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Australia’s Virus Hotspot State Records Just One New Case

Australia’s Virus Hotspot State Records Just One New Case

  • Pressure mounts on Victoria premier to ease restrictions
  • Prolonged lockdown weighing on mental health, economy
People get tested for Covid-19 at a drive through testing clinic in Shepparton, Australia on Oct. 15.
People get tested for Covid-19 at a drive through testing clinic in Shepparton, Australia on Oct. 15. Photographer: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images
People get tested for Covid-19 at a drive through testing clinic in Shepparton, Australia on Oct. 15.
Photographer: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

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Victoria, the state at the center of Australia’s coronavirus outbreak, has recorded just one new case overnight and no deaths, raising pressure on authorities to ease lockdown restrictions.

The 5 million residents of the state capital, Melbourne, remain under stay-at-home orders until the rolling 14-day average drops below 5 new cases and there are fewer than five cases with an unknown source. Critics, including the federal health minister, say the target is too onerous, and that the prolonged lockdown is risking people’s mental health and weighing on the national economy.

State Premier Daniel Andrews is due to address the media on Sunday and is being urged to ease restrictions. Prime Minister Scott Morrison again weighed into the issue on Friday.

“At some time you’ve got to step off the shore and start moving forward again,” Morrison told reporters, adding the state had “earned” a relaxation of the rules.

The rolling 14-day average of cases state-wide is 8.6, while there are 17 cases with an unknown source. That’s still an enviable record for other parts of the world, with the U.K., U.S. and many European countries facing a second wave amid the onset of winter.

Australia has been in the vanguard of nations seeing success in controlling community transmission. Its first nationwide lockdown, which lasted roughly from March to May, was one of the most successful in the world, reducing the number of cases to just a handful a day. But security failures at quarantine hotels for returning travelers and poor communication of critical information to migrant communities allowed the virus to roar back in Victoria.

Much of the nation has crushed community transmission, as states such as Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania restrict entry to people from virus hotspots. The international border remains closed to non-residents, and those returning from overseas must undergo 14 days of quarantine in hotels or other government-run facilities.