Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer has appeared cautiously optimistic about Victoria’s ability to get its coronavirus outbreak under control.
With case numbers hovering around the 500 mark for the past seven days, Dr Nick Coatsworth said on Sunday: “It appears that we’re on the plateau”.
With metropolitan Melbourne under stage four restrictions kicking off last week and with the lockdown set for at least another five weeks, Dr Coatsworth said good news appears to be on the horizon.
“What we’re looking for is the inflection point that tells Victorians that their efforts are being rewarded, that we see numbers going down,” he said.
“We haven’t seen that yet but I have no doubt that we will see it. If you consider that stage three restrictions had us almost at a plateau, then the stage four restrictions will produce a result.”
Dr Coatsworth said that the coronavirus outbreak in Victoria currently has a “basic reproductive number” of one “or just below one”.
The reproductive number is basically how many people one infected person will transmit the virus to.
“The ideal situation would be if we could see that reproductive number at 0.5,” he said.
“We don’t have enough data at the moment from the numbers to see whether that’s approaching 0.5, but in the coming days to week we will see that.”
Dr Coatsworth’s comments echo analysis suggesting Victoria’s coronavirus outbreak peaked on July 30, sparking hope that the state has seen the worst of the crisis.
Last week, Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely provided news.com.au with details of his analysis published on Pursuit, which uses a five-day average that smooths out the daily cases so a more accurate picture of how the state is tracking can be seen.
Prof Blakely’s analysis suggests coronavirus cases peaked on July 30 and have since plateaued, about seven days after masks became mandatory in Melbourne on July 23.
“If you look at the five-day average, even though cases are fairly volatile day-by-day, it does look like they flatten off from about 8-10 days after masks were introduced,” he said.
“Masks were introduced on July 23 but a lot of us were starting to wear them before that as well.
“I am reasonably comfortable that we have bent the curve.”
On Sunday, Victoria recorded 394 new cases of coronavirus – the lowest number since July 29. But there was also 17 deaths, two more than the previous record of 15 which was set on August 5.
There are 634 Victorians in hospital, 43 of whom are receiving intensive care. 26 people are on ventilators.
Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday there were 2758 cases with an unknown source, an increase of 174 since Saturday.
“That’s 174 of those mystery cases which are, in many respects, our biggest challenge,” he said.
“Even large numbers in known, contained outbreaks are, to a certain extent, less significant than the smaller number of cases where we simply can’t find the circumstance or the point of origin.
“Where did that person get the virus from? They’re the ones that are incredibly challenging from a containment point of view, and that’s what has made fundamentally necessary these really challenging settings, these really difficult decisions we’ve had to make to drive down movement, and therefore, drive down the number of cases.”