The Victorian government spent days warning of changes to the border in order to give Victorians time to return home and allow border communities and businesses time to adjust to impending changes.
The Victoria Delta outbreak has risen to 107 cases in nine days.
Of the 22 new cases on Wednesday, five were related to Trinity Grammar, five to the Miss Frankie restaurant in Cremorne, three to the Young & Jackson Hotel, three to St Patrick’s Elementary School in Murrumbeena, two to AAMI Park, two to Bacchus. Marsh Grammar, one to the West Gate Tunnel and one to the Hume town outbreak, where a mystery case from Roxburgh Park has now also been linked.
A man in his 50s from Barwon Heads is being treated for COVID-19 in intensive care, while four others are in hospital.
Professor Sutton said he believed community transmission had peaked, but expected more domestic cases to emerge. He also predicted that more people would enter intensive care, given the severity of the delta variant.
When asked about the likely trajectory of the outbreak if Victoria had not been blocked last week, Professor Sutton said he believed there would now be as many as 300 cases.
“If we had closed today, there would have been thousands of cases in the next few weeks,” he said. “We would be in a world of pain.”
On Wednesday, the state government injected another $ 282 million into its business support package as Victoria prepared for the second week of her latest COVID-19 lockdown.
The Opposition criticized the Andrews government for closing the New South Wales border too quickly on New Year’s Eve and has commonly warned against drastic and instinctive public health responses.
But O’Brien said Wednesday that he would “do just about anything to avoid lockdowns across the state” to prevent damage to people’s mental health and finances.
“This is our fifth lockdown in the entire state and we just can’t keep living like this … doing yo-yo-yo-yo between the lockdowns … and constantly looking over your shoulder.”
O’Brien said he accepted that lockdowns might be required until mass vaccination was achieved, but said state governments should adopt new ideas and political solutions that could guard against them.
These could include faster border closures when interstate cases arise, the use of rapid tests at the border, or more access to interstate travel for those who were vaccinated.
Rapid tests, which produce results in 15 minutes but are slightly less accurate, could provide greater freedom of movement within the state, O’Brien said, including allowing people to attend hospitals with loved ones, lo which is allowed only for children and terminates -patients for life according to current regulations.
Professor Sutton said on Tuesday that health authorities were examining whether rapid tests could be used to aid in the operation of major events, as used at Wimbledon this month. He described the tests as imperfect but potentially a “game changer.”
NSW recorded 110 new locally acquired cases on Wednesday, 43 of which were in the community while infectious. More than 100 people are hospitalized and 23 in intensive care.
In other Victorian news, authorities captured a new group of removalists attempting to travel to Mildura. They were fined and sent back to New South Wales.
More than 28,000 Victorians are now considered primary and secondary close contacts and a record nearly 60,000 people were tested for the virus in cold, wet weather on Tuesday.
At the Mildura Base Public Hospital, at least 55 staff members isolate themselves after coming into contact with a man who tested positive for coronavirus.
Geelong-based Barwon Health has around 50 isolated employees as close contacts or visiting exhibition sites in Melbourne or the local region.
Authorities are urging residents of Phillip Island and surrounding Bass Coast to come forward for testing after COVID-19 fragments were found in the sewage, raising fears of undetected cases.
Ben Preiss, Noel Towell
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