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Light at the end of a long, dark tunnel as Victoria's numbers start to flatten


Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned Australians to be prepared for more coronavirus deaths, as Victoria recorded its lowest daily case increase in close to a month.

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Some 360 people have died during the crisis so far, mostly in Victoria where more than 160 deaths have been linked to aged care homes.

The state recorded eight more deaths on Thursday and 278 new cases, the lowest daily increase since July 20.

Morrison says Australians must stay focused on protecting the most vulnerable in the community – the elderly.

“Not just looking after their health but wherever possible, to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect,” he said in a video message posted on Facebook.

The aged care royal commission this week examined the impact of the pandemic on the elderly and heard stories of neglect and apathy.

It was told more than 68 per cent of the people who’ve died were aged care residents, one of the highest COVID-19 death rates amongst older people in the world.

Morrison said shortcomings in the aged care sector system will be acknowledged and lessons will be learned.

“We know that in the days and weeks ahead there will be more difficult news … we need to continue to brace ourselves for that.”

But the prime minister also says there’s hope that the crisis will ease, particularly in Victoria.

“While it’s still very early I want to encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing. It will save lives, it will save livelihoods, and all Australians are backing you in to be successful.”

Deakin University epidemiologist Catherine Bennett believes Victoria is beginning to flatten the curve.

“It really looks like we are past the peak now,” she told Nine’s Today show on Thursday.

She noted active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria dropped on Wednesday for the first time.

“So hopefully this pipeline, if you like, of people being exposed then becoming ill and possibly also triggering workplace outbreaks is now shifting so that we are starting to close down those existing outbreaks,” Professor Bennett said.

“We should see the numbers really drop quite rapidly once these outbreaks are contained.”

Premier Daniel Andrews said the full effects of the stage-four lockdown would not be known until next week.

He said it was dependent upon “literally hundreds of millions of individual choices and decisions”.

Meanwhile, Australia’s top medical officers are increasingly confident a coronavirus vaccine will emerge.

But Deputy Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd says it’s difficult to know when one will be available.

“But we do have some of the world’s greatest research minds working on this challenge,” he told the ABC on Thursday.

Russia this week became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine, an announcement that was met with scepticism in the global health and science community.

The drug has only been studied in dozens of people, far less than the tens of thousands needed to prove if it is safe and effective.

More than 150 vaccines are being developed and tested around the world with 25 in human clinical trials.

NSW recorded 18 new infections on Wednesday, with most tied to known outbreaks.

Kidd said he shared NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s frustrations that people weren’t following restrictions.

“People only have to look across the border to Victoria to see what happens when people don’t adhere to the physical distancing restrictions,” he said.

“We have to all be doing everything we can.”



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