New infections raises fears as parts of Australia ease some curbs
MELBOURNE: The Australian state of Victoria saw its highest increase in coronavirus cases in weeks yesterday, while neighbouring New South Wales struggled with a cluster of infections at an aged care facility, as parts of the country began easing distancing rules.
Thirteen new cases were recorded in Victoria yesterday, health officials said, with six in a cluster at a meat processing facility in Melbourne.
"What I'm worried about is the unknown unknowns," Victoria's Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said at a televised briefing, urging more people to get tested.
"We want to make sure that if we have cases that are positive in the community, we can identify those individuals... this is how we are going to defeat the virus."
In New South Wales, there were four new cases, two of which were recorded at the Newmarch aged care facility in Sydney, where more than 60 people have been infected and 14 have died.
Australia and New Zealand, which have closed borders and imposed lockdowns and tight social restrictions, have been hailed for containing Covid-19 outbreaks, but the measures are set to push both economies into recession.
Australia's success in suppressing the virus has led to some states and territories allowing for more outdoor activities and public gatherings earlier than planned.
Many national parks have reopened in the state of Queensland and people were allowed to go on small picnics, while the Northern Territory has started lifting restrictions with the aim of ending them by June.
New South Wales has allowed visits to the homes of family, friends and neighbours, but in groups no larger than two, and from next weekend, for the first time in six weeks, real estate agents will be allowed to hold traditional property inspections and on-site auctions.
Over the past week, Australia recorded an average of only 13 new cases a day, according to the Health Ministry, with the daily rate of infections well below one per cent, a fraction of what has been seen in many other countries.
There were 6,783 confirmed cases and 94 deaths in Australia as of late Saturday, according to health officials.
New Zealand saw two new cases yesterday, bringing its total to 1,136.
Twenty people have died there so far. - REUTERS