Victoria has recorded 71 local Covid-19 instances, and Melbourne has been advised to undertake a’soft lockdown.’

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If the present lockdown fails to contain the outbreak, a top epidemiologist has advised that Victoria implement a “soft lockdown” as a bridge measure to increased vaccine coverage.

A woman queues outside a Covid-19 coronavirus testing venue at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne on July 16, 2020.

A woman queues outside a Covid-19 coronavirus testing venue at The Royal Melbourne Hospital. Photo: AFP

The state recorded 71 local Covid-19 cases on Sunday, with just 49 linked to known outbreaks.

Health authorities have not revealed how many were in quarantine while infectious.

But the majority of new cases recorded on Thursday, Friday and Saturday were not in quarantine while infectious.

The new cases were identified from 46,446 test results received yesterday, and there were 22,191 doses of vaccine administered at state-run sites.

On Sunday, Health Minister Martin Foley said he believed the state was “still in the realm of hauling this back”, despite the growing outbreak in Shepparton.

Hundreds of workers from the Royal Melbourne Hospital have been furloughed after an outbreak there, which authorities believe stemmed from a Shepparton man who visited the hospital for surgery.

Victoria urged to consider a ‘bridge’ to higher vaccinations if lockdown fails

University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely has urged the Victorian community to start a conversation now about its options if the lockdown was not successful.

Professor Blakely said he still hoped the state would successfully drive the outbreak back down to five or fewer daily new cases by September 2, when the lockdown was due to end.

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“And I strongly support the Victorian government’s strong stance to give it a really good push for two weeks,” he told ABC News Breakfast.

But he said if the state was unable to drive the Delta outbreak back down, one option could be relaxing to a “soft lockdown” with fewer restrictions on workers, more time allowed outdoors and an abandonment of the curfew.

“Based on my initial calculations, what would happen is case numbers would go up, and then you’d catch them about October and then they’d come back down again as the vaccination coverage is going up,” he said.

“And it looks plausible that you could catch it at about 400 cases per day.”

Professor Blakely said that might enable a “tidy bridge” over to the point in time when vaccination coverage was higher.

He acknowledged this would be a pivot “earlier than we would have liked … to living with the virus”, but noted vaccinations had played a role in limiting deaths in the New South Wales outbreak.

“I think we need a week as a civil society to start chatting about these things,” he said.

Professor Blakely said despite the hardship caused by Victoria’s sixth lockdown, there was cause for optimism about the end of the year.

“I reckon Christmas can be good because I reckon by Christmas, if we can shake a leg, there’s no reason why we can’t have vaccinated all children by then, before the end of school,” he said.

“I know that doesn’t sound great, but you could catch it then and then bring it down and therefore you would be in a soft lockdown until November, whatever that looks like.”

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“So I don’t see why we can’t get to 80 percent of all five-plus-year-olds, all schoolchildren and older vaccinated by Christmas.

“If we get to that it’ll be a pretty damn good Christmas.”

Police say far-right extremists involved in weekend protest

Police will consider shutting down public transport and blocking road access to Melbourne’s CBD if they suspect there might be a repeat of Saturday’s violent anti-lockdown protest.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said authorities would consider moves to restrict access to the city centre, even if it disrupted people travelling to the area for legitimate reasons.

“Rather than having everyone coming her and potentially spreading the virus , rather than having everyone come here and become confrontational and being violent, let’s shut down the transport network,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

Chief Commissioner Patton said he had received intelligence that right-wing extremists were involved in the protest, which involved around 4000 people.

“It was a mixture of a range of people with no clear leadership, just many people came in with an intention to confront police and with anger and confrontation on their mind,” he said.

“We had marbles thrown at us, stubbies thrown at us, flares thrown at police officers. It was a disgrace what occurred, and we can’t allow it to happen again.”

Chief Commissioner Patton revealed that police employed more advanced anti-riot equipment against protestors for the first time, including squash ball-sized rubber rounds.

“It was the first time we deployed them in an official protest action arena, sure,” he said, “but it was essential, I mean I absolutely support the tactical decision that was made to do that.”

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Officers arrested almost 200 people during the rally, while 21 police officers were injured amid conflicts with demonstrators.




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