Victoria's new coronavirus cases fall to lowest rate in two months as 18 more die from Covid-19

By Lisa Cox

The number of new Covid-19 cases in Victoria has dropped below 100 for the first time since 5 July but the state has recorded another 18 deaths, 16 of those linked to aged care outbreaks.

The premier, Daniel Andrews, said while announcing the 94 new cases that the downward trend was promising but cases would need to drop to “the lowest number we can get” before restrictions were eased.

“We will make announcements soon about the path ahead,” he said.

“We still have to see further days of these numbers dipping and we want them to come down to a very low number – the lowest number we can get them to – because that will mean we can have much greater confidence that we can stay on top of this and open up.”

Melburnians are subject to another fortnight of strict stage-four restrictions, including an 8pm to 5am curfew.

The state is now considering a “household bubble” for people who live alone to allow them to nominate a small number of people who they could visit but Andrews said it was still “too early” to say when that might be possible.

Couples and intimate partners who live apart have been able to visit each other during the lockdown, making single people living on their own the only people who have been unable to have another person at their home.

Andrews acknowledged the lockdown had taken a toll on the mental wellbeing of people who lived alone.

“There has been a lot of feedback from people who live on their own, people without others in their household are doing it tough, we will have more to say about that at the appropriate time,” he said.

“It is a bit early for us to finalise those matters but we are looking very closely at that because we do know, we have had a lot of feedback, that this is particularly challenging for those who live on their own.”

Andrews said the government wanted to be able to support people living alone, “and indeed every Victorian”, by developing a plan for easing the current restrictions.

“It is just a little too early for us to be able to settle on that,” he said. “But as these days pass and we see hopefully through a lot of hard work even lower numbers, that will give us the certainty to be able to map out what the weeks and months ahead look like.”

Andrews said there would not be drastic changes to restrictions on 14 September – the end date for the current lockdown.

“We are not seeking to have three months of zero, that is not what we are pegging all of this on,” Andrews said of the trigger to ease restrictions.

“What might be a handful of cases, if you are too open too early, they don’t stay a handful for long, they become many hundreds and indeed thousands of cases.

“We are going to have to ease back into that Covid normal and indeed find that Covid normal, and have it be sustainable, to have [a] series of settings that we can lock in and live with socially, emotionally, for a lengthy period of time.

“That is what we want to get to, not the restrictions on and off in two, three, four-week cycles until we get a vaccine, which could be deep into 2021.”

There are 4,223 cases of unknown origin and 411 healthcare workers who have Covid-19 in Victoria. The national death toll is now 601

Three people who tried to flee over a back fence while watching football and drinking at a friend’s home in Boroondara were among the 195 people fined for breaching the directions of Victoria’s chief health officer in the 24 hours to Saturday morning.

A man found in his vehicle at Shoreham beach turned out to be from Wedderburn, more than 300km away, while multiple people were caught out during curfew hours buying food or cigarettes.

They included 27 fines for failing to wear a face covering when leaving home, and 66 for curfew breaches.

Thirteen notices were also issued at vehicle checkpoints, with more than 20,000 vehicles checked across Victoria.

Police said they conducted 5,052 spot checks on people at homes, businesses and public places around the state, making for a total of 347,256 carried out since 21 March.

Early on Saturday, Victoria police said one man was arrested and 19 people were fined at an anti-lockdown protest in the south-east Melbourne suburb of Dandenong on Friday.

“A 64-year-old Dandenong man was arrested for failing to provide his name and address for breaching the chief health officer directions,” police said. “He was released after providing identification and issued with a penalty notice.

“An event organiser, a 48-year-old Dandenong man, was arrested at a residential address in Dandenong for breaching the chief health officer’s directions.

“He was charged with [contravening] bail conditions and [breaching] chief health officer directions and was remanded to appear at Melbourne magistrates court on 29 August.

“Police are continuing to investigate Friday evening’s protest activity and will consider issuing penalty notices for anyone else found to be in breach of the directions issued by the chief health officer.”