New Victorian coronavirus cases have fallen to their lowest level since 26 June, but six more deaths of people in aged care have taken the national Covid-19 death toll above 800.
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said on Saturday that regional Victoria could be “essentially open” within days while announcing the state’s 37 new coronavirus cases, all of which were in metropolitan Melbourne.
The deaths in Victoria of a man and two women in their 80s, and a man and two women in their 90s, took the number of people who have died with coronavirus in Australia to 803. A total of 716 have been in Victoria.
“It is challenging out there and I know it is difficult but the strategy is working,” said Andrews, referring to the state’s strict lockdown rules that include night-time curfews and tight controls on citizens’ ability to move around outside.
Victoria’s roadmap out of stage-four restrictions has been heavily criticised, especially the requirement for the number of new daily cases to fall to below five for a major relaxation of restrictions, including the city’s curfew.
The state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, confirmed regional Victoria, where active cases had fallen to 58, was on track to have major restrictions lifted in coming days, with the possibility of jumping two steps by mid-next week.
Both Sutton and Andrews said the efforts and progress there offered lessons and hope for metropolitan Melbourne.
“We will follow those numbers every day and if we get to a point where it is clear that is not possible to get to no community transmission, we’ll make a call on that,” Sutton said.
“It is also possible that we will get to a point where the numbers are higher but we’ll see where they’re occurring, why they’re occurring and how they’re occurring and make a judgment about whether five is the appropriate target.”
The number of new cases reported in Victoria on Saturday was the lowest figure since 30 were identified on 26 June.
Victoria has 1,251 active cases, down from a high of 7,877 on 12 August. Sixteen of the 37 new cases were linked to known outbreaks, with the rest under investigation. A total of 625 active cases were linked to aged care facilities in the state, health authorities said.
A public swimming pool in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains was closed after an infected person visited the sports centre between 11.30am and 1.30pm on 4 September. The person was a previously recorded case, and was not included in the six latest diagnoses.
One of the fresh cases was a returned overseas traveller in hotel quarantine, with the other five being locally acquired and linked to a known case or cluster.
Four were close contacts of previous cases associated with Concord hospital, while the fifth was a household contact of a previously reported case linked to the St Paul’s Catholic College Greystanes cluster. The other new cases was a student of Blue Mountains Grammar School, which is being cleaned. NSW Health also issued an alert for a KFC store at Emerton.
NSW Health was treating 84 people with six in intensive care. Four of those people were on ventilators.
A man in his 20s and two girls under nine were the three latest confirmed Covid-19 cases in Queensland.
They were all in quarantine and were contacts of confirmed cases in the West Moreton region near Brisbane, the Queensland government said on Saturday.
The man was linked to the Queensland Corrective Services outbreak while the two girls were contacts of the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre cluster.
The clusters number 48 cases in total, though some of those have recovered. There were 31 active cases in the state.
Asked about his government’s controversial strictness on funeral attendance from interstate residents, the Queensland health minister, Steven Miles, said there were thousands of requests for compassion every week and leniency was only given when authorities felt confident of community safety.
Miles said: “Our last case outside of quarantine was Tuesday and that’s of course the key indicator from here on in as to whether we have got this cluster under control – when we manage to go 14 days without any cases outside of quarantine.”
The Liberal opposition leader, Deb Frecklington, said premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s approach to restrictions had been inconsistent and lacking common sense.
Late on Friday, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia, which administers the St Basil’s aged care facility in Fawkner, north of Melbourne, announced in a Facebook post that the home’s chairman, Konstantinos Kontis, had resigned.
St Basil’s has seen the deadliest outbreak of any aged care home in Australia with 44 deaths. One family of a deceased resident has launched legal action against the home.
Of the 580 deaths in aged car around Australia, federal government figures show 95% have occurred in Victoria.