Premier Daniel Andrews has announced contact tracing will be "dramatically expanded" in Victoria. Image by Daniel Pockett/AAP PHOTOS

virus diseases

Vic overhauls tracing amid COVID-19 surge

2020-07-24 16:20:03

The military will help doorknock Victorians who test positive for the coronavirus as part of efforts to contain the state’s second wave.

Victoria recorded 300 new COVID-19 cases on Friday as well the death of seven people aged in their 80s and 90s. 

Five of the deaths are linked to aged care facilities. 

The state now has 3734 active cases, which is proving a challenge for contact tracers whose job is to establish potential links between infected people and others. 

Premier Daniel Andrews has announced contact tracing will be dramatically expanded with the help of the Australian Defence Force to ensure all positive cases are contacted within 24 hours of receiving their test result.

“Many of them will be contacted much sooner than that, but the aim is to have every single one of them contacted within 24 hours,” he said on Friday.

Under the changes, those who have tested positive to COVID-19 will receive two telephone calls in a two-hour period.

If they do not pick up, ADF personnel and members of the health department will arrive at their door to undertake contact tracing in person.

“It’s not about making judgments about people being willing or otherwise. It’s just a practical challenge on any list of people that you ring. There will always be some that you can’t get through to,” Mr Andrews said.

“This is about going that extra step to make sure that we cannot just call, but we can connect and have that meaningful interaction, get that interview done and then begin the process of contact tracing.”

An investigation will be launched and fines will likely be issued to people who are not home. 

Earlier in the week, it was revealed about one-third of people were not picking up the phone when contact tracers called.

Mr Andrews said a much smaller number of people do answer but refuse to co-operate.

Since Wednesday, 65 properties have been visited as part of the new process.

About 1400 ADF members are on the ground in Victoria assisting with testing, contact tracing and enforcing the border around locked-down metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire.

The seven deaths mark Victoria’s most deadly day and come after five fatalities were recorded on Thursday.

Fifty-six Victorians have died from the virus while the national toll stands at 140.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said he expected more deaths following the high number of cases recorded in the state over the past month.

“When you have hundreds of new cases a day, there are several people expected to die in the following two-week period,” he said.

“I’m afraid we will see that and I expect that to occur. That is very tragic and it is focused in those most vulnerable.”

There are 206 Victorians in hospital with the virus, with 41 of them in intensive care.

Nine of those fighting for their lives in ICU are aged under 50, according to the latest data provided by the state government. 

“That is an absolute tragedy,” Professor Sutton said.

The premier and the chief health officer insist there are no plans to move to stage four restrictions despite a push from the Australian Medical Association.

Prof Sutton said a shutdown of everything is currently not required and could do more harm than good. 

“The reality is that unemployment is a public health issue, forgoing your mortgage is a public health issue, bankruptcy is a public health issue,” he said. 

“If we can get on top of this with the interventions that we have and really fine-tuning them, understanding where transmission is occurring, that’s how we should approach it.”

Mandatory mask-wearing could also prove a game-changer, he said.