SYDNEY: The Australian state at the centre of the country's novel coronavirus outbreak on Saturday (Sep 19) reported its lowest daily increase of infections in three months, putting it on course to relax a hard lockdown in the capital city by the end of the month.
Victoria, Australia's second most populous state and home to a quarter of its 25 million people, recorded 21 new cases of COVID-19 in the prior 24 hours, less than half the previous day's number and its lowest since June 24.
"Those numbers tell a powerful story of what can be achieved when you stay the course, when you don't get sidetracked by some of the loudest voices, who I understand are hurting and want to open up," state Premier Daniel Andrews told a news conference.
"We would all like to open up as quickly as possible, but we won't be open for very long if we don't first get these numbers down to a low level."
Australia's seven other states and territories had not reported daily case numbers yet on Saturday but in recent weeks they have had single-digit or zero case increases.
Victoria also reported seven new deaths related to the virus, taking the national total to 844, according to government figures. The state has had 90 per cent of Australia's coronavirus-related deaths.
Australia has reported just under 26,900 infections. The country had largely escaped the high casualty numbers of many others as the virus swept the world but a second wave of infections in Victoria has put the country on high alert and prompted most states to close their internal borders.
The Victorian capital, Melbourne, has been under one of the toughest lockdowns including a nightly curfew, but the state government has said it will let construction sites, manufacturing plants, warehouses and childcare facilities reopen on Sep 28 if increases in average daily cases stay below 50.