BY EVAN YOUNG
Regional Victorians have been ordered to wear face masks outside their homes from next week, after the state posted a record number of new coronavirus cases on Australia’s deadliest day of the pandemic so far.
From 11:59pm Sunday night, every person in regional Victoria will need to wear a mask or face covering when leaving the house, Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Thursday.
People in the local government areas of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast, Moorabool, Golden Plains, Colac-Otway and Queenscliff will also no longer be able to have visitors to their homes from 11:59pm on Thursday.
Victoria reported 723 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, smashing the previous highest daily increase in infections by nearly 200, and another 13 deaths.
Ten of Thursday's deaths were linked to the state's growing aged care crisis.
Mr Andrews said there are now 255 active COVID-19 cases in regional Victoria and the extension of restrictions that are already in place in metropolitan Melbourne would prove helpful in stopping the spread of the virus.
“It’s something we can do in regional Victoria without causing significant economic cost, but getting a really significant public health benefit,” he told reporters.
Mr Andrews said venues such as pubs and cafes in Greater Geelong and the other six council areas could remain open because data showed transmissions was not occurring at high rates there.
"The large part of (transmission) is of course in workplaces," Mr Andrews said.
"But some of the transmission is in households and that makes sense when you think about it. People are not necessarily taking the distance in their family time.
"It's a natural thing. You let your guard down."
The previous highest daily increase in new infections in Victoria was 532, which was announced on Monday.
There were hopes that the outbreak may have peaked on Monday after new case numbers dropped to 384 on Tuesday and 295 on Wednesday, which was the lowest number since 20 July.
There are 312 Victorians in hospital with COVID-19, 34 of whom are in intensive care. There are 913 active cases in aged care.
Mr Andrews said Thursday’s record number of new infections would cause “significant concern across the community” and suggested the six-week lockdown restrictions in Melbourne could be extended further.
“If we were to reopen across metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire today, then it won't be 700 cases a day, you can add a zero to that,” he said.
Mr Andrews said the Australian Defence Force has doorknocked 798 properties of people who have tested positive to the virus so far to ensure they were isolating and complying with health orders.
He said she was disappointed to hear that some of those people weren’t home, including one who went to work.
“If you're a positive case, then you need to be at home and you need to be isolating - to have found even one person who had disregarded their diagnosis and instead had decided to go to work is very disappointing.”
The mayor of Colac, a town 80km from Geelong which has been hit by a cluster of more than 50 cases at an abattoir, has hit out of the new regional restrictions.
Jason Schram said there “doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason” to the new rules.
"It just seems like [the state government] has done this to say 'we're doing something in these regional area hot spots’,” he told Nine Radio.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews addresses the media during a press conference in Melbourne
Meanwhile, South Australian authorities are urging essential travellers heading to Victoria to rethink their plans after another COVID-19 case in Adelaide.
Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier says a man in his 20s who went to Victoria recently and returned to SA on 26 July has tested positive for the virus. It follows a woman who tested positive on Tuesday after relocating from Melbourne to take up a new job.
"There may be people that are seeking essential traveller status so they can go to Victoria and return," Prof Spurrier said.
"But I'm urging all South Australians to think very, very carefully about any need to travel to Victoria at this time."
The post about “Coronavirus infections surge past 700 in Victoria on Australia's deadliest day of pandemic" first appeared on the SBS Australia website.
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