SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s second most populous state said Monday that it is considering resetting social spacing restrictions after the country reported the biggest one-day increase in new coronavirus infections in over two months.
Driven by the state of Victoria to report 75 cases, Australia has recorded 85 new COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours, its largest daily outbreak since April 11th.
Australia has fared better than many countries in the coronavirus pandemic, with around 7,800 cases and 104 deaths, but the recent wave has fueled fears of a second wave after several weeks of less than 20 new cases per day.
The resurgence in Australia comes when total infections affect 1
As new cases of coronavirus have increased, Victoria has embarked on a massive test regime and the state’s top health official said that restrictions on social distancing may need to be reintroduced.
“Changing the law is something we need to consider because we have to do whatever it takes to reverse this trend,” Brett Sutton told Melbourne reporters, referring to questions about applying localized blockades.
Last week, Victorian state officials deployed ambulances and mobile test centers in an attempt to test most residents in 10 suburbs.
However, some locals have refused voluntary nasal and throat swab tests. Victoria hopes that a new, less intrusive saliva test will encourage more people to take the test, even if it is slightly less accurate.
“We think it will play a role in strengthening the reach of tests across the state,” said Professor Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute, who developed the test.
“Vulnerable populations or in people who have problems with the throat swab, like children or other people who find it more acceptable.”
MORE STIMULES NEEDED
In May, Victoria – which is home to over 6 million people – began lifting restrictions imposed a month earlier to slow the spread of the virus.
It has undertaken to remove most of the restrictions by the end of July.
Restrictions, including forcing restaurants and cafes to offer only takeaway services, closing schools and stopping sports have proven effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
But it was a major blow to the Australian economy, which is entering its first recession in three decades, when the unemployment rate hit a 19-year high of 7.1%.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called on states to continue easing restrictions, insisting that the country’s economy should be revived.
Morrison has ruled out a general extension of a $ 60 billion ($ 41.1 billion) wage subsidy scheme beyond the end scheduled for September.
“It cannot be sustained forever,” said Morrison, adding that another stimulus phase in late September would be addressed “to the people who need it most.”
The Grattan Institute, an independent think tank, said in a report released Monday that the government must inject stimuli of up to $ 90 billion more, including extending its wage subsidy program.
This stimulus was needed before the October annual budget to reduce the unemployment rate to around 5% by mid 2022, according to the report.
($ 1 = 1.4592 Australian dollars)
Reporting by Colin Packham; additional reports by Reju Jose Editing by Jane Wardell and Lincoln Feast