Victoria has recorded another 19 coronavirus deaths in the 24 hours up to 9am Tuesday, the government reported.
It’s the same number of deaths reported on Monday, which was a record day for national fatalities.
The 331 new cases is slightly up from Monday’s data of 322 new infections in Victoria.
Monday’s new case statistic was Victoria’s lowest number in about 12 days.
The slowdown in new cases gave hope that a second wave of new infections in Victoria may have peaked.
“This is an agonising day for the members for the 19 families who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 today,” Michael Kidd, Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, told reporters on Monday.
“We are now seeing the first promising signs of a significant decline in the number of cases.”
The slowdown in cases comes more than a month after the nearly five million residents of Melbourne were told to stay home and a week after most businesses were ordered to close in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
With about 21,000 COVID-19 cases and 314 deaths, Australia has still recorded fewer infections and fatalities than many other developed nations. Outside Victoria and New South Wales, the virus has been effectively eliminated.
Desperate to contain the outbreak, Australia’s states and territories have closed their borders and slowed a timetable to remove remaining social distancing restrictions. Victoria will continue in a hard lockdown for at least another five weeks.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said internal travel restrictions were likely to remain until at least Christmas.
Social distancing restrictions have devastated Australia’s economy. Unemployment is expected to peak at 14% this year as the country enters its first recession in nearly three decades.
The government last week pledged to expand its wage subsidy scheme by A$16.8 billion amid the Victorian outbreak, prompting some criticism that the economic toll was too high.
But Morrison said the alternative was unthinkable.
“There have been some suggestions, I’ve read it ... that somehow our elderly should in some way have been offered up in relation to this virus,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“That is a just hideous thought. An absolutely amoral, hideous thought. One that I’ve had no countenance with when it’s been suggested.”
With additional reporting from Colin Packham of Rueters.