Five reasons behind Victoria’s virus spike
Lockdown restrictions in Victoria have now been in place for 14 days.
By this point, we should be starting to see the benefits of lockdown reflected in the state's day-on-day cases.
But Victoria has just recorded another 403 coronavirus cases, and yesterday recorded Australia's highest-ever 24-hour increase with 484 cases.
Victoria University coronavirus researchers Vasso Apostolopoulos, Maja Husaric and Maximilian de Courten say there are several reasons the case numbers haven't tapered off, including lax restrictions, people not taking the pandemic seriously, and the nature of the virus itself.
MORE CASES WITH UNTRACEABLE ORIGINS
When the first wave of the virus hit Australia in March, the vast majority of the cases were returning travellers who were immediately isolated in hotel quarantine. Local cases were being tracked and traced.
But this time, the virus is spreading locally, and in many cases it's unclear exactly where they picked it up.
Writing in The Conversation, the experts note that this second wave has a much larger proportion of cases that have come through community transmission and whose origins remain under investigation.
"These are harder to control because the source of infection is unknown, which makes the process of testing, tracing and isolating known contacts of confirmed cases harder," their report says.
"While in the first two weeks we will see a decline or at least stabilisation of the numbers of cases in each known cluster, those untraced contacts and asymptomatic individuals may continue to spread the virus and start up new clusters."
Of Victoria's 484 cases announced yesterday, 97 were connected to known outbreaks, while the origins of the remaining 387 were unknown.
FIVE REASONS WHY CASES AREN'T DROPPING
The experts said there were five reasons why Victoria's numbers are not going down.
Firstly, more cases in the second wave are from community transmission meaning it is harder to control the spread.
Secondly, Victoria is currently in its Stage 3 lockdown phase, which means people are required to stay at home unless they are travelling to work or school, providing care, shopping for essential items or exercising in their local area.
The Victoria University experts argue the restrictions aren't strict enough, in that they still allow "significant movement of people between suburbs and to work", as well as face-to-face teaching and no limits on supermarkets and shopping centres.
They also argue that because the virus has mutated, it is spreading faster. The final two reasons are because people have not grasped how serious the situation is and there is a restriction fatigue in Victoria, meaning people are struggling to obey the rules.
In revealing the record-high number of daily cases, Victorian authorities said the state was not introducing new lockdown measures.
Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton said he wouldn't assume that a New Zealand-style Stage 4 lockdown would address the issues that Victoria was having.
"Obviously people were very constrained during that 4-week period in New Zealand, but New Zealand didn't have significant community transmission," he said.
"They were identifying the close contacts of international travellers, and it was a much, much more straightforward contact-tracing process - as it was in Victoria through the first phase.
"So I wouldn't make assumptions that a harder, more constrained lockdown is necessarily the way to go. We have to be targeted in terms of seeing where the issues are and addressing them directly."
As cases continue to rise, experts have called on Victorian officials to close all schools, impose further restrictions on shopping and work, and require correct mask-wearing.
PEOPLE AREN'T TAKING IT SERIOUSLY
The experts also note that people may not grasp the full seriousness of the situation, perhaps due to misinformation being spread on social media.
Premier Daniel Andrews said half of the new COVID cases are failing to isolate after being swabbed for COVID-19.
A stunning 90 per cent failed to immediately isolate after feeling unwell but before they were tested, spreading the killer virus throughout Victoria.
"Now, that's an interesting measure in that people have felt sick, they've got symptoms, and they've kept going shopping. They've kept going to work. They've kept doing - let's assume everybody followed the rules and they only went out for the four permitted reasons, which of course some may not have, but let's assume that.
"That means people have felt unwell and just gone about their business. They have been at the height of their infectivity. And they have just continued on as usual."
Mr Andrews urged Victorians to do the right thing and isolate as soon as they experienced symptoms.
THE VIRUS HAS MUTATED
The researchers also noted the virus has mutated.
New research published in the science journal Cell cites laboratory research as identifying small changes in the proteins that protrude from the surface of the COVID-19 virus. These changes, which have evolved during the past six months, enhance its abilities to jump between humans - but have not increased or reduced its symptoms.
The public face of the United States' fight against the exploding pandemic, Dr Anthony Fauci, told the American Medical Association at the weekend the findings - while unconfirmed - could be significant.
"I think the data is showing that there is a single mutation that actually makes the virus be able to replicate better, and maybe have high viral loads," he said.
The Victoria University experts said this could be a factor in Victoria's second wave, but added that this is "far from certain".
Originally published as Five reasons behind Victoria's virus spike