Victoria COVID LIVE updates: Restrictions eased in Melbourne but masks remain; 25km travel limit in place; NSW, Queensland on high alert

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COVID-19 fragments detected in three areas

Restrictions may have eased across Melbourne and regional Victoria today, but here’s why we can’t become complacent again.

More COVID-19 fragments have been found in three new areas with no confirmed cases of the virus: the Pascoe Vale, Scoresby and Vermont areas.

The Chief Health Officer’s daily email yesterday listed the three detections as a concern and asked anyone who had been in those areas between June 3-7 and had symptoms to get tested and isolate until they receive a result.

The Pascoe Vale area includes Glenroy, Hadfield, Oak Park and Pascoe Vale.

The Scoresby area includes Burwood East, Forest Hill, Glen Waverley, Scoresby, Vermont South, Wantirna South and Wheelers Hill.

The Vermont area includes Balwyn, Balwyn North, Blackburn, Blackburn, North, Box Hill, Box Hill North, Bulleen, Doncaster, Doncaster East, Donvale, Mitcham, Mont Albert, Mont Albert North and Nunawading.

The CHO email said the matter could be someone shedding the virus who was no longer infectious or it could be someone who is infectious but undiagnosed.

Thousands of COVID deaths predicted without restrictions, more vaccinations

Thousands of people could die of COVID-19 in Victoria in the event of a highly infectious outbreak if there were no restrictions on movement and gatherings even if 70 per cent of the population were vaccinated.

These are the findings of new mathematical modelling developed by Melbourne’s Burnet Institute, which suggests Australia is unlikely to ever reach herd immunity against COVID-19 at the current level of vaccine uptake because more highly contagious variants could undermine immunity.

Melbourne emerges today from its latest lockdown.Credit:Eddie Jim

The medical institute’s modelling also suggests public health interventions such as increased testing, home isolation and face masks will be required for several years to come when new COVID-19 cases emerge, even if there is high uptake of the vaccine.

Herd immunity occurs when a large enough proportion of the population is vaccinated against a disease, or has been infected with a disease and developed antibodies against it, preventing the virus from transmitting widely.

The Burnet Institute modelling assumed a vaccine rollout speed of either 150,000 or 250,000 doses a week in Victoria, and examined several scenarios projecting the number of COVID-19 infections, hospitalisation and deaths one year after new infections enter the community.

Modelling for one scenario examined the likely outcomes if a new strain of the virus 1.5 times more infectious than the Wuhan strain, which plunged Victoria into lockdown last year, seeded an outbreak after 80 per cent of Victorians aged over 60, and 70 per cent of the rest of the population, were immunised.

The projections were modelled on a vaccine that had roughly 50 per cent efficacy in preventing infection and 93 per cent efficacy in preventing death, with face masks not mandated and no major public health response, such as lockdowns or increased testing and quarantine, in place to control an outbreak.

Burnet Institute head of modelling Nick Scott, who led the research, said it found even if a small outbreak of a highly contagious strain of the virus seeped into Melbourne at roughly 60 per cent vaccine coverage, it could result in 4885 deaths within a year.

Read more here.

Angry, in pain and perplexed, patients question ban on operations

Melbourne’s two-week strict lockdown ended just before midnight but the easing of restrictions has led to growing anger over apparent inconsistencies in some of the rules, including the ongoing ban on non-urgent elective surgeries.

Melburnians must continue to wear masks outdoors after health authorities revealed a new cluster of four people from one family in Reservoir – including two elderly people – picked up the virus. Initial interviews failed to reveal any crossover with existing outbreaks and exposure sites.

Jo Rice has been in “excruciating” pain for the past year. She was scheduled for spinal surgery on Tuesday, but it has been cancelled. Credit:Justin McManus

But the government’s decision to keep the ban on non-urgent elective surgery has frustrated patients, some of whom are in “excruciating” pain. The Australian Medical Association believes it is appropriate to enable surgeries to go ahead given restrictions on hospitality venues have been eased.

Balwyn North woman Jo Rice has been attempting to manage her severe arthritis and sciatica for the past year.

Six weeks ago she had booked in for a spinal surgery on Tuesday, June 15. The hospital confirmed to Ms Rice on Thursday her surgery had been cancelled, and could not indicate when it could be rescheduled.

“I have a trapped nerve in my lumbar spine that’s causing excruciating pain shooting down my leg,” the 71-year-old said.

“It has ruined my quality of life and made me incapable of doing any of my normal daily duties – even cooking. I’m a keen gardener and that’s out. Standing, walking. I like to walk every day and I can’t go very far because of the pain.

“I’m very supportive of the government’s restrictions as they’re required, but I find it hard to understand why elective surgery has been banned when hospitals are empty.”

Read more here.

Welcome to our free, live coronavirus coverage

Good morning and welcome to our free, live coverage of the coronavirus crisis.

Well, there is great excitement in my household this morning. One schoolchild was fully dressed, lunch sorted and bag packed before 7am. The other is still lolling around in his pjs reading comics… Some grow used to lockdowns rather quickly!

Along with schools, retail outlets, cafes and restaurants across Melbourne will reopen today. Melburnians will be confined to a 25-kilometre radius from their homes, extended from 10 kilometres. Home gatherings remain banned and masks must continue to be worn at all times outside the home.

There are no restrictions on the movements of regional Victorians and masks are not mandatory outdoors.

As always, keep an eye on the long list of exposure sites on the Victorian coronavirus website, and if you have any symptoms – a fever, a sore throat, a cough – you can find a list of testing sites here.

And if you’re over 40 or eligible in other ways, find the information to get your corona jab right here.

I’ll be with you until mid-afternoon.

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