Victoria today registered a devastating record: 19 deaths in the past 24 hours due to COVID-19, the most the state has recorded in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
Yesterday, that number was 17. Victoria has now tallied 210 deaths as a result of the virus, bringing the number of fatalities nationwide to 313.
But the rising number of deaths stands in contrast to new case numbers, which appear to have levelled out over recent days.
Victoria today notched a further 322 new cases in the past 24 hours, marking the lowest daily tally in 12 days, and a dramatic dip from the total of 725 new cases registered on Wednesday, August 5.
— Victorian Department of Health (@VicGovDH) August 9, 2020
There are a few reasons for the disparity between deaths and the number of new cases.
Experts reckon the virus’ attack on the aged care sector is a big factor.
Tragically, older Australians are more susceptible to the worst health impacts of the virus than young people, and a large percentage of deaths recorded in Victoria have been linked to a rise in cases in the state’s aged case system.
(This isn’t to say young people are immune, and a man in his 30s has died in Victoria due to the virus.)
Data collated by the ABC shows the majority of deaths linked to COVID-19 in Australia were among those aged 70 and older, while the bulk of those deaths have occurred in aged care facilities.
In short: Even if the number of total new cases appears to be declining, the overall percentage of cases detected in vulnerable populations seems to be increasing.
Tragically, this means we should be prepared for more deaths in the days to come.
Speaking to the national broadcaster this morning, Melbourne University epidemiologist Tony Blakely said the lag time between infections being detected and those individuals falling severely ill may suggest “deaths are yet to peak.”
The same idea of ‘lag’ can be applied to the state’s lockdown restrictions and the number of new cases.
Speaking on Saturday, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton told The Age that Melbourne’s Stage 3 restrictions had successfully prevented upwards of 20,000 new cases, but it would take a little while for the impact of the city’s strict Stage 4 lockdown, enacted on Sunday, August 2, to really drive the numbers down.
“I think Stage 4 restrictions will head us in that direction,” he said.
“How far we can get is a matter for all of us as community members and our behaviours.”
That position was echoed by Doherty Institute epidemiologist Professor James McCaw, whose department provided coronavirus modelling to the state government.
“I’m confident we are just past the peak or right on it, but there’s a long way to go,” Professor McCaw told The Age on Saturday.
“If you take your foot off the accelerator for a second you come to a halt with this virus.”
That’s the same message provided by Premier Daniel Andrews, who, after detailing today’s harrowing new death toll, reminded residents to do their part.
“It is really important that we all stay the course on this,” Premier Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
“It is a wicked enemy. It’ll do everything it can to wear you down, and that’s when it absolutely flourishes.”