SYDNEY: Australia's Victoria state said on Thursday (Aug 6) eight people died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, a day after reporting its deadliest day of the pandemic with 15 deaths.
Victoria, the country's second-most populous state, also reported 471 new cases of the coronavirus compared with a record 725 on Wednesday.
The new deaths were announced as state capital Melbourne began the first day of a six-week total lockdown on Thursday with the closure of most shops and businesses raising new fears of food shortages, as authorities battle a second wave of coronavirus infections.
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Australia has now recorded about 20,000 COVID-19 cases and 255 fatalities, still far fewer than many other developed nations.
But the Victoria outbreak threatens to spill into other states. New South Wales reported 12 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking the national tally to 483. There were no cases reported in other states and territories.
"We've flatted that curve once, we'll flatten that curve again," Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews urged Melbourne residents, who have already endured weeks of a less severe lockdown, to stay calm and abstain from panic buying amid a surge in demand at supermarkets.
"There's no need for people to be trying to stockpile months and months of food," Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
Abattoirs are one of the few businesses allowed to stay open in Melbourne, though with a reduced workforce.
"We have tried to get that balance between reducing the amount of movement, therefore reducing the number of cases, but not compromising what you need being on the supermarket shelves," Andrews added.
Forecast national peak unemployment had been revised upwards to about 10 per cent due to Victoria's reimposition of restrictions, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Counting those workers on Australia’s wage subsidy scheme, Morrison said effective unemployment would be closer to 14 per cent.
In another blow to the economy, Australia's number two airline, Virgin Australia, said it would axe 3,000 jobs under its prospective new owner Bain Capital.
After closing its international borders early, locking down cities and launching a campaign of mass virus testing, Australia had reopened in June with daily cases in the single figures.
But hidden transmissions among staff employed at quarantine centres led to wider community transmissions in Victoria, which has recorded triple-digit new cases for weeks.
Victoria now has the bulk of infections in the country, with more than 13,000 reported cases.