Australia reports two new COVID-19 cases in Melbourne - Metro US

Australia reports two new COVID-19 cases in Melbourne

FILE PHOTO: A sign regarding mandatory mask wearing is seen on a tram in Melbourne

By Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australia’s Victoria state on Tuesday reported two new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the state capital Melbourne, both linked to an existing cluster that prompted renewed social distancing measures in the city.

Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state, had earlier in the day reported no new local cases, using data for the 24 hours to midnight on Tuesday, fuelling hopes that movement restrictions would be eased later in the week.

The two new cases, both primary contacts of prior cases, were recorded after the midnight cut-off and will be added to Wednesday’s data.

Victoria state Health Minister Martin Foley said the cases were both traced to infections reported from a residential townhouse complex in Melbourne, raising the cluster to six. Hundreds of residents were urged to undergo testing and to self-isolate.

Melbourne ended a two-week hard lockdown late last week but some restrictions on travel and gatherings remain, including rules that require its five million residents to stay within 25 kms (15 miles) of their homes. The current restrictions are in place until Thursday night.

Victoria has reported daily new cases in low single digits for more than a week, allaying fears of a major spike in infections after the highly contagious Delta variant was detected. Around 100 new infections have been reported in the state since May 24.

Swift contact tracing, snap lockdowns and internal border restrictions have helped Australia to suppress all prior outbreaks and keep its COVID-19 numbers relatively low, with just over 30,250 cases and 910 deaths.

The latest outbreak has spurred a surge in people getting inoculated for COVID-19. The rise prompted Victorian health officials to pause administering Pfizer vaccines as a first dose to ensure all second dose orders could be fulfilled.

“There should be no anxiety here, no fear here. People who have got their first Pfizer dose should be confident … that they will get their second dose,” state COVID-19 testing commander Jeroen Weimar said.

About 25% of Australia’s adult population of 20 million have had at least the first dose while nearly 4% have been fully vaccinated. More than 5.86 million total shots have been administered so far.

(Reporting by Renju Jose; editing by Jane Wardell)

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