Victoria reported 484 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the highest daily increase since the pandemic began.
Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed the new data at a press conference along with two further coronavirus-related deaths.
“There are now 44 Victorians who have passed away as a result of this virus - that is two further deaths overnight,” he said.
“Two males in their 90s connected with aged care settings.”
The premier said the high number of new cases is down to one in two people awaiting COVID test results not staying at home and self isolating.
“To have less than half of people following those very, very clear orders - that is contributing to these numbers,” he said adding that those who have been tested and who are experiencing financial hardship or do not receive sick leave may be eligible for a $1500 payment.
“That $1,500 payment is there for people who really have, in their own judgement, no choice but to go to work sick or to go to work whilst waiting for a test result,” he said.
“Those choices - we don’t want people to make those choices. 1800-675-398. Call that number and we will provide you with that support so that you can be at home and do the safe thing.”
Residents of Melbourne must now wear masks when leaving home as tougher border restrictions were put in place with New South Wales (NSW) to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Cross-border travel between Victoria and NSW will now only be permitted for work, education or medical care, after the border was closed earlier this month for the first time in 100 years.
Staff or students travelling from Victoria into NSW to attend boarding schools or universities are now required to self-isolate for two weeks and test negative to coronavirus, while seasonal workers from Victoria are barred.
Melbourne has seen a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases in recent weeks, with the virus spreading to many aged and nursing homes and some prisons.
Victoria has recorded just under 6,689 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, nearly half of the total infections in Australia. The state recorded 364 new cases on Tuesday.
Australia has recorded nearly 12,500 COVID-19 cases and 126 deaths since the pandemic began earlier this year. Though the overall health outcome is better than many of its rich world peers, authorities and policymakers are increasingly worried about spread of the virulent disease in Melbourne.
In NSW 16 new COVID-19 cases were recorded with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying the state was on “high alert” due to community transmissions and new locations of cases.
She raised concerns over another Black Lives Matter protest planned next week, as a possible vehicle for the spread of the virus.
“Irrespective of the issue, we need to follow the health advice. Large crowds are a huge concern. We cannot allow that march to continue unfortunately,” Berejiklian said.
“It’s just not sensible at this time to expose yourself and others to the spread of the virus. We’re at a critical point in New South Wales and we don’t want to see the virus spread and actions like that are a huge health risk.”
With additional reporting from Reuters.