Victoria has reported a spike in Covid cases, with 2,297 new infections and 11 deaths announced – making it a new Australian record.
Thursday’s numbers have surpassed the last national record set on 9 October by 330, when the state recorded 1,965 cases.
Despite the grim figure, premier Daniel Andrews said the state government “would deliver the roadmap” and would announce plans to begin reopening as early as this weekend.
Andrews said he was committed to opening up the state next week when the 70% double-dose vaccination milestone was met, and that when that happens, daily case numbers would become “less relevant”.
“Save and except for this point – case numbers, particularly among unvaccinated people, will translate into a number of hospital patients,” he said.
He said the state was “literally days” away from restrictions easing.
“We have, fundamentally, a very important agreement with the Victorian community – you get vaccinated and we will open up, and I do what I say.”
There were 37,611 doses of vaccine administered at state-run sites on Thursday, as well as more doses at GP clinics and other venues.
“That is why we are going to be opening up,” Andrews said. “Because people have got vaccinated in record numbers in record time and they should be proud of that and I am proud of them and deeply grateful to them.”
There were concerns over whether the high case numbers will affect the state’s reopening, but the numbers are still within the Burnet Institute-modelled peak of between 1,400 and 2,900, which Victoria was predicted to hit later this month.
The modelling predicted the state would see a seven-day average of 1,960 (or between 1,359 and 2,938 cases) on 25 October.
Although the spike in cases has come early, the rate of hospitalisation is still quite low, epidemiologists have said.
Prof Catherine Bennett, the chair of epidemiology at Deakin University in Victoria, said the state seven-day average was currently 1,805.
“We’re getting close [to 1,960] but we’re not there yet,” Bennett said. “We’ve seen in NSW that when it plateaus, you see multiple spikes. If you take the rolling average, this is just another spike in that picture.”
She said the R0, or a reproductive number of the virus, was still sitting below one and that the vaccine rate was keeping people out of the hospital.
“The Burnett predicted our peak demand on hospitals would be 1,066 people, and our most recent hospital data shows there are 705, so we’re a long way shy of that,” she said.
“We will still see more people in hospital but nothing like the models have forecast yet.”
There are current 146 Victorians in ICU, and the Burnett modelling was expecting 700, with case numbers.
“We’ve dodged the big bullet in terms of hospitalisation,” Bennett said. “So we can cope with higher case numbers than we thought because it doesn’t have the same flow-on to serious illness.”
Andrews also indicated there would be “considerable” limits on freedoms for unvaccinated Victorians once the state opened up.
“In terms of those who object to being first and second dosed, those who don’t want to be vaccinated, and choose not to be, there will be limits on their freedoms.”