SYDNEY: Australia’s second most populous state of Victoria will take longer than the current six-week lockdown period to stem the spread of the coronavirus, authorities said on Monday (Jul 27), as the country battles to contain a second wave of the virus.
Australia, one of the least-hit countries by the pandemic with more than 14,400 cases and 155 deaths, imposed strict lockdown measures in the early stages of the outbreak to contain the spread of the virus, gradually easing them in May.
But a resurgence of cases in Victoria over the past few weeks forced the southeastern state to reimpose a six-week lockdown in its capital Melbourne early this month. The city’s 5 million residents were also ordered to wear face masks or risk a A$200 (US$142) fine.
Victoria on Sunday suffered its deadliest day since the pandemic began after reporting 10 deaths, mostly at aged-care facilities, as well as 459 new cases.
On Monday, the state logged a record daily increase of 532 COVID-19 cases and six deaths.
Five of those six deaths are connected to outbreaks in aged care, said state Premier Daniel Andrews in a media briefing in Melbourne.
The state recorded its previous one-day high of 484 cases last week.
“If you’ve got a sniffle, a scratchy throat, a headache, fever, then you can’t go to work,” said Andrews.
“This is what is driving these numbers up, and the lockdown will not end until people stop going to work with symptoms and instead go and get tested because they have symptoms.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the high number of new cases in Victoria showed how transmission of the illness among younger people, who were considered lower risk, could spread to aged care facilities through family members.
“In Victoria there is still a long way to go,” Morrison told reporters.
“We are still seeing case numbers at elevated levels and … when you get community-based transmission, it does take some time to get that down.”
Australia has recorded a total 14,935 cases and 161 deaths.
As the state moves into its third week of lockdown, deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said it might take Victoria longer than six weeks to flatten the coronavirus curve as the virus was now “embedded” within the community.
“Whilst we know the curve will flatten and will bend down the other side, it is going to take longer,” Coatsworth told Australian Broadcasting Corp television.
Neighbouring New South Wales state is also grappling with several virus clusters that have sprung up at a hotel, a Thai restaurant and a club. However most new cases have been linked to known sources.
Authorities have urged people to avoid non-essential travel and social gatherings, and to wear masks indoors when they are unable to follow social distancing rules.