While New South Wales hit a new record of 633 local Covid-19 cases yesterday, the fact that there are now almost 4000 unlinked mystery cases in the state means new daily cases are likely to grow into the thousands in coming weeks.

In total, there are 3,803 cases in this unlinked category – making up a massive 40 per cent of cases in the current outbreak. The vast majority of them are in the 12 local government areas of concern across Sydney.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and chief health officer Kerry Chant confirmed the numbers will rise yesterday – saying that the current virus reproductive rate of 1.3 shows the worst is yet to come.

It means every 10 infected people could spread the virus to 13 others – and the reproductive rate needs to fall below one to ensure NSW can get on top of the community spread and drive down case numbers

Given the situation, experts have warned residents to brace themselves for very high case numbers in the weeks ahead.

Leading epidemiologist James McCaw, who advises the federal government, said he would not be surprised if the state recorded up to 2000 daily cases within a month.

“Our models show the possibility of increases and decreases, but I think it’s more likely to be well over 1000 and up to 2000 within a month or so,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

He said it could drop, too, but that it was “deeply concerning” there were still thousands of unlinked cases, meaning the situation was likely to deteriorate rather than improve.

Victoria

In Victoria, experts fear that lockdowns could be continually reimposed due to NSW’s growing crisis and repeated cross-border seeding events that have proven difficult to stop.

Victoria recorded 57 new local cases of Covid-19 today, more than double the new cases from previous days. Of the new cases, 54 are linked to known outbreaks and 44 have been in isolation for the entirety of their infectious period.

Public health expert Professor Maximilian de Courten has warned the harsh restrictions in Melbourne, which now includes a night curfew, could be imperiled by the situation in NSW.

“It’s a numbers game and absolutely the more cases in NSW, the higher risk to other states like Victoria,” he told The Age. “Some modelling suggests even if we get down to zero and open up, the virus will break through in four to six weeks, causing a lockdown. That may be even faster with cases so high. It’s this yo-yo lockdown situation that nobody wanted.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday the state was at a “tipping point” in controlling the latest outbreak.

“We see too many cases. We see too many mystery cases,” he said.

“I don’t want to have to stand here and report deaths. I don’t want to have to stand here and report hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cases every day and perhaps an even greater number of people in hospital.”

After the Melbourne outbreak grew by 22 cases on Monday, the Victorian government imposed tight new restrictions that are scheduled to last until 11.59pm on September 2.

A night curfew, taped-off playgrounds and worker permits came into effect across Melbourne from Tuesday after health officials warned Victoria was in danger of following NSW’s disastrous path.

Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said on Monday the state was “right on the cliff edge” of an explosion of cases after a number of lockdown breaches, including an engagement party attended by 69 guests.

“We are at the brink and we need to step back from the brink,” he said.

The night curfew is in effect from 9pm to 5am. People in Melbourne are not permitted to leave their home except for limited reasons.

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