Victorian authorities are considering stricter lockdowns as numbers of untraceable “mystery” COVID-19 cases rise and some residents continue to flout restrictions.
The state’s number of new infections is expected to rise by more than 600 on Sunday, which is fewer than Thursday’s peak of 723, but still of concern.
The state government’s cabinet crisis committee is believed to have held a teleconference overnight, with a view to Premier Daniel Andrews announcing new and tougher restrictions on Sunday or Monday.
Melbourne and Mitchell Shire could face a six-week period of tighter constraints, including the almost complete shutdown of the city’s public transport network, starting from Wednesday.
Residents could be limited in the distance they can travel from home and businesses selling non-essential goods could be ordered to close under a ‘stage four’ lockdown.
Among the latest list of infections in the state are 49 cases with no known source, bringing suspected community transmission to nearly 2000 cases.
“We can’t be certain there’s not even further community transmission, even more mystery cases out there,” Mr Andrews said on Saturday.
“That is in some respect our biggest challenge.”
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said there were discussions being had about the prospect of further restrictions like New Zealand has had, requiring the shutdown of all non-essential services.
The premier has been frustrated by people disobeying public health orders, including positive cases who weren’t home when defence force members came knocking.
In the 24 hours up to Sunday morning, police reported issuing 170 fines to people for breaching restrictions.
Eighteen of the penalties were imposed on individuals who refused to wear face masks as required when leaving home, Victoria Police said.
Five people gathered at a Melbourne licensed premises for a birthday party were also fined for breaching restrictions. At suburban Wyndham, 10 people attended a house party and were fined.
The aged care crisis continues in Victoria with 1008 active cases linked to the sector.
Meanwhile, a group of Victorian teachers and parents has written an open letter asking Professor Sutton to reconsider his health advice about schools continuing to remain open.
“We see no medical or public health grounds why your advice to everyone in Victoria that ‘if you can work from home you must work from home’ … should not also apply to school staff at this time of extensive community transmission of the virus,” the letter read.