MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia’s Victoria state marked a week of triple-digit increases in new coronavirus infections on Sunday, while a community outbreak in neighbouring New South Wales (NSW) has put the state on high alert.
Victoria reported 273 new cases of the coronavirus and another COVID-19 death on Sunday, while NSW had nine cases linked to an outbreak at Sydney pub. Both states account for more than half of Australia’s population of 25 million.
Australia has avoided the high COVID-19 casualty numbers of other nations with swift and strict measures, recording so far just under 10,000 coronavirus cases, or about a sixth of the daily cases seen in the United States in recent days.
But as the country has gradually eased social distancing curbs, a spike in community-transmitted cases led to Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, being put under a fresh six-week lockdown on Thursday.
“I know we are asking a lot of Victorians, but we simply have no choice but to acknowledge the reality that we face and to do what must be done, and that is to follow those rules, to only go out when you need to,” Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference.
Sunday’s increase partly reflects increased testing, with Victoria conducting more than 30,000 tests daily. A man in his 70s died over the weekend of COVID-19, Andrews said, taking the national toll to 108.
NSW, which has significantly eased social distancing rules as of July after new cases fell to low single digits, has asked more than 1,000 people who recently visited a pub in south-west Sydney to self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19 after a growing cluster has been linked to the pub.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended a rugby match on Saturday in Sydney, raising some concerns. Asked whether it was a wise decision, Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said Morrison attended the game in a safe manner.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard and Raju Gopalakrishnan)