Victoria extends state of emergency as infections spike
MELBOURNE Australia's second most populous state Victoria yesterday extended its state of emergency for four more weeks to July 19, as it battles a spike in infections with a pick-up in community transmission.
The move came a day after the state announced it would reimpose restrictions capping visitors to households to five people and outdoor gatherings to 10, starting today.
The limits had been relaxed on June 1 to allow up to 20 people in households and public gatherings.
Victoria reported 19 new infections yesterday, the fifth day of double-digit numbers. The state has now had 1,836 total confirmed cases, or a quarter of the cases in Australia, since the Covid-19 pandemic erupted.
Yesterday's tally in Victoria included an Australia Rules football player, the first person in the league to test positive. The team and coaching staff have been told to isolate.
The surge in Victoria has alarmed other states, which have had only a few, if any, new cases for several weeks. Western Australia, which shut its borders in April, said it would weigh Victoria's situation in determining when to reopen its borders.
Australian health officials, however, still see no need to require the use of face masks as they would have limited value in a country where absolute numbers of community transmission remain "very low", deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said.
Avoiding hugging and kissing was "arguably far more important than, say, wearing masks", he said.
State Health Minister for Victoria Jenny Mikakos said 210 of the state's cases are believed to be tied to community transmission, partly blaming families who have had parties, lunches and dinners attended by people with mild symptoms since restrictions were eased on June 1.
In the Asean region, Indonesia reported 862 new infections yesterday, taking its total number of cases to 45,891.
Health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said there were 36 more deaths, with total fatalities now at 2,465.
Malaysia recorded 16 new cases, taking its tally to 8,572. The death toll remains at 121. - REUTERS