“I think there’s every chance that there are a handful of cases out there, this is a wildly infectious virus,” he said on Wednesday. “You’ve always got to assume there’s more out there than you know.”
There have been 20,345 cases of COVID-19 in Victoria and 819 deaths, most of them among the elderly in aged care.
Victorians will be able to enter Queensland from next Tuesday after its extended run of zero-case days.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Wednesday morning she would reopen the border to Victorian travellers on December 1, after the southern state recorded its 26th consecutive day without a COVID-19 case.
NSW opened to Victoria on Monday, while Tasmania is due to open from Friday. South Australia will allow Victorians to enter the state without restriction again on December 1.
Victorians are already permitted to enter ACT and the Northern Territory has been allowing regional Victorians to enter without quarantining since November 2, but still classifies metropolitan Melbourne as a hot spot.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner has previously spoken of his intention to allow Melburnians back into the territory by Christmas.
Melbourne will start to receive international arrivals again on December 7, with Mr Andrews confirming there would be trials done in the hotels picked for the relaunched quarantine program.
While infectious diseases experts are quietly confident Victoria has completely stamped out community transmission of the virus for now, they warn the biggest risk of the virus returning comes from the easing of border restrictions and the reopening of hotel quarantine.
“When we achieve 28 days we will be achieving it with bells and whistles because we will have had no new cases for 28 days and we will have no active cases left in the community,” University of Melbourne epidemiologist Tony Blakely said. “It’s the complete Rolls-Royce version.”
But Professor Blakely warned that unless Australia changed its border policy and stopped accepting people flying in from the northern hemisphere, where the virus continues to run rampant, it would only be a matter of time before there was a “slip-up somewhere” and more cases leached into the community.
The last patient in Victoria infected with the virus, a man aged in his 90s, was discharged from hospital on Monday night, after being admitted last month. The man was treated at the Monash Medical Centre for more than 40 days alongside his wife who also contracted the virus.
with Melissa Cunningham
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Rachael Dexter is a breaking news reporter at The Age.