases drop below 1000.

Victoria's coronavirus respite has been brief, with eight deaths taking the state toll to 737 and the national figure to 824.

Tuesday was the first day Victoria had been fatality-free in its second wave since 13 July.

Among the latest fatalities, four women and two men were in their 80s and two men were in their 90s. All are aged care-related.

It comes as elective surgery is set to be ramped up in Victoria as the state moves to clear a backlog of about 60,000 patients held up by the COVID-19 pandemic.

From Thursday, regional Victoria will jump to 75 per cent of usual activity as case numbers continue to fall.

Melbourne is scheduled to go to 75 per cent from 28 September.

An additional 18,750 elective surgeries will be carried out across public and private hospitals in October and 10,500 in November.

Specialist outpatient consultations and non-urgent dental procedures will also gradually resume.

Premier Daniel Andrews is promising extra funding to resume an elective surgery "blitz", launched earlier in the pandemic, when it's safe to do so.

"There will be a lot of catch-ups to be done here but our health system ... public and private working together, are equal to that task," he told reporters on Wednesday.

All elective surgery across Victoria has been curtailed dramatically because of the state's second wave.

Victoria's total active cases have now hit a milestone, dropping below 1000 to 991.

"That is very, very significant - it's been a long time since we've had less than 1000 active cases," Premier Daniel Andrews said.

The premier apologised to people who had been forced to wait for surgery, saying hospitals had needed to create capacity for infected aged care residents.

"We know this has been an anxious time for many Victorians whose surgery is delayed but we'll catch up on the backlog as quickly as possible and ensure those who need it most are prioritised," he said.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the number of infected healthcare workers had significantly declined in recent weeks.

"They are overwhelmingly now concentrated, in terms of active cases, in private aged care facilities or staff who work in private aged care facilities," she said.

"I think the latest figure is about 70 per cent of those active cases are in private aged care."

All Victorian hospitals will return to full surgical capacity when the state moves to "COVID normal", removing all restrictions, from 23 November.

Ms Mikakos said people's access to surgery would be based on clinical need and the priority classifications could be reviewed.

"For anyone who is concerned about their current condition or have any concerns that their condition may have deteriorated in recent weeks, it's important that they speak to their GP or their specialist doctor," she said.

"Their place in that waiting list, their classification ... is able then to be reviewed."

Melbourne's crucial 14-day average of new cases has also dropped below 50.

It is now 49.6, with regional Victoria also falling again to 3.5.

The 14-day rolling average is a key statistic in the state government's roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions.

Victoria had 42 new cases on Wednesday, the same as Tuesday.

Regional Victoria's restrictions will ease at midnight, but Melbourne will stay in its stage-four lockdown.

Authorities are ramping up roadblocks, creating the so-called "ring of steel" around the city to ensure city residents do not try to take advantage of the eased regional measures.

Premier Daniel Andrews has warned motorists travelling out of the city to expect longer wait times as police tighten checkpoints.

"I'm sorry to say it will mean that there will be significant queues, there will be travel issues," he told reporters on Tuesday.

Melbourne's lockdown rules remain unchanged and people cannot travel out of the city without specific reasons.

The next step for regional Victoria means pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to serve people outside with strict density quotas, while outdoor gathering limits will be upped to 10.

Regional Victorians will also be able to leave their homes without restriction and all shops can reopen.

Melbourne will move to its next step of reopening on 28 September if the 14-day case average keeps falling to between 30-50.

Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 9pm 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 9pm, 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. The full list of restrictions can be found here.

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

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch