Australia’s COVID-19 hotspot on target for easing lockdown as cases drop

SYDNEY: Australia’s Victoria state on Wednesday (Sep 16) said the daily rise in infections in its coronavirus hot spot of Melbourne has eased further, setting it on course to relax an extended hard lockdown in the city by the end of the month.

Average cases over the last two weeks in Melbourne, the state’s largest city, fell below 50, health authorities said, within the target range for the state to ease more curbs.

Construction sites, manufacturing plants, warehouses and childcare facilities can reopen, allowing more than 100,000 workers to return to their jobs, if the 14-day rolling average is under 50 cases as of Sep 28.

However, people will still be limited to moving around in a 5km radius around home and only allowed outside for two hours a day for exercise, with a curfew from 9pm to 5am.

With daily infections falling to double digits over the last several days from highs of 700 in early August, Victoria state authorities have began relaxing some lockdown restrictions put in place to contain the virus.

Outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people will be permitted, residents of a household will now be allowed to visit one other home, and cafes will be able to seat up to 50 people outside.

“We have driven case numbers down to very low numbers in regional Victoria. That’s taken some time. We stayed the course and now we can open up,” State Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Tuesday in Melbourne.

“That should be something that I think inspires confidence and a real sense of hope that the same thing can be achieved to the best of our ability across metropolitan Melbourne.”

Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city, is on an extended hard lockdown until Sep 28.

READ: Australia records first day without COVID-19 death in two months

Australia’s coronavirus hot spot of Victoria state on Wednesday said eight people died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours and 42 new cases were confirmed, the same number of infections reported a day earlier.

The second most populous state had a day earlier reported no deaths from COVID-19 for the first time in more than two months.

Australia has reported more than 26,700 coronavirus cases and 824 deaths, with Victoria accounting for the bulk of both.

Queensland state on Wednesday reported no new cases.

New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, will report its case numbers later in the day. The virus has been effectively eliminated in other states and territories. 

READ: Tensions soar over Australia’s ‘heartbreaking’ COVID-19 border closures 

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