More than 68,500 tests were processed in the latest reporting period.
Today’s case numbers continue a decline from the state’s record tally of 1,965 cases on Saturday.
“It is very encouraging to see the first seven-day average with a dip for a couple of days,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said.
“But even 7-day trends, need to be validated by the following seven days. We can't look at perhaps-falling numbers and think this is beaten. We have to finish this.”
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he was “cautious but optimistic” about the dip in numbers.
“I think it's terrific to have seen a consistent drop over a few days,” he told reporters.
“That's not to say that we shouldn't keep our guard up or that we might not see an uptick in cases but with higher and higher levels of vaccination coverage each and every day in Victoria, across Australia, it does give me hope that we are continuing to suppress the transmission, in our hot spot areas in particular.”
With hospitalisations expected to rise in the coming weeks, Health Minister Martin Foley foreshadowed the cancellations of elective surgery in some areas across the state.
“We will be shifting capacity from the state sector to the private sector and with that … we will be progressively seeking to switch off elements of non-urgent care,” Mr Foley said.
“Essentially, all non-urgent Category 1 and Category 2A are protected but other categories of clinical care will be rescheduled on a case-by-case basis, depending on particular circumstances in particular locations.”
What happened to other countries that opened up after COVID-19 vaccine targets?
Mr Foley also announced a $255 million investment to support healthcare workers over the coming weeks.
It includes an allowance of up $60 per shift for patient-facing workers as part of hospital surge measures.
“We know that the next few months, as Victoria opens, are going to be incredibly challenging and difficult … for all our healthcare workforce,” Mr Foley said.
“These Victorian front-line healthcare workers are the backbone of our COVID response and we need to support them and recognise the support in every possible way.”
International healthcare workers enlisted
Victoria will also undertake a $2.5 million drive to recruit 1,000 healthcare workers living overseas, primarily returning Australians, to help ease the pressure on local hospital staff.
The group comprises doctors, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.
British doctor Dr Laura Carter was recruited by the health department earlier this year, making an “impulsive decision” to move to Melbourne having worked in virus wards in Wales during Britain’s first and second waves.
After completing hotel quarantine in August, she’s been employed for three weeks in the Sunshine Emergency Department in the city’s west.
“When I started, we had no COVID cases - [now] we're now seeing daily COVID cases and sick COVID cases, mostly in the unvaccinated,” she told reporters.
“It's definitely a throwback to the beginning of the [British] wave for the first time.”
She said Australia’s systems appeared much better prepared than Britain's last year and said the vaccine would make a difference.
“I think Australia has been very pragmatic and I think the amount of vaccinated people, the lockdowns, has massively helped curb the health care pressure so far,” she said.
As of Monday, 85.8 per cent of adults had received one vaccine dose, and 59.3 per cent had received two, with the state likely to pass the 60 per cent mark today.
The chief health officer singled out Mildura, currently under lockdown, as seeing the highest growth in first dose vaccination.
He urged regional residents to get the jab, ahead of the 80 per cent double dose milestone that will see regional travel permitted.
“Don't put off vaccination because you haven't seen COVID in the community,” he said.
This weekend, 11 pop-up vaccination clinics will be open at school sites ahead of the return to classrooms when lockdown ends.
“There will be COVID-19 that is brought back into households from school cases and we want that cocoon of protection within households as schools open up more fully,” Professor Sutton said.