SYDNEY: Australia's Victoria state - epicentre of the nation's second wave of COVID-19 infections - reported its lowest one-day rise in new cases in nearly two months, buoying hopes a lockdown of nearly 5 million people has contained spread of the virus.
Victoria said it detected 113 new cases in the past 24 hours, the lowest one-day rise since Jul 5.
The state reported 149 infections on Wednesday.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the results mean officials are now plotting how to ease restrictions when the stringent lockdown of Australia's second-most populous city Melbourne is scheduled to end in September.
"Hopefully soon we'll see those numbers in double digits and we can have ... a really clear discussion about what the back end of September looks like," Andrews told reporters.
Strict lockdown measures have helped ease the daily rise of coronavirus infections in Victoria after the state hit a one-day high of more than 700 cases about three weeks ago.
New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, reported nine COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, all locally acquired, and Queensland said it detected two new infections.
Australia has now recorded nearly 25,500 COVID-19 infections. The death toll has risen to 572 after the death of 23 people in Victoria.
Neighbouring New Zealand on Thursday said it has allocated extra funding of "hundreds of millions of dollars" to help secure access to a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one is available.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declined to specify the total amount that will be spent on procuring a vaccine, citing commercially sensitive reasons.
Last week, Australia signed a deal with British drugmaker AstraZeneca to produce and distribute enough doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine that Canberra plans to roll out cost-free to its population of 25 million.
New Zealand reported seven COVID-19 cases on Thursday.