SYDNEY: Australia’s second-most populous state of Victoria on Friday (Jul 17) reported a record increase in daily coronavirus cases for a second consecutive day.
Victoria reported 428 new daily infections, a day after logging its previous high of 317 new cases, said Premier Daniel Andrews. It also reported three new deaths.
The three who died were a man and a woman in their 80s as well as another man in his 70s, The Sydney Morning Herald cited Andrews as saying.
“I can offer no further information about those three tragedies, but we send our best wishes and our thoughts,” he said.
The state has been isolated from the rest of the country for more than a week following a fresh outbreak of the disease. The 4.9 million residents in state capital Melbourne have been ordered to stay home except for essential business.
On Wednesday, Andrews singled out a minority of people for defying lockdown orders, which require people to stay home except for a small number of permissible activities, and warned that restrictions could be extended.
“If, however, people do not do the right thing then we will have to move to additional restrictions being put in place and potentially prolong … these restrictions,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
NO DANCING, NO MINGLING
The surge in COVID-19 cases in Victoria has stirred concerns of a national second wave, prompting internal border closures and renewed social distancing restrictions in neighbouring states.
“We are in the fight of our lives,” Victoria’s Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos told reporters in Melbourne.
Australia has recorded just over 11,000 cases of COVID-19, with 116 fatalities.
New South Wales (NSW), Australia’s most populous state, said it found eight cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, mostly from community transmissions believed to have emanated from Victoria.
In a bid to curtail the spread, NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian said new restrictions will be imposed from next week.
Funerals and places of worship will be allowed no more than 100 people. Venues must also ensure they have 4 sq m of space per patron.
Weddings in the state will be capped 150 people, Berejiklian said, and they must remain seated.
“No dancing, no singing, no mingling,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
Less than a month ago, Australia was widely heralded as a global leader in combating COVID-19.
But security lapses in Victoria led to people returning from overseas spreading the virus, prompting an inquiry into how the state went from the brink of eradicating the virus to soaring infection numbers.
The surge in COVID-19 cases dents any hope of a quick economic rebound in Australia.
Damaged by national social distancing restrictions imposed in March, Australia is on course for its first recession in nearly three decades, while unemployment has hit a 22-year high, data showed on Thursday.
Australia’s hopes to begin a “travel bubble” with neighbouring New Zealand also appear to be delayed. Australia and New Zealand had hoped to open their borders to each other in September.