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Victoria has reported more than 1000 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours on the first weekend after a further easing of restrictions that take Victorians close to pre-pandemic life.
There were 1166 new coronavirus infections recorded in the past day according to official numbers from the Victorian Department of Health released on Saturday morning.
People protest against the pandemic bill outside the Victorian Parliament on Thursday.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui
This is down from 1273 cases on Friday and comes as crowds of thousands of demonstrators are expected to descend into Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday to protest the state government’s proposed pandemic bill for the fourth weekend in a row.
Five people have died in the past 24 hours after contracting the virus, while 312 people remain in hospital. Of those, 55 are in intensive care and 29 are ventilated.
Another 59 people remain seriously ill in intensive care with the virus, but are no longer infectious.
If the pandemic bill is passed, it would replace Victoria’s State of Emergency power, empowering the premier and health minister of the day to declare pandemics and enforce health directions, instead of the chief health officer.
But the Andrews government will have to wait until the final sitting week of the year to try and pass its controversial pandemic legislation through Parliament as a week of drama – which included an alleged attack on an MP’s daughter – ended in an impasse.
Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick, one of three crossbenchers who helped draft the bill, revealed his daughter was allegedly assaulted late on Thursday night.
He said on Friday he had reason to believe the incident was linked to his stance on the pandemic bill, which The Age has not been able to verify, following escalating threats against him and other MPs.
The controversy surrounding the bill comes after epidemiologists said on Friday warming weather, peaking vaccine effectiveness and falling case numbers all combine to make this the perfect time to ease restrictions in Victoria.
Earlier this week, the state government announced a further easing of restrictions as the state prepared to hit the 90-per-cent double vaccinated milestone.
The Animal Justice Party’s Andy Meddick last month.Credit:Getty
Meanwhile, official government modelling by the Burnet Institute, released on October 17, suggested cases might begin to increase from mid-November due to eased restrictions (the Institute declined to provide updated modelling on Thursday) with a very large peak at Christmas that could overwhelm the healthcare system.
So far, cases continue to slowly tick down, falling to a five-day average of 1021. Federal government modelling of Victoria’s “transmission potential” – a model that incorporates restrictions, mobility and vaccination – also suggests the state’s epidemic is still in the shrinking phase.
Romain Ragonnet, an infectious diseases modeller at Monash University, said while it was never possible to predict the future, “based on what we’ve seen in Sydney, it is likely this surge won’t be as bad as predicted.”
He told The Age on Friday, one possible reason for this unexpected performance is that Victoria is in the “sweet spot” of its vaccine rollout.
Due in part to the slowness of the vaccine rollout, a large number of Victorians have only recently received their second doses. Evidence suggests vaccines are most effective in the first one or two months.
“You have a large proportion of the population fully vaccinated recently. We could consider this a sweet spot. And we know it has always been easier to control COVID during summer than winter,” said Dr Ragonnet.
“I think the timing is right. Getting to 90 per cent of the 12-years-and-over population fully vaccinated, you can’t expect much more than that.”
With Michael Fowler, Rachel Eddie, Cassandra Morgan and Liam Mannix
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An earlier version of this story reported Victoria’s COVID-19 case total for November 20 as 1116 cases. It is 1166 cases.
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