279 new virus cases, 16 deaths in Victoria
Sixteen Victorians have died of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, with 279 new cases of COVID-19 detected.
The state has passed a grim milestone, passing 300 deaths. Victoria's total coronavirus death toll is now 309.
The latest victims include one woman and two men in their 70s, two women and four men in their 80s and four women and three men in their 90s.
Eleven of those deaths are linked to aged-care outbreaks, Premier Daniel Andrews said.
Victoria's state of emergency has also been extended for four weeks as the state continues to battle the virus.
The state government announced the extension until September 13 to continue stage four restrictions in Melbourne and stage three regionally.
Premier Daniel Andrews said it was still too early to say if stage four restrictions would be eased at the end of the current six-week period.
"I think it is too early for us to provide a definitive picture," he said.
Mr Andrews there was a delay on Sunday morning in reporting case numbers due to issues with aged-care data, but said there were about 2075 active cases in the sector.
Forty Victorians are fighting for life in intensive care, with 29 on a ventilator.
Mystery cases have increased by 95, and 1164 healthcare workers are among Victoria's 7671 active cases.
People in Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo are being urged to get tested despite evidence there has been "stabilising" in the figures in recent days.
Mr Andrews urged people to get tested as soon "as symptoms begin" to give the state "the intelligence and data" that they need.
"If people in these regional cities and indeed across the state ... could come forward and get tested, that's a really important point of keeping the numbers in regional Victoria low, driving them down," he said.
There are 150 cases in Geelong, 49 in Bendigo and 27 cases in Ballarat.
STATE GOVERNMENT DEFENDS MARKET RULING
The state government has defended its decision to allow farmers markets to continue operating under stage four restrictions.
Melburnians flocked to outdoor markets, parks and cycling trails on Saturday to enjoy the winter sunshine, prompting social distancing concerns.
Shoppers were seen congregating at Yarraville Village farmer's market and Brighton Farmers Market, but according to the government stalls can operate as long as it's takeaway only.
"Under stage four restrictions you can shop for 'food and essential supplies' if safe physical distancing is maintained but that does not mean you can gather in large groups with your mates. All that does is spread the virus," a government spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, cooped-up Melburnians converged on parks and walking tracks to make the most of their hour of exercise, including the Brighton and Williamstown foreshores.
Victoria Police issued 223 fines for breaches of lockdown restrictions on Saturday, as many continued to flout the chief health officer's directions. Of those, 87 were for breaking curfew and 27 for not wearing a face covering.
MASSIVE DROP IN FLU CASES
Victoria has seen a staggering drop in the number of cases of the flu this year, with infections plummeting due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Only 4732 Victorians have contracted influenza this year, compared with 47,180 at the same time in 2019.
That's a decrease of more than 85 per cent, the Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed.
This is likely a result of the state's ongoing coronavirus lockdown, with social distancing measures, hand hygiene and now masks stopping the spread of the common virus.
At least 150 people died of influenza in 2019, a DHHS representative told the Herald Sun in June; 293 Victorians have lost their lives due to the coronavirus.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the dramatic decline was a small positive during already trying times.
"After a horror flu season last year this is good news and we hope these numbers continue to stay low as Victorians follow the current restrictions in place and stay home," Ms Mikakos said.
There was also a significant increase in the overall number of flu vaccines distributed across the state, with an extra 200,000 made available this year.
To date, the commonwealth has handed out more than two million doses of the flu jab in Victoria.
A further 154,650 doses were provided by the state government through the Health Care Worker program.
Eligible Victorians were able to access the flu shot about two weeks earlier than other states this year, in a bid to stay ahead of any potential spread. This included children aged under five, people over 65, pregnant women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
FEWER SICK KIDS BUT MENTAL HEALTH A WORRY
Hospital presentation rates among children have dropped by almost a third as families stay indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital has experienced a dramatic drop in the number of children visiting its emergency department, as well as a slide in cases of common illnesses and injuries.
Colds and other virus presentations are all down, while broken bones and bumps have become less common - likely due to the cancellation of school and organised sports.
There has been a record low number of children diagnosed with influenza.
RCH paediatrician Anthea Rhodes said this was one of the positive outcomes of the pandemic. "Some of this reduction can be explained by the fact that fewer children are getting sick due to … social distancing and staying home," Dr Rhodes said, adding that this would reduce the chances of contracting colds, gastro and other viruses.
New mums have called on the hospital for help more than usual because home support and mothers groups have been unavailable.
RCH director of emergency medicine Stuart Lewena said: "Early on in the pandemic we were seeing increases with new mums and babies coming in - things like not feeding properly."
Sadly, the hospital has seen a rise in the number of young people presenting with mental health issues in the past two months, highlighting the effect of the virus on wellbeing.
"Our mental health presentations are up 36 per cent," Dr Lewena said.
PATH TO FOODIE RECOVERY
Inner-city bars, restaurants and cafes could be allowed to "spread out" on to footpaths as Melbourne's coronavirus restrictions are eased.
A special advisory group set up by Lord Mayor Sally Capp is looking at ways to revive the city's famous hospitality sector that's been decimated by shutdowns.
Ms Capp said social distancing would be part of city life for many months to come, even after restrictions begin to ease.
"We need to consider providing more space for our restaurants, cafes and bars to spread out and increase capacity for diners to feel safe and businesses to be viable," she said.
"There could be a rolling program where we would extend dining along footpaths and on to streets."