Sunday, 25 Oct 2020

Australia's Covid-19 hotspot cases inch up, but officials optimistic

MELBOURNE (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – New daily coronavirus infections in Australia’s hotspot of Victoria climbed back to double digits on Sunday (Oct 4) with 12 cases recorded but authorities said the state is on track to be able to ease its social distancing restrictions in coming weeks.

The dozen new coronavirus cases follow eight infections reported on Saturday and single-digit numbers for most of the past week.

Melbourne, Victoria’s capital, has been under a strict lockdown for nearly three months. Retail and restaurants operate only on take away or delivery orders only, while people can exercise or socialise outdoors for a maximum of two hours a day and must wear masks in public places.

Most restrictions will be eased when the average number of new daily cases over a two-week window falls below five. The 14-day rolling case average for Melbourne has been going steadily down and it is now at 11.9.

“We are so, so close,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised briefing. “If we continue these numbers, continue this trend, we are ready to take that step. All things being equal, that will be just a couple of weeks.”

With temperatures reaching 28 deg C over the weekend, the highest in months, police said they were stepping up patrolling as hundreds of Melbourne residents flocked to beaches.

Beachgoers in Victoria have been warned to obey restrictions on public behaviour and social distancing aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19, or risk facing increased fines or having some popular swimming spots closed.

“Police are out there and they will fine you,” Mr Andrews told reporters. “It would be unwise for anybody who is thinking about doing those sorts of things the next time we get a warm day.”

He added: “People love to go to the beach when it’s sunny but there’s a global pandemic on and we’re very close to beating the second wave.”

Victoria has been the centre of Australia’s coronavirus outbreak after security failures at quarantine hotels for returned overseas travellers led to a resurgence of community transmission.

Victoria accounts for 90 per cent of national Covid-19 deaths.

Australia, with 894 fatalities, has fared far better than many other developed countries. Australia has had just over 27,000 infections, according to health ministry data.

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