SYDNEY, June 3 — Australia’s second-most populous state Victoria reported its lowest rise in new Covid-19 cases in more than a week on Thursday, a day after a snap lockdown in state capital Melbourne was extended for another week.
Melbourne is seven days into a hard lockdown, now scheduled to run until June 10, spurred by the latest outbreak of a virus variant first detected in India, which authorities said is highly contagious and could become uncontrollable.
Though Victoria’s daily cases have remained in the single digits for a week now, officials fear even minimal contact could help spread the virus variant.
Lockdown rules in regions outside Melbourne will be eased from Thursday night due to zero cases, although curbs on house gatherings will remain and masks must be worn indoors.
Melbourne’s five million residents, however, will only be allowed to step outside their homes for essential work, healthcare, grocery shopping, exercise or to get Covid-19 vaccination until the end of next week.
“We do not do this because we want to, we do not do this because it is a choice. We do this because we have to do,” Victoria state Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne.
Victoria reported three new locally acquired cases overnight from record daily tests of more than 57,500. Thursday’s cases bring the total number of infections in the outbreak to 63.
New South Wales state, which shares a border with Victoria, is on alert after an infected traveller from Melbourne visited some popular tourist spots in the state’s south about two weeks ago, sending authorities rushing to track close contacts. Nearly a dozen locations have been listed as hotspots.
The latest outbreak has been traced back to a returned overseas traveller who left hotel quarantine in the state of South Australia after testing negative, but subsequently tested positive in Melbourne.
The virus has been effectively eliminated in Australia’s other states and territories.
Snap lockdowns, regional border curbs and tough social distancing rules have largely helped Australia keep its Covid-19 figures relatively low, at 30,130 cases and 910 deaths. — Reuters