Five million locked-down Melburnians are waiting patiently for the outcome of more COVID-19 tests before further rule easing is revealed.
After foreshadowing “significant” rule changes for most of last week, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews hit pause on Sunday to await the results of more than 1000 key tests from the city’s north.
Department of Health and Human Services testing chief Jeroen Weimar later confirmed no additional cases linked to the northern metropolitan outbreak had been detected among the 1135 test results.
Another 1400 new swabs from the area on Sunday have been taken to laboratories, with testing continuing into the evening.
Mr Weimar said about 250 close contacts had been also tested on Saturday, with a further 60 being followed up on Sunday.
Six of the seven infections reported on Sunday were linked to the cluster, which has swollen to 39 cases across 11 households.
Mr Andrews acknowledged the community would be frustrated by the “cautious pause” of 24 to 48 hours, but still hopes to unveil rule changes for Melbourne by Tuesday.
“Those test results will come back and hopefully what they will show us is not just some additional cases … but that those cases are linked and that we know that there is a chain of transmission,” the Premier said on Sunday.
“This is not anything other than a cautious pause.”
It came as the city’s two-week rolling case average fell to 4.6, below the threshold of five that authorities had previously coveted to trigger the next step.
Former Victorian health minister Jenny Mikakos said Sunday’s delay was “unnecessary” after hitting the five-case benchmark, and was evidence of “paralysis in decision-making”.
Mr Andrews would not be drawn on her comments, while chief health officer Brett Sutton noted she and other detractors were not “in the tent”.
Less surprisingly, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and federal Health Minister Greg Hunt were among public critics of the pause.
The trio said the decision to keep businesses closed suggested the Victorian government did not have “sufficient confidence” in its contact tracing system to manage future outbreaks.
There was some good news for regional Victoria, however, with restrictions to be wound back for some businesses and activities from 11.59pm on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Victoria Racing Club announced that no crowds would be allowed for the entirety of the Melbourne Cup Carnival amid ongoing restrictions, although it remains in government talks to host a small number of owners.