A major Melbourne hospital is on alert after a patient with the coronavirus potentially spread the illness to people and staff inside the emergency department.
And as one Victorian city goes into lockdown while another is freed after weeks of tough rules, it’s been revealed that builders on construction sites are linked to the regional caseloads.
In New South Wales, the curfew has lifted for residents in Sydney hotspots.
Canberrans are watching the NSW situation closely, as they’ve been told the future of their lockdown depends on the success of interstate vaccination.
Here’s the latest.
Residents of one regional Victorian town have joined Melburnians in lockdown, as locals of another are released after snuffing out a COVID-19 outbreak.
With the exception of a curfew, Ballarat residents are waking up under the same restrictions as Melburnians on Thursday after four new cases were detected in the region.
Building sites in the Ballarat suburbs of Delacombe and Canadian were identified as exposure sites late on Wednesday night, along with Melbourne’s busy The Alfred hospital emergency waiting room.
Testing is being ramped up in Ballarat to combat the cluster, while thousands of additional vaccine doses will also be sent to the Victorian gold rush town.
In stark contrast, the city of Shepparton to Melbourne’s north has come out of lockdown after a local outbreak of the Delta variant was brought under control.
Despite Victoria reporting its third straight day of cases in the 400s on Wednesday, Professor Sutton said modelling indicated the state’s outbreak had not peaked and daily infections could rise to 1000.
“We have to press on with vaccinations at the fastest possible rate,” Prof Sutton said.
With 68.3 per cent of eligible Victorians vaccinated, Mr Andrews said the state was on track to hit 70 per cent on Thursday.
The government has pledged to give Melburnians more freedoms, including an extra hour of exercise and an expanded travel limit, once 70 per cent of those eligible have received their first dose.
This was initially forecast to happen on September 23, but the state’s soaring vaccination rate has brought the date forward.
Mr Andrews foreshadowed some rules might be relaxed as early as Thursday night but also raised the prospect they could be “rolled into” Sunday’s roadmap announcement, which will outline the state’s restrictions through to November.
Meanwhile, public transport to and from Melbourne’s CBD will be suspended for six hours on Saturday to thwart an anti-lockdown protest.
Residents in the coronavirus hotspot areas of southwest and western Sydney are being urged to come out in even greater numbers to be vaccinated, as a curfew on the area is lifted.
Vaccination numbers in the twelve local government areas of concern have been surging, but authorities want them to push even further.
“I urge you to be one of the most highly vaccinated populations in the state,” NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant told hotspot residents on Wednesday.
“Yes, you’ve achieved 80 per cent in some of your local government areas. Yes, you’ve achieved 90 per cent in some.
“I’m challenging you to push even further.”
First-dose vaccination numbers in Blacktown, Parramatta and Campbelltown have cleared 80 per cent of the eligible population, with other local government areas of concern not far behind.
The premier called on residents not to become complacent as she ditched the hotspots’ curfew on Wednesday.
“We have roughly 2.2 million people in those areas of concern. Even having 20 per cent of them not vaccinated is about 400,000 people. That’s a lot of people,” she said.
The unvaccinated will be shut out of much of society when it begins to reopen at the 70 per cent double-dose threshold, Ms Berejiklian said.
“It will be a health order and the law that if you’re not vaccinated, you can’t attend venues on the roadmap,” she said.
“Unvaccinated people will not be able to utilise hospitality venues. They won’t be allowed into particular events. They won’t be allowed into particular indoor settings.”
The next stage of reopening will be triggered once the state reaches 80 per cent double-dose coverage.
The government is still working out what that stage looks likes, the premier said, but it’s likely that unvaccinated people will continue to miss out.
Nervous businesses are seeking more clarity and rules from the NSW government, as they approach the date they’ll start having to turn unvaccinated people away.
Ms Berejiklian said the government was seeking legal advice on how to handle the issues.
The government plans to roll out a vaccine passport when the state hits 70 per cent double-dose coverage, anticipated to occur within the next month.
“We’re all in uncharted territory,” Ms Berejiklian said. “But we’re providing as much certainty as possible.”
NSW reported 12 more deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, and the state recorded 1259 new cases.
Some 1241 people are in hospital with the virus, including 234 in intensive care.
The success of the COVID-19 vaccine program in NSW will have a key influence on reopening the ACT.
Canberra is set to remain under coronavirus lockdown restrictions until national vaccination thresholds of between 70 and 80 per cent are reached.
The ACT is expected to achieve this level of coverage shortly ahead of other jurisdictions and the nation overall.
But Chief Minister Andrew Barr does not want to start reopening until other parts of the country are better protected.
“We are an island jurisdiction within NSW without the capacity to have hard borders. So we also need the population that’s coming into the city to be vaccinated as well,” he told reporters.
“We expect restrictions to gradually change as we transition through these vaccination phases in October and November, with the caveat that they may need to be adjusted to respond to increased risk of COVID-19 spread.”
Canberra’s lockdown, initially slated for seven days, has stretched out to nine weeks until October 15.
This is because of the situation in NSW as well as continued unlinked infections in the territory and cases not in quarantine the whole time.
There were 13 new cases, eight linked and five in the community for some of the time while infectious, on Wednesday.
More than 50 per cent of residents aged 12 and older are double-dosed, with 75 per cent partially vaccinated.
Mr Barr floated greater caps on the number of people allowed to gather outdoors and the gradual reintroduction of home visits from later in October should things go well.
Density limits of one person per four square metres would apply for businesses. This would then change to one person per two square metres.
Venues considered higher risk would remain closed or face greater restrictions for a longer period of time.