SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second most-populous state reported one of its highest daily increases in coronavirus infections on Saturday and warned the numbers would get worse before they got better as its capital city began its first weekend of a six-week lockdown.
The state of Victoria logged 216 new cases, down from a record 288 the previous day but still one of the biggest daily increases of any part of the country.
“We will see more and more additional cases. This is going to be with us for months and months,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised news conference.
“Nobody is enjoying being locked at home. It is frustrating, it is challenging, but the strategy will be successful if we all play our part.”
Victoria, home to a quarter of the country’s 25 million people, has also become the first state to ask people to wear masks with the order directed at residents of Melbourne.
The other seven states and territories, which reported just 11 new cases between them on Saturday, have banned travellers from Victoria amid concern that community transmission was causing a second wave of the virus. Authorities had previously attributed most new cases to people returning from overseas.
The country’s deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth, said it was to soon to say whether the community transmission had spread from Victoria to other states.
“We are all on high alert,” he said. “It is fair to say that the next couple of days are critical.”
Australia has avoided the high COVID-19 casualty numbers of other countries after closing its borders and going into nationwide lockdown in March, with some 9,300 infections and 107 deaths.
There were seven new cases in neighbouring New South Wales, the most-populous state, including a man who had visited a Sydney pub that has been linked to two other infections, authorities said. A pop-up testing clinic was set up at the pub so patrons who were there on the same night could be tested.
Australia on Friday gave provisional approval to Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir as the first treatment option for virus, joining the United States and the European Commission.
(Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by William Mallard and Edwina Gibbs)