Australia's Victoria awaits lockdown call as COVID-19 cases ease

Australia's Victoria awaits lockdown call as COVID-19 cases ease

FILE PHOTO: The first day of a COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne
The first day of a COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne. (Photo: Reuters)

SYDNEY: Australia's Victoria state reported a slight easing in locally acquired cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday (Jul 20) as the state's almost 7 million residents wait to see how long a hard lockdown to contain the latest outbreak will last.

A five-day snap lockdown was imposed in Victoria last week, restricting people to their homes after a growing number of new infections were traced back to large gatherings, including a rugby match between Australia and France.

The tough curbs had been due to end midnight on Tuesday, but authorities said on Monday they would have to be extended.

Nine locally acquired cases were detected in the state from 13 a day earlier, in line with a downward trend and taking total cases in the latest outbreak to more than 80. Of the new cases, all but one have been linked to the current outbreak, officials said.

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Virus-exposed locations in the state have swelled to more than 300 since the first cases were detected a week ago linked to a team of infectious furniture movers from Sydney.

Australia's worst coronavirus outbreaks of the year have plunged its two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, into lockdown, with nearly half of the country's 25 million people under strict stay-home orders. Sydney, the worst affected, is under a five-week lockdown until Jul 30.

Melbourne, Australia's second largest city and the state capital of Victoria, spent about a third of last year under tough restrictions as the epicentre of the country's initial outbreak, suffering most of Australia's 31,900 cases and 915 deaths to date.

South Australia is also on alert after a fourth case linked to an overseas traveller was detected overnight as officials ordered non-essential retail to shut down, one step short of issuing a full lockdown, in a bid to prevent a flare-up in infections.

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Source: Reuters/dv