Harsh lockdown restrictions could be eased within weeks if Victoria’s number of new daily coronavirus cases fall below 20.
Experts have differing views about the ‘magic number’ of cases the virus-riddled state needs to drop down to before it can claim victory against a horror second wave.
Victoria recorded 73 new cases on Monday, its lowest figure since July 3 and the second time in three days new case numbers have dropped under triple digits.
Premier Daniel Andrews plans to unveil Victoria’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown on Sunday, a week before Melbourne’s Stage Four restrictions were initially due to end.
Melburnians could regain their freedom within weeks if new daily case numbers continue to plummet. Pictured is a woman enjoying a final winter morning walk on Monday
Deakin University Prof Catherine Bennett believes the ‘magic number’ of new daily cases is 20.
‘If we have got our overall numbers down to 20 — that might have the government feeling confident enough that they can manage that and we can open up,’ she told the Herald Sun.
University of South Australia Prof Adrian Esterman estimates Victoria’s daily new case numbers to hit single digits by this weekend.
He argued the case for some restrictions can eased now to improve people’s mental health without adding to the risk of extra transmissions.
Strategies include doubling the one-hour daily exercise limit for Melburnians and a friendship ‘bubble’ for singles.
Victoria recorded 73 new cases on Monday, the lowest figure since July 3. Pictured are Melburnians exercising in the Docklands precinct on Monday
The figures, confirmed by the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday, bring the state’s toll from the virus to 565 and the national total to 652
But University of Melbourne Prof Nancy Baxter believes there’s no magic number and depends on where the cases are coming from.
‘They may well open up before they’re at 50 but it will be just very selective openings,’ she told the Herald Sun.
Leading epidemiologist and World Health Organisation expert Professor Mary-Louise McLaws believe the Victorian government reacted too slowly to the second outbreak and should have enforced Melbourne’s lockdown sooner.
As lockdown restrictions enter a fifth week, she says it has been successful and estimates Victoria is 11 days away from recording 59 new cases within a two week period, which she calls the ‘COVID green zone.’
‘Fifty-nine cases is safe,’ Professor McLaws told 7news.com.au.
‘Contact tracing that many people, it isn’t difficult to prevent the spread from getting out of hand.’
Professor Mary-Louise McLaws’ graph shows the 14-day average in changes to the cumulative coronavirus cases in Victoria and NSW. ‘Lockdown is working,’ she tweeted on Monday
One expert says some Melbourne restrictions can be eased now such as doubling the time of daily exercise permitted to two hours. Pictured is a man walking his dog in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct on Monday
Between 60 and 99 cases in a fortnight would put the state in the ‘amber zone’, which require restrictions to remain in place while over 100 would require shutdown.
‘The ability to contact trace in a timely manner is crucial,’ Professor McLaws says.
‘You can’t wait until you have 100 people to trace because then it’s too late.’
She believes some restrictions should remain in place, including mandatory face masks in public and night curfews.
The experts all agreed cases from an unknown source need to remain at low numbers before restrictions can be removed.
Mr Andrews refused to guarantee restrictions will ease when lockdown is due to end September 13.
Melburnians remain under strict lockdown where they are restricted to one hour of outdoor exercise each day within a five kilometre radius of their home. Pictured is a couple in Melbourne on Monday
‘We can’t rule out settings in two weeks time. It is very difficult to know what those settings will be,’ the premier told reporters on Monday.
‘What we will provide on Sunday will be the plan that we intend to put in place, the plan that, all things being equal, we will put in place.
‘Everything has to have that asterisk next to it. I know that is deeply frustrating. It is frustrating for all of us.’
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton urged Victorians to stay the course.
‘We are all fed up with it, absolutely fed up with it,’ Professor Sutton said.
‘But holding the course, even as we get down to these very low numbers, is absolutely critical to get that control that we can be confident that we will maintain.’
One expert says face masks in public should remain mandatory if lockdown is eased. Pictured are Melburnians soaking up the winter sunshine on Saturday
He hopes new case numbers will be down to 40-50 by the end of the week.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said it was difficult to see Melbourne coming out of its stage four restrictions on September 13, given the current numbers.
He said Victoria needed to be down near the lower numbers of NSW and Queensland.
‘But then again, the rate the number is (decreasing) is getting faster in Victoria, so you never know and we just have to look at it on a daily basis,’ he said.
Apart from the daily case numbers, Prof Sutton said it was also critical for the so-called ‘mystery’ community transmission cases to be reduced as low as possible.’
A heavy police presence remains in the Melbourne CBD as stage four restrictions continue