FILE PHOTO: A person wears a scarf as a protective face mask in Melbourne after it became the first city in Australia to enforce mask-wearing in public as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders
October 26, 2020
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s Victoria state said on Monday it had gone 24 hours without detecting any new COVID-19 cases, a milestone last achieved four months ago, raising hopes that a stringent lockdown of Melbourne will be eased.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Sunday delayed the reopening of the city – home to 5 million people – amid an outbreak in Melbourne’s north.
Officials said they had tested about 15,000 people in the area and all had come back negative.
“This is one of the best outcomes we could hope to see,” said Jeroen Weimar, Commander of Testing and Community Engagement for Victoria.
Andrews is under intense pressure to lift Melbourne’s lockdown, imposed in July. Businesses and the federal government argue it will delay Australia’s economic rebound.
Australia’s economy shrank 7% in the three months to the end of June, the biggest quarterly shrinkage since records began in 1959. The unemployment rate hit a 22-year high of 7.5% in July as businesses and borders closed to deal with the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has highlighted the fact that neighbouring New South Wales state has much looser restrictions despite regularly reporting higher daily case numbers.
Australia has so far recorded just over 27,500 COVID-19 infections, far fewer than many other developed countries.
Victoria, which accounts for more than 90% of the 905 deaths nationally, did not record any new deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours.
(Reporting by Colin Packham and Renju Jose; Editing by Peter Cooney and Stephen Coates)