Miles says Victoria’s 11 new cases ‘better than expected’ – but no easing

Victoria has recorded the lowest number of new COVID-19 infections in three months, raising hopes that the state’s lockdown is finally working.

Sep 21, 2020, updated Sep 21, 2020
Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young and Deputy Premier Steven Miles. (Photo: AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young and Deputy Premier Steven Miles. (Photo: AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Australia’s worst-hit state recorded 11 new coronavirus cases overnight and two further deaths. This followed 14 new infections, and five deaths, on Sunday.

It is the 11th consecutive day Victoria has recorded a daily infections number below 50, and the lowest since nine new cases were reported on June 16.

Premier Daniel Andrews declared the results a “cause for great optimism and positivity right across metropolitan Melbourne”.

Yet Andrews was unable to tell Victorians when they might be free to go about their normal lives, saying the threat still remained.

“If we do not stay the course, if we let our frustrations get the better of us, then there is an underlying fragility to this and that is just the nature of this virus,” Andrews said today.

NSW recorded four cases overnight: three returned overseas travellers in hotel quarantine, and one person linked to the Concord Hospital cluster who was already self-isolating.
Queensland recorded only one new case overnight, in an overseas arrival already in state quarantine. The Palaszczuk Government may increase the number of overseas arrivals before it eases restrictions on travel from Victoria and NSW.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles today said the border policy would be routinely reviewed at the end of the month. While he would not be drawn on whether pandemic control was making border changes more likely, Miles was heartened by the results in southern states.

“NSW and Victoria have done incredibly well,” Miles said.

“Victoria has gone from reporting 700 cases a day to being around the 40 cases a day mark. That’s greater progress than certainly I expected that they would make. Similarly, NSW seems to be getting on top of their cases. Although they still have some where there is reason to be concerned that people have been infectious in the community.”

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she still required an area to go 28 days without community transmission to be declared free of COVID-19. While Queensland is on the verge of going 14 days without a case being active in the community, the NSW cycle is much shorter, prohibiting any change to border restrictions.

“Their most recent case that may be of concern is that they had a taxi driver out and about in the community over the last week or so,” Young said.

Miles foreshadowed hotels in Cairns, and the city’s international airport, being used to help quarantine Australians returning from overseas, under plans being developed with the commonwealth. He said Gladstone might also meet the criteria, and the government was keen to manage the risks and, where possible, provide an economic boost to regions.

Young said most COVID-19 cases in Queensland were among people already in quarantine, having either gone due to travel requirements or been directed there due to having contact with a known case. That has helped contain any outbreaks.

“Quarantine has stood us very, very well,” she said.

Ahead of the AFL grand final next month, 200 people have agreed to be part of a trial at a game tonight, sitting in an area of a stadium with 75 per cent density, as planned for the event, instead of the 50 per cent density currently allowed.

Liberal National Party leader Deb Frecklington said using Queenslanders as “guinea pigs” showed “the lengths Annastacia Palaszczuk is going to manipulate coronavirus for political gain”.

“It is staggering double standards when people can’t have more than 10 people in their home but Annastacia Palaszczuk wants to trial jamming people into a footy stadium,” Frecklington said, referring to the household restrictions in south-east Queensland after recent clusters.

“This shows Labor is more interested in AFL footy stars than the health of everyday Queenslanders.”

Palaszczuk was in a Cabinet meeting this morning but has previously defended the decision to host the grand final, saying it would be subject to strict controls and Queensland was well-prepared.

Young said outdoor events were safer than indoor events, especially where there was designated seating to facilitate contact tracing if required. She suggested there was no comparison with the 10-person limit on household gatherings.

“Where we’ve got COVIDSafe plans, we should use them,” Young said.

“Now, we don’t have COVIDSafe plans for people’s own homes, of course we don’t … and people do relax and let down their guard.”

Young also made clear the 75 per cent density arrangement for the grand final – which will be held a week before the October 31 election – was not yet locked in. She said the trial was prudent.

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