SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second most populous state, Victoria, reported 13 new coronavirus deaths in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, authorities said, while new infections in the hotspot state remained below 200 for the second consecutive day.
Other than in Victoria, which accounts for over 80% of the country’s COVID-19 deaths due to a second wave of infections, Australia has large avoided the high casualty numbers of many nations with about 24,500 infections and 485 deaths.
“It’s great to see two days in a row under 200, certainly we are trending down,” said Brett Sutton, the state’s chief health officer. “The best way to safeguard against a third wave is to bring that number down to the lowest feasible, possible level.”
The state reported 182 new daily infections, down from over 700 a day two weeks ago.
Almost mid-way through a six-week lockdown, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he was hopeful the toughened restrictions were working.
“It’s difficult, it’s painful, I know, but if we can just stay the course then we will get to the other side of this. Then we’ll be able to open up,” he said.
In New South Wales, the most populous state, officials reported 10 new cases, including a second security guard at the Harbour Marriott Hotel, which was being used to quarantine people returning from overseas. The man had also recently worked at the Sheraton Grand in Sydney, state health officer Kerry Chant told reporters.
Australia allows about 4,000 citizens to return home every week but travellers must spend two weeks quarantined in hotels after arrival.
Meanwhile, the north eastern state of Queensland introduced an immediate 10-people cap to all gatherings in Brisbane, its capital, and surrounding regions, after a small outbreak was found at a youth detention centre. It reported nine new cases and no new casualties.
In New Zealand, where businesses and schools in its biggest city, Auckland, remain on lockdown amid a recent cluster of coronavirus cases, health authorities reported six new infections on Saturday. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is due to review whether to ease or extend the lockdown beyond Aug. 26, on Monday.
(Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)