Reassuring: Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said he was encouraged to see a downward trend in case numbers. Photo: JAMES ROSS/AAP IMAGE

VICTORIA is "on track" to end its fifth lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic next week, according to the state's chief health officer. There were 12 new cases reported in the previous 24 hours today (Saturday, July 24), with 10 of those isolating for the entirety of their infectious period. Speaking to reporters this morning, Professor Brett Sutton said he expected to see more cases in the coming days but there was no "magic number" of cases Victoria would have to be at by the end of Tuesday, when the 12-day lockdown is expected to end. “We need to see those numbers out in the community for any period of time to be minimal and hopefully zero. That is where we are today and that is where I want us to be for the rest of the week. “I feel we are on track. I have been surprised in the past, pleasantly and unpleasantly, and I hope this can bring further news in terms of everyone being in home quarantine and isolation throughout the infectious period, that would be the good news for Tuesday." He would not be drawn on what restrictions would be in place when the lockdown ended, but said masks had become even more important during the Delta variant of the coronavirus. "They have played a huge role as has been highlighted by recent literature from the Burnett Institute and ended a review of the second wave in Victoria last year, the critical role that masks have played and that will be one of the baselines that we will just have to live with globally; it will not be unique to Victoria. "They are reviewing the advice on masks in lots of places where there is low vaccination coverage because of the Delta third and fourth waves.” Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said case numbers were heading in the right direction. “Overall, we are pleased to see an encouraging trend down in case numbers and certainly not an increase. Not a huge trend down but in terms of the direction and particularly the issues that the chief health officer will go into, a reassuring trend towards cases overwhelmingly being in quarantine [and] being in-home isolation for the entirety of their infectious period.” Victoria has upgraded NSW from a red zone to an extreme zone, meaning anyone who enters Victoria without an exemption will be put on a return flight or placed in 14 days mandatory hotel quarantine. Mr Foley said Australia could not beat COVID-19 as a nation until NSW had got on top of its latest outbreak. "That cannot be at the expense of allowing the further importation of that wave into any other state or territory. "We all have to do what we need to do, what our communities expect us to do, what our public health officials tell us has to be done to allocate a scarce resource, in this case vaccines, to the areas we need to cement our public health position while at the same time, in a scarce environment, trying to address New South Wales’s clear need.”
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