Victoria’s snap five-day lockdown is set to end on time at midnight thanks to a successive run of low new cases of coronavirus, barring a jump in infections today.
The Herald Sun reports Premier Daniel Andrews and his ministers met last night to thrash out preparations for an exit from stage 4 state-wide restrictions from tomorrow.
Cabinet will meet again this morning when health authorities finalise data on infection rates.
It comes after Mr Andrews yesterday said Victoria was “well-placed to make changes” to restrictions.
Victoria has not recorded any mystery coronavirus cases since the lockdown began on Friday night and experts believe the state is likely to loosen restrictions unless any concerning new cases emerge today.
Melbourne University epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely told news.com.au it was likely lockdown would end as long as there are no cases identified in anyone outside of the group considered to be close contacts and who had already been quarantining.
“If there is a case in the community and they have not already been identified as a close contact, I think that is a pretty different scenario,” he said.
Deakin University Chair in Epidemiology, Professor Catherine Bennett said coming out of a “circuit breaker” lockdown would be different to when Victoria came out of lockdown following the second wave.
“It’s a different scenario, we are not waiting to see how long we need to have zero cases before relaxing restrictions,” she said.
This is because a circuit breaker lockdown is mainly designed to give authorities time to make sure that they had got ahead of the virus and could track the spread through contacts.
“They are chasing the virus through a (particular) source,” Prof Bennett said.
Prof Bennett said the latest focus would have been on the private dining event in Coburg and so far none of the attendees’ close contacts had passed the virus on.
“If the virus didn’t get through those contacts then it’s very unlikely the virus would have been transmitted to even more casual contacts,” Prof Bennett said.
“If the infection is not strong enough to infect primary contacts then it’s less likely to jump that group. That risk drops away from an outbreak control perspective.”
Prof Bennett agrees that unless more cases emerge overnight to change this picture, it’s likely Victoria will come out of lockdown.
She said by Wednesday, two average incubation periods would have passed since the Coburg dinner on February 6.
Most people generally become infected and begin to show symptoms within five to six days, she said.
Prof Bennett said it was possible restrictions would return to the level prior to the lockdown because the state had been locked down for five full days, not just three days.
“We have not seen any cases beyond those exposed 11 days ago,” she said.
“But given Victoria’s history of caution, they might keep limits on big events or on the number of people allowed to gather in households.
“I hope the restrictions are measured because I think the risk is very small.
“Masks were still in place indoors anyway (prior to lockdown).”
However, Prof Bennett said there could still be limits on people gathering for big events like the Australian Open.
“They might not go back the full step – which might be unfortunate for the tennis but let’s hope it’s not too complicated as it is low risk, the rules might confuse people and so going back to a level people are familiar with (could be appropriate).”
Prof Blakely agrees there could be a significant easing of restrictions. He has also flagged the possibility that restrictions in regional areas may be eased more substantially than in Melbourne.
“I expect a decent amount of opening up — it could possibly go back to what it was before,” he said.