Coronavirus Melbourne: Hopes restrictions should still ease regardless of cussed case numbers

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Outdoor dining, larger public gatherings and changes to the 5km rule could be rolled out from October 19 even if Victoria does not meet its 14-day average, epidemiologists have said.

Experts have warned the state is now unlikely to reach an average of five coronavirus cases per day in time but some restrictions could still be safely eased.

It comes as Victoria recorded 11 new infections on Friday and authorities raced to contain outbreaks in Kilmore and Box Hill.

Epidemiologist Professor Nancy Baxter, who leads the Melbourne University’s School of Population and Global Health, said the odds were against the state meeting the Step 3 threshold.

Numbers would continue to fluctuate now that cases were low.

“Melburnians are extremely good at lockdown … We’re at the point where the contact tracing and getting a handle on transmission is what we need to perfect,” she said.

Prof Baxter said authorities should allow more social activity with the lowest risk possible and consider asking contacts of close contacts to self-isolate to jump on outbreaks.

“If groups of people social distance and wear masks outdoors, there is never zero risk but the risk is much lower,” she said.

“I don’t know how much sense the 5km rule makes … Given the primary source of this is now workplaces and households.”

Professor Peter Collignon, from the Australian National University’s Medical School, said it appeared the 5km movement limit could safely be removed.

“I’m not sure how much extra benefit you get from the 5km rule once you get really low levels,” he said.

“It will have some effect but you have to weigh up the economic and social costs.”

University of Melbourne professorial fellow in epidemiology Tony Blakely said Victorians were set for a “nerve wracking” week watching the numbers as children returned to school.

He said his preference was that mystery cases were at 10 per cent of cases, or below 10 in total, by October 19.

“Given our most important neighbouring state (New South Wales) has fallen off the elimination trail, its not as justified for us to stay in lockdown and get the numbers really low,” he said.

“We cant stay in this type of lockdown with case loads as they are now.”

There are 17 Victorians in hospital, one is in intensive care but not on a ventilator.

Six of the 11 new cases were linked to known outbreaks, with the latest Kilmore case a casual contact at the Oddfellows Cafe and not a staff member.

More than 600 people have been tested in Kilmore in the past three days.

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