The Victorian prime minister, Daniel Andrews, will unveil a roadmap for the state to ease Covid-19 restrictions on Sunday, with some concessions expected early this week on the back of a high rate of vaccination.
As daily case numbers and Covid deaths continue to increase, the focus of Victorian state authorities has shifted to another number: the vaccination rate.
On Tuesday, 445 cases and two more deaths were recorded: a man in his twenties from Hume, whose injury was not known to authorities until after his death, and a woman in her eighties from Brimbank.
Victoria is expected to reach 70% of the eligible population with at least one dose of the vaccine by Friday, a milestone that Andrews previously said would lead to an extra hour of daily exercise and increased travel restrictions from 5km to 10km. The state was earlier expected to reach its milestone on September 23.
Andrews told reporters on Tuesday that the plan to exit the lockdown would be released on Sunday. Lockdown restrictions are no longer in place in the regional Victoria, with the exception of Shepparton, which appears to have weathered its worst outbreak and reported no new cases on Tuesday.
Deputy Prime Minister James Merlino said the government would consult the Burnet Institute model – as the NSW government did before announcing its own plan to ease restrictions – ahead of Sunday’s announcement.
“I know you want to hear it, I know the people watching and listening at home want to hear it. We all really need the next step. I understand that,” he said.
“The importance of Burnett’s modeling is critical. Getting the latest advice. But the most important thing we can do as individuals and for our families and friends is vaccinate.”
“The more we get vaccinated, the more we can do it.”
Kate Mattson, deputy secretary of Victoria’s response to Covid-19, said the Department of Health was not aware that Hume’s man had Covid-19 prior to his death.
She said the virus was detected after an autopsy was performed, but since the department was not informed until late Monday, other details were not known, including whether he was living alone.
“The death of a gentleman in his twenties is very sad. We pass on our sympathies to his loved ones,” Mattson said.
“We have very little information regarding this man… it was not a case we were aware of. We are getting information from the coroner… to try and provide support to this family.”
Hume, a largely working-class district that hosts suburbs in Melbourne’s outer north and extends west to the city of Sunbury, has been the epicenter of the current outbreak.
Data released by the federal government late last month showed that the LGA’s vaccination rate is one of the lowest in the state, with only 22.4% of the fully eligible population being vaccinated, and 40.8% receiving at least one dose. An increase in vaccine supplies to the region was announced on Sunday.
Merlino, who is also the mental health minister, also announced a $22.1 million package on Tuesday to fund an increase in services, including 20 temporary clinics across Melbourne and Victoria Regional that will be staffed with 90 doctors to provide 93,000 hours of care. .
“We know throughout this pandemic over the past 19 months, that some Victorians have been really struggling, whether it’s through isolation, whether it’s through financial stress, whether it’s really sick…the loss of a loved one, through Covid,” he said. .
“This has been a very challenging and unprecedented time, and many Victorians struggle with their mental health and well-being.
“This has been exacerbated by a mental health system that we know is broken.”