Vic to pursue freedom despite COVID surge

Victoria has recorded more than 2000 daily COVID-19 infections for the first time.
Victoria has recorded more than 2000 daily COVID-19 infections for the first time.

Victoria will forge ahead with its plans to ease restrictions despite reporting a record 2297 daily COVID-19 cases and higher numbers expected to come.

It's the first time daily infections have tipped over 2000 in any Australian state or territory, and marks a jump of more than 700 infections from the previous day's 1571.

Another nine men and two women have died with COVID-19, taking the toll from the current outbreak to 125.

Premier Daniel Andrews says the state government will continue to pursue its roadmap to reopening despite Thursday's case surge.

"We have, fundamentally, a very important agreement with the Victorian community: you get vaccinated and we will open up," he said.

Once 70 per cent of the state is fully vaccinated, which is expected to be achieved in about a week, Melbourne's hard lockdown will end.

Eighty-seven per cent of Victorians aged over 16 have received their first jab and 62.6 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Mr Andrews said there would be discussions in coming days about when Melbourne's lockdown would end. It was originally set for October 26.

Deputy Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie reiterated the roadmap was tied to vaccination targets and pressure on the health system, not case numbers.

"There is no way I could possibly look at one day's numbers and think of what it means for the roadmap. The roadmap is there, the progress is agreed," he said.

While Thursday's case increase could not be blamed on a single event, Professor Cowie said undetected transmission in the community was now "coming to the surface".

There were also "disproportionate increases" in regional Victoria, 1245 newly affected households, and nearly two-thirds of the total were aged under 40.

Prof Cowie warned case numbers would climb as the state reopened.

"As we do have increased mixing in the community, increased freedoms and people moving around, we will see this sort of bumpy road, there's no question about it," he said.

Despite escalating cases, he said the proportion of people being admitted to hospital was less than five per cent of new cases, compared with almost 10 per cent in 2020.

Epidemiologist Adrian Esterman predicts the third wave's peak is two to three weeks away.

He said Thursday's spike had "virtually no impact" on the effective reproduction rate of the virus, which had risen slightly from 0.99 to 1.02.

"I wouldn't get overly concerned about today's high numbers, unless we've started seeing a trend," the University of SA professor told AAP.

"At the moment, the trend is for there to be a peak coming if not reached, but it would still take another three or four days to make that judgment call.

"Victoria will get to a peak, it's just a matter of when will it get to the peak, and how bad will things get before it gets to the peak."

He said the state would be recording "9000 to 10,000 cases a day" if it was not for vaccination.

Prof Esterman attributed NSW's low case numbers to its high vaccine rates and the impact of that state opening up would not be seen until next week.

Burnet Institute modelling, released in September, predicts daily cases may reach 1400 to 2900 from October 19 to 31, with a second peak predicted in mid-December.

Australian Associated Press