Australia's Victoria state logs record Covid-19 infections ahead of key sporting event

People waiting in line at the Melbourne Museum Covid-19 vaccination clinic on Sept 17, 2021.
People waiting in line at the Melbourne Museum Covid-19 vaccination clinic on Sept 17, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Australia's Victoria state notched up a daily record of 847 locally acquired cases of Covid-19 and one death, government figures showed on Saturday (Sept 25), as health officials warned the public to stay home ahead of a major national sporting final.

The authorities expect case numbers in the state to keep rising until mid-November as it races to raise vaccination rates above the 70 per cent double-dose threshold, up from around 46 per cent currently.

With the Australian rules football grand final, a major national sporting event, due to take place on Saturday evening, chief health officer Brett Sutton warned fans to stay at home to avoid putting "you, your friends and your households at risk".

The match, between two Melbourne teams, would usually be played in the city but has been moved to coronavirus-free Western Australia. However, the authorities are still worried that fans in Melbourne could gather in households to watch the broadcast game, breaching lockdown rules.

Anti-vaccination protests that hit state capital Melbourne this week spilled into the suburbs on Friday, with police arresting more than 30 people in the city's inner north.

The authorities are concerned that the protests may fuel a worsening outbreak of the virus after one protester was admitted to hospital with Covid-19 late on Thursday.

"The violence is obviously horrible, and spitting at healthcare workers, being violent with police is obviously a devastatingly damaging way to deal with your anger," said Dr Sarah Whitelaw, state vice-president of the Australian Medical Association.

It will be next week before the impact of cases associated with the protest can be seen, and hospitalisations will follow a few weeks later, adding pressure to the healthcare system, she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"The potential is very, very real."

Elsewhere, New South Wales state logged 11 deaths and 1,007 new daily acquired Covid-19 cases, government data showed.

Sixty people have died from the virus in the state this week, the highest weekly number since the pandemic began and more than the 58 deaths last week. New infections, however, show signs of stabilising at around 1,000 a day amid a statewide vaccination drive.

Around 85 per cent of people over 16 years of age have had a first vaccination dose, while 58 per cent of the population have had a double dose. Lockdown restrictions are set to ease when between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of the adult population are fully vaccinated.