Two men being treated for COVID-19 in Victoria have died, becoming the state’s first coronavirus fatalities and bringing the national total to 11.
- Victoria’s tally of confirmed coronavirus cases has risen to 520
- Victoria has seen a decrease in the number of new confirmed cases over the past two days
- The state’s Chief Health Officer warned Victorians not to be complacent and more cases would be reported “if we don’t stay away from each other”
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the two men, both aged in their 70s, died in Melbourne hospitals overnight.
“Sadly we have recorded the first two deaths in Victoria related to the coronavirus,” she said.
“Our thoughts are with their loved ones at this difficult time.”
The state’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, told radio station 3AW that the tragic deaths were not unexpected given the number of COVID-19 cases in Victoria.
“We’re now up to 520 cases, so two deaths amongst 500 is relatively small looking at the global figures,” he said.
Professor Sutton said 54 new people had tested positive to the virus in the past day.
The first Victorian deaths come after Queensland yesterday reported a second coronavirus death, a 68-year-old man from Toowoomba who became infected on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
Victorian health authorities announced increases of 64 cases on Tuesday and 55 on Wednesday before today’s increase of 54.
Professor Sutton said that a decline in the number of new cases over the past couple of days was “not entirely unexpected”.
He said a key reason was the number of travellers returning to Victoria had fallen sharply. The vast majority of Victoria’s cases have contracted the virus overseas.
“But we shouldn’t be complacent,” he said.
“There will be a number of their contacts and potentially other community transmission cases that will grow over time if we don’t stay away from each other.”
The National Cabinet agreed earlier this week to implement “stage two” shutdown restrictions.
Professor Sutton said he still believed fuller measures to contain the virus were needed.
“I’m known to be one to go earlier and more broadly, but everybody recognises that’s very difficult,” he said.
“It challenges our economy. It challenges people’s individual lives.
“I would more strongly make the argument that we need to be ahead of it and not get to a point where if we do step up, and if it is inevitable, that we are not doing it too late.
“It is more powerful to make those social distancing measures now to change the trajectory of this epidemic.”
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Police want more personal protective equipment
Earlier on Thursday, Victoria’s police union expressed concerns officers were not getting the protective equipment they needed during the coronavirus outbreak, after Victoria Police confirmed 200 staff were in quarantine.
Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt told the ABC Victoria Police had enough supplies of masks, wipes and hand gel but until now they had not been supplied efficiently to police stations and frontline officers.
“It’s not a question of how much they have,” Mr Gatt said. “It’s a question of getting it out of warehouses and into police stations and into divisional vans across the state. That’s the challenge.”
Mr Gatt said the union had met with senior police yesterday who offered assurances that they were moving to provide the equipment to stations as a matter of urgency.
“We will check in with them this morning that that has started happening,” he said.
Mr Gatt also said that police should be among those to receive priority testing for coronavirus.
“It’s important that we maintain their numbers and don’t lose lose large numbers of police to illness at any one time,” he said.
Coronavirus hits police numbers
A Victoria Police statement to the ABC said that as of Tuesday, 200 staff members were quarantined due to the coronavirus outbreak.
At least one Victorian police station has been temporarily shut down for cleaning after a police officer was found to be infected with the virus.
The statement said the police had sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies to meet current demand and would continue to distribute it “appropriately”.
“Increased cleaning measures in and around police stations and other facilities are being undertaken regularly, including on frequently touched surfaces such as door handles, handrails, and lift buttons,” the statement said.
“If there is a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 interaction at a police station, specialised cleaners will be immediately tasked with undertaking a clean of the premises. Officers can also request a clean of their police station or vehicles if they come into contact with someone who presents with flu-like symptoms.”
“We also take the supply of personal protection equipment very seriously, with officers able to order items such as face masks, hand sanitiser and other PPE depending on their needs, as per standard practice.
“Victoria Police has sufficient PPE supplies to meet current demand and will continue to distribute appropriately. We are currently working with multiple suppliers to ensure we have a resilient supply chain of PPE going forward.”