At a press conference on Aug. 2, Premier Dan Andrews announced harsh stage four restrictions across metropolitan Melbourne citing “unacceptably high levels” of COVID-19 community transmission as the deciding factor.
Victoria’s contract tracers are struggling to keep up with the number of “mystery” active cases as the figure increased up to 760 over the weekend.
“They are active cases—cases where we can’t trace back the source of that person’s infections,” said Andrews.
Andrews conceded that due to the increased COVID-19 cases in recent weeks—with 598 currently under investigation—his health department is struggling to keep records up to date.
“If you’ve got that many cases—and they’re not just in metropolitan Melbourne, they’re in regional Victoria as well—if you have that many cases of community transmission you must assume you have even more and on that basis you can no longer be confident that you’ve got a precise understanding of how much virus is there,” Andrews said.
“You have to err on the side of caution—err on the side of caution and go further and harder.”
The Andrews government has enforced a hard lockdown which includes an 8 p.m. curfew and outside exercise restricted to one hour a day. Melbourians have been told they cannot travel further than 5km from their homes for any reason, and only one person from a household can leave the house for shopping a day, amongst other restrictions—the toughest seen in Australian history.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton explained that strong measures have been implemented to reduce the strain on contact tracers by limiting the movement of people.
“But we know that if we constrain those opportunities, then those community transmission cases those mystery cases will also diminish over time,” Sutton said.
Community transmission has been a concern for Victoria since the start of the second wave in early July. A succession of restrictions that have been put in place to slow the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.
COVID-19 cases have been up and down throughout July but has remained in triple-digits for weeks, with record highs broken serval times. This shows that the social-distancing measures put in place have not had the effect of lowering cases.
However, according to Sutton, an estimated 20,000 COVID-19 cases have been avoided through stage three restrictions.
Data from Australia’s COVID-19 website shows that Victoria currently has 3,163 cases under investigation and 6,322 active cases.
The 760 mystery CCP virus cases are among 1,962 community transmission cases contact tracers have been unable to find the origin.
The Victoria government drafted in assistance from the federal government to analyze data on the virus cases during the first three weeks of stage three restrictions. The decision to enact stage four restrictions was made on this data.
Social distancing measures affecting businesses announced Aug. 3 will see most essential services operate as normal, this includes supermarkets, banks, and post offices. All tour operators will shutdown throughout the week, as well as all drinking establishments excluding bottle shops. Places of worship also will close.
The construction and meat processing industries will operate in a limited capacity.