Victorian COVID-19 cases keep growing, hospitalisations double

Victorian COVID-19 cases keep growing, hospitalisations double

After putting the brakes on increased patron numbers and extending a state of emergency by four weeks over the weekend, Victoria has today reported 16 new cases of COVID-19 overnight.

Health Minister Jenny Mikakos (pictured) says six of these new cases are linked to known outbreaks, four relate to hotel quarantine, five are from routine testing and one is under investigation.

The number of cases linked to an H&M store at Northland Shopping Centre has doubled to four, two teachers have tested positive at Albanvale Primary School taking its total to three, while two more have been linked to the Stamford Plaza hotel taking its total to 14.

The Great Beginnings Nursery in Reservoir has also been shut down for deep cleaning after a toddler tested positive to the coronavirus.

Five cases have been removed from Victoria's total due to duplication, taking the total to 1,847 including 125 active cases. This means around 57 per cent of Australia's active cases are currently in the state. 

"We currently have nine patients in hospital including two in intensive care...the number of people in hospital has gone up from just four a few days ago, which is always a concerning sign," Mikakos told a press conference today.

"We're very grateful for the sacrifices that people have made, but the thing that keeps me awake at night is the thought of a second peak - we have seen very concerning increased numbers in recent days. We don't want this to get away from us."

Mikakos welcomed a statement yesterday from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) which strongly discouraged travel to and from COVID-19 hotspots identified by the Victorian Government, which include the local government areas (LGA) of Hume, Casey and Brimbank, Moreland, Cardinia and Darebin.

"I want to stress to Victorians just because you don't leave in a hotspot local government does not mean that your area is without risk. Everybody should still be complying very closely with all the public health advice," she said.

Mikakos said she was also stepping up testing community engagement in hotspot areas.

"We have a team of 50 that is starting from today to do door knocking - we are going to start with Brimbank and Cardinia, and they will be people who will be clearly identifiable as public health officials," she said.

That strategy also includes a strong focus on multicultural communities where some residents may struggle with English, and there will be a focus on shopping centres and train stations as well.

"We want to make sure that everyone in the state understands the public health messaging," she said.

"Clearly, in terms of the hotspot areas that have been identified, we have some some lower socio-economic disadvantaged communities - not all of them but there are very strong pockets of disadvantage in some of those communities."

This is a particularly important point considering the experience of Singapore, which was held up as an example in virus containment but saw a second wave of cases arising from its underprivileged communities of migrant workers. 

Today's update follows yesterday's announcement that a state of emergency would be extended until 11.59pm on 19 July.

The extension was made in response to the recent substantial rise in household contacts spreading the virus amongst extended family groups. There will be a squad of 500 officers conducting spot checks of venues and homes to ensure compliance.

On the spot fines include up to $1,652 for individuals and up to $9,913 for businesses. Under the state of emergency, people who don't comply could also be taken to court and receive a fine of up to $20,000. Companies face fines of up to $100,000.

"Now is not the time to let our guard down, our coronavirus fight is far from over. Keeping the State of Emergency in place will ensure we have the tools we need to keep Victorians safe," Mikakos said yesterday.

"We know these restrictions are frustrating, but we can't get complacent and let the virus get away from us. It's vital we follow these directions to keep our community transmission numbers low and protect more Victorians," added Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton.

Updated at 12:31pm AEST on 22 June 2020.

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