Victorian health officials are working through options to further tighten COVID-19 restrictions, as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warns coronavirus transmission rates remain too high to consider opening the state up again.
In his strongest indication yet that Victoria may need to step up its response to a second wave of coronavirus infections, Andrews said during a press conference on Friday that “detailed analysis” is underway to determine whether new measures are required.
“We have data that marks the halfway point of the six weeks, we have numbers that are too high, we have community [transmission] that is too high, and we need to do that detailed analysis and potentially take further steps beyond the current framework,” Andrews said.
Victoria recorded 627 new coronavirus cases on Friday after lodging a record 723 yesterday; numbers that are dashing hopes that the six-week time frame for Melbourne’s existing lockdown will be maintained.
“We could not open up with these numbers, we could not open up with significantly less than these numbers,” Andrews said.
“We may need to take further steps.”
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said medical experts are exploring a possible step-up in restrictions, and will consider whether restrictions similar to New Zealand’s ‘stage four lockdown’ would effectively curb the virus.
Andrews said earlier this week that an order requiring all Victorians to wear face masks or coverings outside their homes was “effectively stage four”, but further restrictions may involve forcing more businesses to shut down.
Sutton said officials are considering how increased restrictions would affect businesses, but Andrews said there could be no economic recovery until the public health challenge associated with the virus was dealt with.
Andrews urged Victorians not to speculate about the next steps officials may take, saying analysis of options was still underway.
Andrews revealed $63 million has been paid to businesses so far under the Victorian government’s scheme that offers $5,000 payments to businesses affected by existing COVID-19 trading restrictions.
So far, 12,600 businesses have received $5,000 payments under the program, and Andrews said officials are “making good progress” in processing the payments.