Australia records first day of zero cases of community Covid transmission since 9 June

A department store welcomes back shoppers in central Melbourne. Australia went 24 hours without a new locally acquired Covid case between Friday and Saturday nights. Photo courtesy: Dave Hewison/Speed Media/Rex/Shutterstock

(The Guardian): Australia has recorded its first day of zero cases of community transmission nationally since 9 June. The entire country went 24 hours without a new locally acquired case of Covid-19 between 8pm Friday and 8pm Saturday.
Victoria, which in August hit a peak of 725 new cases in one day, registered zero cases two days in a row on Friday and Saturday. New South Wales recorded no locally acquired cases of the virus between Friday night and Saturday night but did record four cases among people in hotel quarantine who had caught the virus overseas. Western Australia also recorded one case in hotel quarantine.
Late on Saturday, after the 8pm deadline, NSW did record at least one new case of community transmission. The case, which was likely to have been acquired at a trampoline centre in south-western Sydney, will be included in Monday’s numbers.
The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, confirmed the statistic with the National Incident Centre.
Back-to-back days without adding to Victoria’s virus tally coincided with the first weekend of Melbourne cafes, restaurants and pubs reopening to walk-in customers. More restrictions are due to ease next Sunday, including the scrapping of the so-called “ring of steel” dividing the city from the regions, along with the 25km travel limit.
Although the encouraging case numbers won’t bring forward that date, Victoria’s chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, hinted that the authorities could raise cap limits and density quotas higher than initially planned for some industries.
“What allowances come on November 8 will absolutely be informed by what this week looks like,” he said. “Some of the details might change we can always make consideration of what caps might be in certain settings, what density quotients might be in those settings. “And some of the specific industries that might come onboard in terms of being able to operate.”
When asked if that meant relaxing density limits for restaurants and cafes, Sutton said: “Maybe not for hospitality, but it’s all on the board.”
The state’s virus death toll remains at 819 and the national figure is 907. Melbourne only has a single mystery case without a known source to Thursday, while the city’s average daily case count for the fortnight up to Saturday is 2.2.
There are also just 61 active cases left across the state, down from 70 on Saturday. Sutton said Victoria could be down to “a couple of dozen” active cases by next week.
Nearly 16,000 tests were taken in the past 24 hours. Sutton saying this verified Sunday’s result as a “true zero”.
Mandatory masks will remain a feature of Victorians’ daily lives for some time yet but that rule may be revisited with less virus circulating in the community.
“Clearly we should be transitioning and we will be transitioning from universal mask-wearing to maybe indoors only, to maybe just high-risk settings, at the appropriate time,” Sutton said.
Ireland has called on Sutton for advice on its Melbourne-style lockdown, hoping to learn from the city’s success. Sutton cited the worsening situation in Europe as a reason for Victorians to reflect on their hard-won gains.
“What Europe is going through now is a consequence of not being able to get to this point where you can stay on top of very low numbers indefinitely,” he said. “If you don’t get to that point, it all comes back in a tsunami.
“To see 50,000 cases a day in France, to see Belgium sending patients outside the country because they’re so overwhelmed – that’s what we might have faced if we hadn’t been able to get on top of it.”
The Victorian government announced it would hand out $200 vouchers to support children’s return to netball courts, football fields and cricket nets as part of a $45.2 million package.
The federal government is urging Australians to take care of their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic, launching a new campaign from Sunday.
The “How’s your head today?” campaign urges people to prioritise their mental health, raise awareness about how to identify when something is wrong and encourage others to seek help.
The campaign will be launched on television, radio, in shopping centres and in venues, online and through social media and will continue through to next year.