Australia

Victoria marks deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic as free 'call-to-test' program announced

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews Source: AAP

As deaths from COVID-19 continue to rise in Victoria, another 322 new cases have been confirmed.

Another 19 people have died of coronavirus in Victoria, marking Australia's deadliest day since the pandemic began. 

On Monday morning, health authorities revealed 322 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed in the state over the past 24 hours, taking the state's total to 14,957. 

The previous record for the highest number of fatalities was 16 after authorities removed a death reported on Sunday due to duplication, resulting in the overall state and national tallies being cut by one.

The new fatalities include one man in his 50s, one woman in her 60s, two men in their 70s, one men and six women in their 80s, and one man and seven women in their 90s. Of these, 14 were related to outbreaks in aged care facilities. 

Ninety-three Victorians have died of the virus over the past week, taking the state's total to 228 and the national figure to 313. 

There are currently 640 people in hospital with the virus, including 47 in intensive care and 31 of those on ventilators. 

The number of new cases being detected, however, appears to be decreasing after hitting a high of more than 700 cases on Wednesday last week. Over the weekend, 394 new cases were reported on Sunday and 466 a day earlier.

Melbourne has been under strict Stage 4 restrictions for more than a week, but health authorities have warned the impact of the lockdown would not be seen for at least another seven days.

Residents are unable to leave their home between 8pm and 5am, can only purchase essential supplies from their nearest supermarket once a day and must not travel beyond a five-kilometre radius of their home.

"This strategy is difficult, it's heartbreaking, it's very challenging, but it's the only one that will drive down movement across Victoria and, therefore, drive down case numbers and that's what we have to be focused on," Mr Andrews told reporters.

Premier Andrews said the culmination of the Stage 4 lockdown and the earlier Stage 3 restrictions had "achieved a lot", but not "as much as we needed to".

"It's bought some stability in the numbers but we got to drive them down so that we can reopen," he said. 

Of the new cases, 105 were still under investigation, meaning the source of the infection was unknown.

Free call-to-test program

The state on Monday open testing to more vulnerable populations, including people housebound due to disability or chronic health conditions.

"We are starting a call-to-test program that will enable someone to call our coronavirus hotline, they'll be assessed by a nurse through that hotline and, with a GP referral, we will go to them," Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.

"This is designed to ensure that approximately 200 vulnerable Victorians every day will have access to this new testing capacity."

The government has also launched a new health campaign to emphasise the devastating health impacts of COVID-19 on those who contract it.

Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd described the 19 new deaths as "agonising" but said the declining number of cases in Victoria were the “first promising signs of a significant reduction in the daily numbers of cases”.

"But it is too early to be certain. We need to follow the numbers very closely over the coming week," Dr Kidd told reporters on Monday.

"While it’s heartening to see the declining number of cases being reported each day from Victoria, and we have seen that over the past five days, we still have hundreds of cases being reported each day."

"We will continue to have people admitted to hospital and people becoming gravely unwell. And sadly some of those people will die."

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.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch