Australia has recorded its youngest death of the coronavirus pandemic so far as the Victorian chief health officer says the state has passed the peak of the second wave.
The man in his 20s is one of 14 people who died in Victoria in the past 24 hours after testing positive to Covid-19.
The Victorian chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, said he was “confident we’ve seen the peak” of the outbreak in Victoria, but that the number of deaths could continue to remain at the current levels for a number of weeks.
To date, 289 people have died in Victoria after testing positive to Covid-19 – 108 in the past seven days. The national death toll is 361.
Victoria recorded 372 new cases on Friday but the seven-day average is 368 – the lowest it has been in 20 days. Of the 14 people who died, 13 were aged over 80 and 12 were connected to aged care outbreaks.
Sutton said he was “fairly confident” that Victoria had passed both the peak in community transmission cases and the overall peak of the second wave.
“The five-day trend, the seven-day trend, indicates that the peak was probably four or five days ago and we will continue to see lower numbers overall from here on in,” he said.
He said his message to Victorians was “keep at it” and warned that the state would not see an easing of restrictions until the number of new cases reported each day was very low – possibly as low as zero.
“We know that numbers are heading down but we could not conceive of opening up with 200 cases a day,” he said. “We couldn’t do it with 100 cases a day. We have to head for the lowest possible number, including zero.”
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said that if he eased restrictions before the daily case numbers had reached a very low point, then “all we are doing is setting ourselves up for a third and fourth wave”.
Andrews said numbers had to be reduced to the point that Victoria could swiftly and decisively stamp out “the inevitable one or two cases” that might reoccur in future.
“We have got to get to the point that we have real confidence that we could keep a lid on this,” he said. “If we were to open up at 372 or 250 cases we would not have beaten the second wave, we would have just stayed the course for the third wave.”
His comments came as he continued to face pressure over the handling of the hotel quarantine fiasco in Victoria. In a frustrating exchange, Andrews repeatedly referred reporters to a statement made earlier this week by the emergency management commissioner, Andrew Crisp, but refused to provide further clarification on questions he had been asked for the past three days and said they were a waste of time.
“I can’t add to Commissioner Crisp’s statement because the statement was made by him,” Andrews said. “If he needs to add to that, I can convey that message from you [the media] to him.”
Crisp’s statement contradicts a claim from the federal defence minister, Linda Reynolds, that the Australian Defence Force offered to run Victoria’s hotel quarantine program when the program was established in late March. It has been backed by the premier but Crisp has not appeared before the media since it was issued.
One in five active Covid-19 cases in Victoria has no identified source, in what Sutton said was a “significant increase” in “mystery cases” at the height of the second wave.
He said the strategy for dealing with that untraced community transmission was stage-four restrictions, which are now in their 12th day in Melbourne.
But he said case numbers in community transmission and in general were starting to turn down due to mandatory wearing of face masks and stage-three restrictions, and that the impact of stage-four restrictions would “only show in the numbers over the next few days”.
“We’ve turned the corner with those interventions and we should see a further driving down to transmission with stage-four restrictions,” he said. “So it is going on the right direction and I’m confident we’ve seen the peak but it’s got to come down quickly.”
He said the number of deaths had “essentially levelled off” but warned that with so many cases connected to aged care – 2,034 cases, almost a quarter of the active Covid-19 cases in the state cases, are linked to aged care clusters – those most vulnerable of dying were still at risk.
Andrews said that the death of the man in his 20s might be investigated by the coroner, and said he could not comment on whether the man had any relevant comorbidities. He said the man did not live in a disability care home but it remained to determined whether he had died with Covid-19, or from it.
“There may well be a whole range of different issues there, that’s for the coroner to look at,” he said.
Two men in their 30s died with Covid-19 in Victoria last week. The majority of deaths have been of people aged 80 or above, often connected to aged care homes.