Victoria has recorded another 216 cases of coronavirus and one additional death, a man in his 90s, as the state tries to contain the second wave of the virus that returned Melbourne residents to lockdown.
Thirty of the new cases are linked to known outbreaks and 186 are under investigation, with the state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, saying it is becoming more difficult to quickly trace the source of new infections.
New South Wales recorded seven new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, five of which were returned travellers in hotel quarantine. The remaining two were the cases of a man who attended Casula’s Crossroads Hotel on 3 July and a traveller from Melbourne. NSW Health on Saturday confirmed the male patron had passed the virus to three household contacts, who tested positive late on Friday and will be included in Sunday’s figures.
Overnight on Friday, the Therapeutic Goods Administration gave provisional approval for the use of the drug remdesivir in severely unwell patients.
But Australia’s deputy chief health officer, Nick Coatsworth, warned that none of the drugs available to Covid-19 patients were “a silver bullet”.
“It stops the virus from multiplying further in the body,” he said.
“The important thing to note is none [of the drugs available] are a silver bullet. None of the international trials that have been conducted have shown marked results but they have shown some results that indicate remdesivir might be effective in patients with moderate to severe disease.”
Victoria’s update followed the record 288 cases reported for the state on Friday. The premier, Daniel Andrews, said the figures were consistent with the government’s warnings that the situation for the state would likely worsen before the effects of the new lockdown were felt.
“We will see more and more additional cases,” he said. “That’s the nature of these things.
“Steps we’ve taken this week as a Victorian community won’t be reflected in the numbers until next week and the week after.”
Melbourne and the Mitchell shire returned to stage-three lockdown this week and the border between NSW and Victoria was closed.
Andrews said the state was now processing more tests than ever as a result of Victorians coming forward for testing, which he said would need to continue alongside the lockdown measures, which require residents to remain at home other than for essential reasons.
The state has also recommended the wearing of masks but it is not mandatory.
“It is frustrating,” Andrews said. “It is challenging. But the strategy will be successful if we all play our part.”
The Victorian health minister, Jenny Mikakos, said the number of tests in the state had reached 1,295,219, with more than 25,000 taken in the past 24 hours.
The rate of testing had now reached 16,606 for every 100,000 people and interstate pathology teams were assisting with the workload.
She said the state had 1,300 people working on contact tracing, with additional assistance from interstate colleagues.
“Our hospitals are well prepared,” she said. “They have been working since January to respond to this pandemic. Even when the numbers came down, they never paused their efforts.”
The government was asked at Saturday’s press conference if it had more detailed data on the source of the new cases, whether they were linked to known outbreaks, including in housing towers that were put into strict lockdowns this week.
The state’s chief health officer said that with more than 100 cumulative outbreaks it was becoming more difficult to speak about the source of new infections. He said there had been some single cases among staff in aged-care facilities.
“That’s the workforce that we have to be really mindful of,” Sutton said.
NSW Health reiterated its call for anyone who was at the Crossroads Hotel in Casula on 3 July to immediately self-isolate, come forward for testing and monitor for symptoms of Covid-19.
A man and a woman who visited the pub separately on 3 July have both been diagnosed with Covid-19, with the hotel the only known link between the two cases.
A NSW Health spokesperson said three household contacts of the man had also tested positive for Covid-19 and would be reflected in Sunday’s case numbers for the state.
A pop-up clinic has been operating from the car park at the hotel since 5pm on Friday. The hotel has been closed for deep cleaning and contact tracing is continuing.
The man who travelled from Melbourne into NSW on 7 July is in hotel quarantine and has identified few close contacts apart from three people who are in isolation.
In Queensland, two new cases were recorded, both linked to overseas travel and the individuals have been in isolation since their arrival.
In the ACT, no cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the past 24 hours. The territory recorded four cases this week that were linked to Melbourne travel.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration said its provisional approval for remdesivir allowed the drug to be used as the first treatment option for Covid-19 in adults and adolescent patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms in hospital.
“Remdesivir is the most promising treatment option so far to reduce hospitalisation time for those suffering from severe coronavirus infections,” the TGA said. “Remdesivir offers the potential to reduce the strain on Australia’s healthcare system.
“By reducing recovery times patients will be able to leave hospital earlier, freeing beds for those in need. Remdesivir will not be available to Australians unless they are severely unwell, requiring oxygen or high level support to breathe, and in hospital care.”
The product has not been shown to prevent coronavirus infection or relieve milder cases of infection.
Australia is the one of the first regulators to authorise the use of remdesivir for the treatment of Covid-19, following recent approvals in European Union, Japan and Singapore.