Clearly worried Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said 10 people between the ages of 40 and 80 have died, seven of whom have been linked to outbreaks in elderly care facilities.
It is the worst loss of life due to the virus in Australia since the first appearance of the disease, according to a tally established by AFP.
Australia has avoided the worst devastation of the pandemic so far, registering just 14,000 cases in total – fewer than many of the hardest-hit countries in one day.
But a second wave of infections is testing the country’s much-loved response to the contagion.
The number of new cases has remained stubbornly high in recent days, despite five million people in the Melbourne metropolitan area having spent the past two weeks in lockdown.
Masks are mandatory in the city and Victoria is virtually isolated from the rest of the country.
Police and military guard state borders and visit homes to enforce quarantine orders.
Still, 459 new cases were reported in Victoria on Sunday – up from 357 on Saturday. A dozen more have been recorded in other parts of Australia.
“These things are changing quickly, but we have to say these numbers are way too high,” Andrews said.