21 New Cases, Virus Cluster Under Control

By AAP
September 19, 2020 Updated: September 19, 2020

Victoria has reported its lowest number of daily COVID-19 cases in almost three months as the state’s health chief declares a suburban Melbourne virus cluster is under control.

There were 21 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours up to Saturday morning which is the lowest since June 24.

A further seven COVID deaths were reported, taking the state’s death toll to 757 and the national count to 844.

Premier Daniel Andrews says Victorians should be “hopeful and optimistic” about the future based on the latest figures.

Metropolitan Melbourne has a 14-day new case average of 39.3, well below the state’s target of 50.

“The 14-day average … at that level, under 40, is something that every Victorian should be positive about, proud about, and very hopeful and optimistic about for the weeks ahead,” Andrews said.

Despite the good news, the premier said there would be no easing of restrictions ahead of the September 28 timeline.

Public health authorities have raced to stop infections growing in the Casey and Dandenong council areas on the Melbourne’s southeast rim, which now has 90 active cases.

Five households in Clyde, Cranbourne North, Hallam and Narre Warren South are linked to 34 active cases.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said management of the Casey cluster was proving effective.

“I would say it is under control,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“What we do know is people are isolating appropriately and that close contacts are in quarantine, but people have obviously been exposed to the virus and they can develop illness any time up to 14 days after having been exposed.”

A Monash Health spokesman confirmed it was caring for three people in hospital connected to the Casey cluster on Saturday.

Contact tracers discovered members of each house had been breaching the 5km travel limit for visits.

A special team has been created to target the cluster, with the government saying it is in conversation with local community members and leaders.

Other cases in the area are linked to workplaces, including nine connected to a truck manufacturer and six to Dandenong Police Station.

Andrews also confirmed retired police officers will be recalled to help conduct household checks in what the state opposition has deemed a “recipe for disaster.”

The Department of Health and Human Services is recruiting more authorised officers to conduct patrols and compliance inspections and will look to former police to fill the ranks.

State opposition police spokesman David Southwick accused the premier of repeating the mistakes of the “botched” hotel quarantine program.

“Daniel Andrews has doubled down on shortcut solutions and now seeks to empower Victoria Police veterans to lock people up in their homes,” Southwick said.

In response to reports of possible anti-lockdown protests on Saturday, Andrews sent a simple message.

“Go home and follow the rules.”

Sophie Moore, Andi Yu in Melbourne