NSW reports ‘dramatic drop’ in new Covid cases as Melbourne edges closer to world’s longest lockdown

Victoria’s Covid infections have dropped slightly with Melbourne’s 246-day lockdown to become the world’s longest on Tuesday.

And while New South Wales recorded a substantial drop in local Covid-19 cases on Sunday, the state continued to see a rise in Covid-related hospitalisations and deaths.

Victoria reported 1,220 new locally acquired coronavirus cases on Sunday and three deaths: a man in his 50s, a woman in her 70s, and a man in his 80s.

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said there were 476 people in hospital across the state, with 98 people in intensive care and 57 on a ventilator. Of those, only five per cent are fully vaccinated.

Andrews said 51.9% of those aged 16 and over in Victoria are fully vaccinated, while 82.6% have now received at least one dose.

Starting Monday, the waiting period between Pfizer doses interval at state-run clinics will go from six weeks to three weeks.

As of Tuesday 5 October, Melbourne will have been in lockdown for 246 days – overtaking Buenos Aires as the city that has spent the most cumulative days under stay-at-home orders.

NSW authorities reported 667 new infections, a drop from the 813 cases recorded in the previous 24-hour period.

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard said this was a “dramatic drop” in new cases. However 10 people had died: two in their 50s, four in their 60s, two in their 70s, and two in their 80s. Of those, four people were not vaccinated, four had received one dose, and two were fully vaccinated.

Hazzard also issued new guidelines for businesses. Businesses will be responsible for taking “reasonable measures” to stop unvaccinated people entering their premises under updated rules for the state’s roadmap out of lockdown.

This means prominent signage, QR code check-ins, staff checking vaccination status on entry and only accepting valid forms of documentation will all fall to business.

Authorised officers will monitor businesses reopening, particularly those with vaccination requirements and penalties, including on-the-spot fines, may apply for non-compliance – up to $1,000 for individuals and $5,000 for businesses.

Authorities also reported that 88.1% of the state’s eligible population have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 66.5% are fully vaccinated.

NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said that while declining case numbers were positive, she cautioned that the virus was seeding across regional areas, including in Wollongong, Newcastle, Maitland, Wellington, Queanbeyan and Deniliquin.

Chant said one day of declining case numbers “does not make a trend”, and said health authorities won’t have complete confidence that infections are dropping until Wednesday or Thursday.

She said the next week will be “critical” and urged residents to increase the rate of people getting tested, after 88,000 people got tested in the 24 hours to Sunday.

The state is on track to hit its 70% double-dose vaccine target by midweek. Restrictions will ease to allow fully vaccinated residents to have five visitors to their home, access gyms and indoor sporting facilities, and visit hospitality outlets, with up to 20 people per booking.

Quick Guide

How to get the latest news from Guardian Australia


Photograph: Tim Robberts/Stone RF

Thank you for your feedback.

Chant also announced that from 11 October, close contacts who are fully vaccinated will only be required to test and isolate for seven days, down from 14 days.

But Hazzard also warned residents not to “ruin” the state’s hard work thus far and breach lockdown restrictions to celebrate Sunday’s NRL grand final.

The warning came after Victoria reported a record high of 1,488 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, with authorities partly attributing the rise in infections to illegal AFL grand final gatherings last weekend.

Meanwhile, the ACT announced 38 new local Covid-19 infections, a drop after two consecutive days of recording 52 cases.

Of the 38 new cases, 14 were in quarantine during their entire infectious period, while at least 16 people spent some of their infectious period in the community.

Health minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said there are 14 people with Covid-19 in hospital. Of these, five are in intensive care and three require ventilation.

Queensland announced no new coronavirus cases in the community.

Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said that she was confident that the state has prevented this latest outbreak.

“I think one of the reasons we have been successful in containing nearly 50 incursions of the virus in the last few months is because we are finding pretty much the first case in each outbreak,” she said.

“And that means that we can get on it really quickly and thank you for the help that people give our contact tracers.”

But in Tasmania, premier Peter Gutwein revealed that a 15-year-old teenager had tested positive for the virus after travelling, with permission, from Melbourne on Friday.

The teenager had mild symptoms but was taken to Launceston general hospital, and was transferred with a family member to a quarantine facility. Gutwein said four family members were considered close contacts.

As of Sunday, 79.4% of Australians aged 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, while 56.5% have received both jabs.

The Herald Sun reported on Sunday that Australians could receive Covid-19 booster shots “as early as December”, and confirmed that there are enough boosters for every Australian, pending the approval of their use.